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Mourners Fulfill Teacher’s Dying Wish to Bring Backpacks Full of Supplies to Funeral

Tammy Layne Waddell, 58, had one wish before she died of cancer at the young age of 58: that mourners bring backpacks full of supplies to her funeral instead of flowers.

Waddell — who, according to her obituary, taught elementary school in Forsyth County, Georgia and was the 2003 Forsyth County Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year — is described as having “left a legacy in the hallways of Sawnee Elementary & Primary Schools, Cumming Elementary School and Haw Creek Elementary School.  Those around her recognized Tammy by her generosity, selflessness and unconditional love. Though her achievements and accolades are numerous, none are greater than the many lives that she changed over the course of her three decades in education.”

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According to her cousin, Dr. Brad Johnson, funeral-goers honored Waddell’s last wish, lining the rows of pews with supply-filled backpacks,.

In his photo caption, Dr. Johnson describes Waddell as “a teacher to the end.” Indeed.

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As a teacher myself, I can confidently say this story shook me to my core. It’s a testament to just how much many educators care for the children in their charge, even in the face of the overwhelming obstacles placed in front of them daily. It demonstrates exactly how this job becomes far more than a way to put food on the table. It becomes a lifestyle, one you never stop thinking about no matter what personal issues you’ve got going on in your own life.

Tammy Waddell’s dying wish, however, truly emphasizes her individual passion for the profession and her unique love for what she devoted her life to doing. Even in death, Waddell is putting the well-being of students ahead of her own. Clearly, Waddell was a special kind of teacher, one who never ceased to care about our nation’s youth despite facing challenges of her own.

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Excuse me, but I have something in my eyes. Both of them.

Here’s to Tammy Waddell and all the other devoted educators who take our children in their arms and love them as their own — who fight daily to do what’s right, especially when the going gets tough.

We see you. We appreciate you. We thank you.

Tammy, may you find peace knowing you continue to make a difference. And may your family, friends, and students keep your legacy alive.

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