Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Funeral in December

Today was a day to remember, for all the wrong reasons.  Adults and children alike were crying - sobbing - into each other's shoulders, holding onto each other, coming together as one in a way I have not seen in a while.  Over the funeral of a child.  She was a 6th grader who had just left us last year; so recent I still remember that she did not show up for the 5th grade graduation ceremony we hold every year for our students, and the time I spent with her in the office, patiently discussing some of the choices she had been making, the grandma she loved so dearly and who would be so disappointed to learn of her poor decisions if I had to call her.  We talked of her father, and how he had died a few years ago, how she made bad decisions sometimes because of her anger over him not being there for her, how he would definitely want her to do the right thing. 

As Christmas fast approaches, I think of the family and the horrible timing of this event.  I think of how stressful holidays can be for many families, and how hollow it will be for this particular family.  At the same time, I think of how proud I am of my teachers who attended the visitation with me today, of how strong they were, of my health clerk who stayed the whole day with the family, and with 6th grade girlfriends who needed a familiar face, and who had so many questions about death and about why and about how, and who wanted someone to buy them lunch later on in the day... which she gladly did. 

Sometimes life does not go as we plan.  Sometimes we struggle to understand the whys and the hows and we can't comprehend that there just are no earthly answers to so many of our questions.  It is even harder when something like this so unexpectedly happens to someone so young, someone who had so much to give and so much more time on earth.  And how to explain all of this to children when we don't even have the answers ourselves? 

Later today, I discovered a few teenagers back at the elementary school where I work.  It was late afternoon, many teachers had gone, but many were still hard at work and would be for another few hours yet.  Teachers are, by far, the hardest working people I know.  These teens had all gone through our elementary school and were all at least a year or two into middle school.  A couple of them were at the funeral earlier today.  They had come back to a familiar place, a place they knew they were welcome at any time, a place they had grown to love because of the people inside - the people who had spent so much time with them over the years, the people who treat these kids as if they were their own.  There is only one thing that I hope children leave our school with, above all else - a sense that they are important, that they have purpose and that they matter in this world.  They get this from the adults who care about them, and if they have that, they can get through anything.  Even a funeral in December.