On 12 December 2015, forty-eight year old Maryclaire Ward Paullis lay down in the lower bunk of her sons' bunk bed and took a nap from which she never awoke. Maryclaire is survived by her parents as well as her four children--ages nine to twenty years old--and her husband, Jay, of twenty-one years. While her immediate family mourned this unexpected tragedy, a community of hundreds also needed to deal with their feelings of sorrow and distress. There is no doubt in my mind that dozens upon dozens of people, if asked, would today raise their hand and count Maryclaire, or Claire, as many knew her, as being among their three closest friends. This is because Maryclaire had a gift for laughing out loud and leading others to do the same. She made people feel special because she recognized their individual gifts. And she saw enchantment in the ordinary, such as a crooked tree or a weather-beaten rock. Such traits explain why I--a friend from high school--still counted her as one of my three best friends thirty years after our graduation...and eight years since I last visited the Paullis family in New Hampshire.
In honor of Maryclaire I have decided to run a 10 K. race for charity in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on 11 June 2016.
As a result of BED--as well as co-occurring depression and anxiety--my weight has ballooned more than sixty pounds. Now at 5' 7" and 202 lbs., I find myself at the average weight of the ideal NFL running back. And yet, despite this choice of metaphor, I have not gone for more than a cursory run, an activity I had once loved, in many months. In recovery, I look forward to finding my "new normal," and regular running will be part of the active lifestyle I seek to embrace. In effect, I am going from "couch potato" to 10 K. in honor of my precious and longtime friend, who was always, in life, and now in death, such a support when I was going through hard times.
The charity of choice is to be a scholarship to Sparhawk School that will be established in Maryclaire's name. This innovative private school aspires to enroll as many students as possible from diverse economic backgrounds. This scholarship will ensure that one more deserving young person has access to Sparhawk's progressive program. In it, the student will learn more than basics about math or history; he or she will also be actively and deliberately encouraged to become an independent-minded and confident individual. As succinctly affirmed in its mission statement: "Ours is a program, then, that honors children, values inquiry, encourages exploration, allows for innovation, and celebrates ideas. Children in our school gain skills that allow them to be self-initiating, self-directing learners, as well as joyful, responsible, and independent beings."
Maryclaire had been involved in Sparhawk School since its foundation in 1993. It was her first job after graduating from Lesley College with her Master's degree. At that time, we both lived in the Boston area, and so I know how excited she was to teach at a school where she could implement the innovative and effective curriculum for which Sparhawk School would become known. Teaching young children was so much more than a job for Maryclaire; it was her vocation. And she sought always to reveal the magic and the beauty of the world to her students.
I am proud to have called--to still call--Maryclaire friend and am proud to help secure donations for a scholarship in her name.