Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Just because you can't see it

I just wanted to say something briefly about an old student of mine.  This year has been such a trial in so many ways.  I was going through facebook and email and getting some things finished up after getting the kids to bed.  Trying to unwind a little.  And browsing some pictures on a friend's facebook page, I came across one of her children praying at Jacqueline's grave.  Jacqueline was in my class the year that John and I got married.  She was a lovely, blonde little girl.  She was quite bright, quiet in class, very silly at recess, a wonderful singer, with her head screwed on right.  I remember a conversation I had with her and her best friend Alexandra at recess.  There were several girls in that 5th grade class getting all crazy and goofy and, as often happens, mean about boys.  I asked Jacqueline if she had her heart set on anyone in particular.  Her answer was quick and perfect:  No!  I'm too young for that stuff!  Amen, little sister!  Her expressive face smiling in a crooked, screwed up, one eyebrow up type of way.  She made me laugh!

The following year, when I was pregnant with my son Aiden, those two girls would call my school voice mail and leave long, giggly messages, singing lullabies into the recording until their time ran out.  Then, they would call back and keep singing and laughing so hard I couldn't understand anything they were saying.  I would put the phone down on my desk so that I could here their antics and laugh while grading papers.

I ran into Jacqueline a few times, at a dive meet, or when we took the 5th graders to the pool in her neighborhood for their pool party.  I found out she babysat and I fully intended to call upon her to help us out with that.  She would TOTALLY be someone I wanted to be an influence for my babies!

Then, the summer after John's initial diagnosis and treatment, I got a text in the middle of the night from a teacher friend, saying she was going to be ill and asking if I had heard.  Jacqueline, Alexandra (Lexi), and a boy who was also in my class that year (whom John and I tried to get to join his trampoline team- very athletic, sweet kid) Sawyer were in a horrible car accident.  There was no alcohol or drugs involved.  Just an honest to goodness accident.  Jacqueline died.

I still struggle with this.  I am in touch with her mom, who is a fantastic lady.  I always worked it out to sit beside her on field trips that year and was very disappointed when I didn't get to teach her younger daughter.  People say that god had a plan, there is a reason for everything.  Mostly, I feel like that just can NOT be possible, not if someone as young and smart, weird and funny and generous as Jacqueline, someone so young and so beautiful in so many ways, could die.  And then there is Lexi.  Sweet, and gentle, and helpful, and this is her very best friend.  They were friends because I paired them up on our geology field trip.  And she now has to live with this.  I wanted to scoop her up and hold her and protect her from all the pain and guilt you know she will feel....I am in touch with her and her family.  Both families have helped me and mine out over our battle with cancer and all the residuals connected with this evil stupid disease.  I am frustrated for myself for not doing a better job reaching out to Sawyer.  He and Jacqueline were dating.  I think they must have been a terrific couple!

People still talk to me about how god has a plan.  My son's kindergarten teacher, and gentle sweet woman, let me ask her how she can believe that.  I was not accusing, but truly curious.  Some people are a bit aggressive with their beliefs, but this past year I have come across a few people who have very clear and strong opinions, but don't seem to want to force their ideas on anyone.  She is one of those.  So I really wanted to know how she process things like this.  My interpretation is that it is about the big picture.  Like with my friend who lost her husband to Melanoma recently.  Her daughter Ella was in my son's class at the CLC preschool.  Maybe, the "plan" god has is something like this:  Ella and her sister will be so saddened that they lost their father to cancer at such a young age, that when they are older, they will reach out to another family experiencing a similar event.  This chain will continue like dominoes in many directions and perhaps be the starting point for the person who ends up being motivated to find the cure for cancer.  I make an analogy to Thirteen Acres.  I worked there when I lived in Richmond.  It is a school for children with more severe behavior issues than public schools can handle.  A counselor there followed me outside- I needed a break from some of the crazy things the long term sub was doing in the classroom.  I was "just" an aide for one boy, but felt the need to be there for as many as possible.  I joined the after school program to be there for the kids more.  This guy came to talk to me and told me to keep doing what I was doing.  To know that I was being an influence that had an effect.  He told me how his younger brother, in his teen years, made some really bad choices surrounding drugs and other similar things.  Both he and their football coach struggled to encourage that young man to make better choices, to believe in himself, to get and stay clean.  The younger brother ended up in jail.  Several years later, that young man came to my friend the counselor, his big brother.  He told his brother that while he was in jail, the things that he and their coach told him over and over would rattle in his brain, and after 6 years, he finally realized they were right.  He turned his life around.  The problem is, how many of us get to be there after those 6 years?  How about when it takes longer than that?

Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't so.

I miss you, Jacqueline