If you’re lucky, you will leave behind a legacy that honors your life. A woman named Tammy Waddell is getting national attention after her death for doing just that. Waddell died on June 9, after a long battle with stomach cancer. She was 58.
Her cousin, Brad Johnson, shared a tweet describing Waddell’s last wish: that in lieu of flowers, people send school supplies in her memory to a non-profit called Project Connect. The organization provides backpacks to students in need in her Georgia community.
Waddell had been a teacher for 30 years in Forsyth County Schools, according to ABC News. Even at the end, she wanted to help kids get the education they deserved. A photo of backpacks waiting to be delivered after her funeral on June 13 has everyone weeping:
Johnson said close to a hundred teachers who had met or worked with Waddell showed up to retrieve her backpacks for Project Connect.
She had about 100 teachers as honorary pallbearers who carried the backpacks out and back to their schools. It was heartwarming.
— Dr. Brad Johnson (@DrBradJohnson) June 19, 2018
He shared a photo of them all lined up with the donations:
In an interview, Johnson told Good Morning America, “She was very inspirational in me achieving all that I have. She was as quick to give a hug as she was quick to give supplies to students who needed it.”
People are finding Waddell’s story so inspirational, they want to send backpacks, too:
And everyone is deeply moved by how one person can keep helping others even after they’re gone:
True educator from beginning till the end 🌺. Absolutely wonderful and such a blessing. What an honor ❤️🙏🏼😇
— Joyce Hampton (@MommahamJoyce) June 20, 2018
What a selfless, amazing final act of a teacher’s heart ❤️
— Juliet Deaton 👸🏼 (@Jules4Ever) June 20, 2018
This is the most beautiful, and most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. Your cousin was an amazing woman.
— Katie Ward (@KatieKward) June 26, 2018
A wonderfully powerful way for family and friends to remember your cousin. A real teacher helping students throughout their life. I am inspired and know many others will be too. Thank you for sharing this.
— Success On The Day (@SuccessOnTheDay) June 20, 2018
Waddell had a son, Kevin Waddell, who also works in Forsyth County Schools. He told GMA that he wasn’t surprised by his mother’s request.
“Part of what I loved about my mom was the passion she had as a teacher. It’s one of the inspirations that led me to the profession,” he said.
“She lived life by loving others and she was never worried about attention … she was just focused on the love,” he continued.
“The message she would try and deliver at this point is donate to your local schools. It doesn’t have to be here specifically.”
Kevin Waddell has said he’s heard from people wanting to donate supplies from as far away as Great Britain.
There it became a more controversial discussion about how Waddell’s gesture shouldn’t be necessary: fund schools and give kids supplies, wrote commenters.
It’s not possible to tell from Waddell’s obituary what she thought of school funding, but it does say she was “had a passion for literacy and believed that every child deserved an opportunity to learn.”
And that is a legacy people will remember.