CALEDONIA, Mich. -- A teacher in Caledonia returning to class after nearly a year away for medical treatment received a special surprise Wednesday morning. David Sowerby's two eighth grade orchestra and band classes came together to perform a piece they worked on for two weeks.
It was a sweet moment for Sowerby after months of hard ones.
"It started back last summer when I got really sick with my Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, PSC, and I was hospitalized in Spectrum and then ambulanced me to Henry Ford where the specialist could take over and start my work for the liver transplant," Sowerby said.
Sowerby spent nearly an entire school year away from his students.
"I did try to come back in September for a couple of days and it was just too much with the disease," Sowerby said.
Finally on the road to recovery, he visited his classroom and was surprised with a special performance including songs from his favorite movie, Top Gun.
"He's such an awesome teacher and we were all really bummed out when he had to get the transplant and he couldn't come. So it was really fun to kind of like surprise him with that," said Duncan Lake 8th grader Gracie Frederick.
"It feels great to just know that we did something that makes him happy. Glad to do it for him," said Ella Moorlag, a Duncan Lake student.
Band Director Donald Raaymakers says it was an easy choice.
"I know how much it was affecting him being away and he and I have grown into pretty close friends over the passed 13, 14, 15 years and we have a fondness for Top Gun and I thought it would be really fun to secretly prepare Top Gun for middle school orchestra and band," said Raaymakers.
That absence now a reminder for Sowerby to soak in every moment with his students.
"Yeah I got a little teary ya know. I wish I was able to be part of it. To have them prepare that for me, it was really something. I have a different outlook on life now. If I can get through a liver transplant they should be able to get through sixth, seventh, or eighth grade orchestra," said Sowerby.
The students who performed Wednesday morning told FOX17 that they are excited for the upcoming students who will get the chance to work with an orchestra teacher who has made such an impact on their lives.
Sowerby plans on returning to work in the fall.