The Journey of Life

cars3With reflection and pause, we remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Such a moment of national grief often has us reflect on such experiences in our own personal lives.

I hope that the great start of the school year continues for each and every one of you. New years are all about change… and change, while exciting on one hand, can be difficult and challenging on other hand. In this process, we also need to remember that we are all on a journey of life. That journey can also be filled with joy and wonderful moments as well as painful and very difficult experiences. Already, in these first few weeks, we have learned of the loss of several parents who passed away within the last month and over the summer a number of students lost grandparents. Those are incredibly painful moments for everyone.  For the child who is suddenly facing a world without a parent, or spouses who suddenly must prepare to move forward without that loving support, and for our school community, who valued and appreciated the experiences that they have had with our school family members, we all see and feel those moments.

Throughout these and any sad situation, I am always so impressed with the way our school family responds.  While the family is in our thoughts and prayers, the support and care that everyone offers and the sense of compassion and empathy that is shared is sincere and real. The outreach of care comes forward very quickly and very personally.

Grief is always a concern and we should all consider how we watch for it and how we can help our children who worry about their friend who lost a parent. For many of the students touched by these losses, it may be the first time they have faced the topic of death.  As parents, we may be at a loss ourselves at that moment, due to our own grief, to realize all that a youngster may experience.  Our children may be bombarded by emotions and physical reactions immediately or in the weeks to follow that are disturbing and yet predictable

Many students can experience feelings of shock, anger, fear, and confusion. Since grief can be so painful and may seem overwhelming for some, it is important to have some sense of what feelings are appropriate and normal.  The following items are supplied from materials offered by a Hospice Services program.  From their work with people, they report that most individuals who suffer a loss due to death may experience one or more of the following:

  • Feeling tightness in the throat or heaviness in the chest
  • Have an empty feeling in the stomach and lost appetite
  • Feel guilty at times, and angry at others
  • Feel as though the loss is not real, that it did not happen
  • Sense the loved one’s presence, like finding themselves expecting the person to walk in the door at the usual time, hearing their voice, seeing their face
  • Wander aimlessly and forget and don’t finish things they have started to do
  • Have difficulty sleeping, dream of their loved one frequently
  • Feel intensely angry at the loved one for leaving them
  • Feel as though they need to take care of other people who seem uncomfortable around them, by politely not talking about the feelings of loss
  • Need to tell and re-tell and remember things about the loved one
  • Feel their mood changes over the slightest things
  • Cry at unexpected times

Each of these responses is natural and normal.  It is important for people to feel free to cry and talk as they feel the need. Openness, understanding, and sensitivity are so important.  Listen to your children’s questions and encourage them to talk.

If you are concerned or worried about your child’s reaction or wish to talk with someone here at school regarding this topic, please feel free to contact us.  If a death occurs in your family that you feel may have an impact on your child, please call us and let us help provide some comfort and support.  We should note that the death of a pet can be as significant to a child as the death of a relative.  Depending on the proximity of the relationship, the loss of a pet can be extremely painful to some youngsters.  In any case, our kind attention and gentle support is necessary.

We have also learned recently that one of our former faculty members passed away on September 4. Below is the link to his obituary that was written by Dr. Susan Hayes, who was the former director of the Fine Arts department. Gene Duman was an amazing educator and someone who meant the world to many of his students here at Flint Hill.  His passing is also one that has touched our community in a very personal and direct way.

For all of us, let’s cherish those special moments with each other and with our children.  Let’s realize that life is all about building relationships and memories.  It is about the contributions we make for each other and the experiences we are fortunate to share.  It is the quality of those experiences that sets us on our path for the future.

George (Gene), Eugene Duman Jr.

George (Gene), Eugene Duman Jr., died September 4, 2013 at Reston Hospital from a blood infection. He was 76 years old. Gene lived in the Northern Virginia area for the past 55 years, and was employed as a band director and music teacher in schools throughout Fairfax County.

Gene was an esteemed Band Director in Fairfax County Public Schools from 1958-2013. These included: elementary schools through Fairfax County, Edison High School, Herndon High School, Kilmer Middle School, and Longfellow Middle School; as well as Independent Schools: Green Hedges School and Flint Hill School. In 1967, Gene was voted Fairfax County Teacher of the Year. In 2008, Gene celebrated his 50th year of teaching. Over the years, his bands won countless awards, both in high school and middle school. Many of his students have gone on to musical careers, both in teaching and in performing.

Gene was a passionate collector of music recordings, with an extensive library of LPs, CDs, and MP3s. He worked at Tower Records for many years along with his school employment. Gene was a member of MARC (Mid-Atlantic Antique Radio Club); MENC (Music Educator’s National Conference); VBODA (Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association); and was a volunteer docent at the National Capital Radio and Television Museum in Bowie, Maryland. He was an avid old radio collector, refinishing and repairing old radios. He was a private music teacher of tuba and euphonium.

Gene was born on October 24, 1936 in Johnstown, PA. He graduated from Baltimore City College High School, and attended Peabody Conservatory of Music of The Johns Hopkins University, where he received a Bachelor of Music Degree in 1954. Gene also engaged in further music study at University of Maryland, East Carolina University and Duquesne University.

Gene was married to Barbara E. Duman in 1958. They were married for 55 years. Gene is survived by his wife Barbara; son George Eric Duman (above address); son Christopher Jay Duman and wife Sherri; sister Marsha Hudson, of Bel Air, MD; and grand-daughter Olivia Ann Duman, of Sterling, VA.