Posted on 08. Mar, 2012 by Kristen Tribe
I’ve been thinking about the Fortenberry family a lot this week.
Like many of you, I heard Sunday morning of Terri’s death. She was a wife, mom and phenomenal fifth-grade teacher.
I didn’t know Terri personally, but I had the opportunity to interview her in 2009 during her second bout with cancer. I remember being amazed at how easily she smiled and how quick she was to give a hug, even when it must have hurt.
I was touched by her strength. Despite fighting for her life much of the last 10 years, Terri continued to put others first. Yesterday I revisited my 2009 article: “Mrs. Fort’s fight,” and many of her quotes brought tears to my eyes.
“There’s nothing better than kids lifting you up,” she said. “There’s nothing better than my circle.”
Her “circle” stretches far and wide. A handful of communities — Paradise, Bridgeport, Decatur, not to mention those in West Texas — claim this family, and now they share their heartache. Terri was buried yesterday in a cemetery near Muleshoe, and Saturday morning her circle will gather once more for a memorial service in Decatur.
Although Terri always expressed her thanks and appreciation for every kindness extended to her, I want her “circle” to know how much you meant to her. It was obvious to me because you are what she most wanted to talk about.
She admitted then that it was easy to get worried or stressed on the way to a treatment, but once she was there, her mind was at ease.
“You can feel people thinking about you and praying for you.” Her circle.
Her doctor said he couldn’t believe she was going to school on a Monday after a Friday treatment, but her response was that she wanted to “see everyone because they’re so supportive.”
“You don’t understand the energy I get from them,” she said. “I want to be here on Mondays because I know the kids will be coming to check on me.”
These things made her day. Whether it was a high-five, a hug, or a handmade card, she took them all to heart. Gifts from her circle.
If she could, she would wipe the tears you shed now. She loved you all and appreciated everything you did for her. It seemed that even in her darkest days, she was thinking of others, and especially her students.
“Some kid will remember this (when times get tough),” she said in 2009. “It may not be a sickness, but something that would cause them great pain, but just to know it will get better.”
Take comfort in the fact that now, Mrs. Fort is better.