“We have to make life count,”said one of my former teachers Jeanette Aultman as we discussed the passing of a teaching icon in Jacksonville.

When I think on making life count and the impact that former teachers had on my life, I cannot help but think of Mrs. Joyce Folden. Mrs. Folden died this week after a battle with cancer. Her legacy is the gold standard of old fashioned values, teaching and American citizenry that is desperately needed today. It is a huge loss for the Jacksonville community.

Folden made an incredible difference in my life as she served as my second grade teacher at the world famous Joe Wright Elementary. I loved that school! I owe her everything as she made me into the man I am today. In the last few years just like when she taught me, I understood why she was one of the greatest teachers and human beings that I have ever encountered.

About a month ago, I had an incredibly hard day at work, and I was on my way home. I needed some cheering up, so I called Mrs. Folden. Of course she wanted to talk with me.

Her calm demeanor. Her great and infectious laugh. Her spirit in spite of an awful disease.

“Oh, you can handle your job. I know you can,” she said. It was the best medicine.

In this moment, she showed how great of a human she was, how awe-inspiring she was, and how much of a cheerleader she was to me.

I am grateful that I made a point to check in on her after I heard she was battling cancer. I will miss those calls while traveling for work where she instilled in me a gold standard on how to live my life. I told her “thank you,” but all the while she was telling me “goodbye” and here are some things to live by.

Cancer is such an awful disease that robs us of our most precious people – it snatches them and catches us off guard. It really does. Cancer may have affected Mrs. Folden's body, but it never shook her spirit or the way we remember her. We remember her gold standard of living and wonder whether we could ever attain it.

What she did was living by that standard, and she made life count. Her Christian faith, witness and testimony coupled with her insatiable educator and human instincts made Joyce Folden a force to be reckoned with.

How do we make life count like Mrs. Folden? How do we live by a gold standard of learning, living and loving?

We start the journey of life with experience, maybe ups or downs. But most importantly, we understand that we will leave here one day, and we will leave a legacy.

The idea of legacy alone should compel us to make life count. Every day.

Allan R. Marshall, M.Ed.

Houston, Texas