Another one of my professors has died. The first time this happened, it was an unexpected "reality check". Now Dr. Garab is gone. I know this because today's mail brought the English Department Newsletter from my alma mater; it comes about four times a year.
My life now seems far away from those graduate school days of pressured study and long nights haunting the library. But that time in my life is part of who I am today-- for better, probably not for worse.
Eerily, I remember in vivid detail sitting as an apprehensive freshman in Dr. Garab's Composition and Literature class...I won't say how long ago. He was a curious little man with quick dark eyes, quirky jackets, and a pipe in the corner of his mouth which he seemed to have trouble keeping lit. He was the first, and probably only, man who I heard explain how much he enjoyed drinking tea with his wife out of a fine china cup. He also was one of the first who opened the world of literature to me, and that is a gift that doesn't expire.
I still recall my angst as I sat in my dorm room, in front of my new, chocolate brown Smith-Corona electric typewriter, praying for some insight and assistance in the face of my first essay on "The Great Gatsby". God was faithful, and the words flowed. It was one of the rare experiences of individual and unalloyed joy.
The following week I felt as if my face were a blinking red beacon as he read my essay aloud in class (fortunately without giving my name). It was an unexpected affirmation that served as a personal touchstone.
Dr. Garab was a lay pastor in the local Episcopal church, which made him an anomaly among professorial staff, and a weirdo among some students. He didn't trumpet this, but he didn't deny it, either. So, unlike the other half dozen or so former professors of mine whose obituaries I've read in recent years, Dr. Garab is one I expect to see again. I don't doubt that he is now in the presence of the One who is Truth.
Unlike so very many men and women of letters across the centuries who have been lauded for wrestling with and interpreting the great questions of human experience, he apprehended and bowed before Him about Whom Paul wrote, "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." [Colossians 1:17]