Two memories of Shella Paz stand out for me.
First, we were supposed to be married. In a manner of speaking.
During the wedding of Ivy Samala, it was somehow rigged that she ended up with the flowers and I with the garter. After we landed with each, I was asked to kiss her on the cheek. It was an impossible situation — a roomful of strangers and the full glare of a spotlight. But she made it easy, not because of some attraction, but because she was like a sister to me. I look back at that moment and realize that I couldn’t have asked for someone better to share that incredibly embarrasing moment with. She took it with her usual candor and grace, and it was over before we knew it.
Second is an earlier memory.
Two months into her first year of teaching, I saw her at the canteen eating her lunch alone. She looked distraught and so I couldn’t help but ask her how things were going. “Not too good,” she said. I sat down with her and she began airing out her frustrations about her classes and her teaching style. She wasn’t clicking, she felt. She could do much better, she realized. Then Sir Vlad joined us and together the three of us just spent the lunch hour exchanging stories about teaching and how we’ve learned to deal with tough times.
That moment defined Shella Paz for me — someone who never stopped learning. She always had a new book with her. She always had a new class activity she wanted to try. She would always tease me at the beginning of every school year how much students expect in SS3 because of what they had with me in SS2. I tell her not to worry. “You’ll do better than you think.”
I said that in full confidence, knowing that Shella gave her students something only a person such as her could give — a warm and loving confidence that they too will always be better if they never stopped learning. To many she was an inspiration and a friend. She genuinely cared. She took the time to reach out to those who did not make time to be helped, and she never gave up on the goodness within people. The light of her smile was unique; the fire of her passion is irreplacable.
Without a doubt, there is so much more she could have done. But with death comes new life; moments such as these remind those of us who remain that time is short. Life is fleeting. So we cherish these moments, and we make them last. This is how history is made. And my challenge to her students who grieve — she will always be with you, as long as you remember the lessons you’ve learned and the moments you’ve shared.
Thank you very much, Shella Paz. You have been good. May you be in the Heaven you have sought your whole life for.
P.S. Shella, I know how much you love Coldplay. Here’s a song for you.