By Kathleen Casper
Losing Dr. James Thurman "Jim" Webb this week hit me hard, personally. But I am aware I am not the only one feeling this way (or even worse.) In fact, his sudden and unexpected death last Friday caused a universal grief to flow throughout the whole gifted community. He was adored and revered, and was a solid piece of our foundation. His calm and smooth voice flowed as clear and deep as the most forceful rivers. He knew how people thought, how they felt, and how to reach them at their worst. And he taught so many of us with encouragement and reflection.
It's almost impossible to reach out to anyone in Giftedland right now to cheer each other up because everyone is suffering the same blow. Gifted hearts hurt deeply. And gifted minds sometimes don't effectively accept the blunt-force trauma of a loss this hard.
As we all reel from the ripple of pain and sorrow of losing one of our champions of giftedness, we can't help but remember the other greats we've lost before- the local champions in our states who never stopped speaking out for the kids whose voices weren't being heard until their own voices faded; the state and national and even world champions who spoke and wrote as much as they possibly could so that we could hear their own voices loud and clear even when they left us- like Annemarie Roeper, whose voice continued beyond her death in her books about gifted elders. And it makes us pause to wonder what incredible souls will be lost next, and how we can ever effectively carry their messages forward and make sure their work continues.
Gifted people already put a lot of pressure on themselves to do enough, and be enough, and now we have an even heavier load.
I am not a psychologist like Jim was, so I can't say for sure what we should do next. But I know what he would say- he would tell us to look to each other and hold each other close so we can continue to fight to spread gifted education, as a solid group. He would tell us again to be courageous and creative and never give up hope. And he would tell us to be kind to each other and to recognize each others' intensities and that we all want to do what's right and what's best, so to support each other and be patient with each other.
Those were some of his many words he shared with us at the SENG board alumni luncheon before the conference last week. His message has always been about love, and about making space for each other in a world that doesn't always know what to do with us.
Jim was a big part of our tribe and often was the quiet leader from within. He knew that in order for gifted education to spread, we needed to show people the realities and needs of gifted kids and adults by showing love for their unique traits and patience and understanding when others may not. We have grown up as fledgling gifted advocates into a complex group of experts and professionals under his watchful eye, and he showed us how to fly in his calm and caring ways. So now we have to take these sad gifted hearts and focus that energy on caring for each other. On supporting each other as much as we can and standing side by side as we charge forward. We have a mission to continue. We have our marching orders from those who came before us and fought beside us. And we have so much more work to do.
Jim, we can still hear your voice in our hearts and minds and read your words and we will carry them forward. Because the best way to live with broken hearts and loss is to keep on charging ahead, helping as many other people as we can.
With love. And creativity and courage.