A Letter to Lowe


Trinity Collins

Mr. Lowe,

I’ve been sitting here, wondering what to write about. The soulful voice of Charles Wright comes through my headphones at an ungodly volume as I stare out onto the lake. Well, loneliness just can’t live there. And happiness is the answer. I’ve been searching for something to ground me since you’ve left. Flipping through old books and writings, searching for the words to articulate you. Reading through old emails, reminiscing about the WAY you would capitalize the strangest WORDS. I’m hoping to uncover the perfect memory to encapsulate you. That when I reflect you in my words,  you simply see yourself looking back. I suppose you don’t need me to do that though. 

I’m almost surprised that I can’t feel you lingering behind me. Breath hot on my neck. Rolling your eyes, making disimproving noises as you anxiously yell folks! I’m almost surprised that entire paragraphs of this letter aren’t crossed out with a note at the end that essentially reads: get it together. First drafts got a C at best. I’m almost surprised that you haven’t come back to life to design your own tribute and scold me for using the medium of a letter. I can almost hear you scream “journalistic integrity” at me as you animatedly lecture me on traditional journalism. I can almost hear you scoff at my overuse of repetition. Almost. 

You would want to be memorialized but with a little more creativity. He was speaking so passionately, he slammed a yardstick down, splitting it in two. A little fib here. He was so committed he drove every day, two hours each way … he stayed until safety kicked him out… he once slept over. A little grandeur there. His voice would bounce off walls holding the strength, wisdom, and just enough recklessness to defend any student (while of course ripping on them behind closed doors). 

The truth is to hyperbolize someone as extravagant as you would be to render you into a myth. A tall tale. Because as you stand, as exaggerated as your presence was, you’re already unbelievable. So entirely yourself. Unique. Your being was soaked in a kind of passion, deviation, and care that could only manifest as the Mr. Lowe. Only you could embody the wisdom of teaching generations and still manage to show up in pajamas on a wrong day. And while your presence was so all-consuming, you never shrank yourself to make room for others. Taking up enough space to fit your whole being. Refusing the propaganda that conditions us to fraction ourselves into neatly identifiable positions. You were to me, as to so many others, far more than a teacher or adviser. That’s probably why you linger so strikingly. Why you don’t need my words to ensure that people remember you. 

Over the course of your time as my teacher, you embedded yourself somewhere deep within my soul. As you began to live and work within me, you created a warm space. A touchtone. Somewhere to return to as I grew up. And while I didn’t know every aspect of you, Mr. Lowe, as I knew, created a home. When you passed, it felt like that part of me died. It turned cold. In your wake, you left an open wound. Slowly, it seems, I realized that your warmth did not leave me, but dispersed within. Allowing parts of me to return. For you to return as you please. In your wake, you left radical hope, radical love. You don’t need my words to memorialize you because I carry you with me, within who I am and what I have yet to learn. 

One of the last times we spoke before you retired, you told me how proud of me you were. My tired eyes focus on a computer screen as you sit beside me, in the Evanstonian office. The carpet, decades-old, is so filthy that when someone spills water, it fizzles. The chair I’m sitting on, I claimed as my own over a year and a half ago, has food grounded into it from how little I could be bothered to clean up during layout week. It is all-consuming, much like you. The computers are so old, my sister still knows their passwords. You never changed them. I think you hated change, evident by the same page templates we use issue after issue. 

When you sat beside me, I thought it was going to be to tell me to move a textbox a millimeter to the left, followed by boisterously yelling GOOD!! as you clamp down on my shoulders. My ears ring with praise. Instead, you’re acting soft. Timid, almost. Or as timid as someone like you could be. You quietly and sincerely tell me you are proud of me. That I am more than okay. I am going to do amazing things. That you hope you’ve done right by me. That I will be extraordinary without you and inspire others to do the same. You cry. I’m stunned into silence. No one had ever told me any of that before. We hug. You pat me on the back. Folks return to the room. 

I told you I carried you with me. You lay with all of me, but mostly in my source of power. You were the first adult who respected me enough to argue. And we went back and forth a lot. In you and The Evanstonian, I felt powerful for the first time. It wasn’t a force that was born from within necessarily. Rather, the force was an extension of the relationships cultivated on the staff and the work we generated. Community: the first time I knew the meaning of the word. In you, I discovered the radical power of communion. A revolutionary light. As, as I look at the world, the future, and the world we are trying to build, my radical hope, my radical belief in community guides me. Sparked with you. Guided by you. You guide me home. 

I love you in this world and into the next,