Yesterday while helping out at my son’s school, the teacher pulled me aside and told me a fellow student, a nine year old girl, died in her sleep last night.
I was stunned. I did the usual, “Oh no, that’s terrible" response. It didn’t start to sink in, till a few moments later as my son was eagerly greeting his fellow classmates. All of them unaware of the tragedy and the depth of sorrow slowly taking over the school, like a black wave. I felt so relieved to see my child standing in front of me, safe and healthy. At the same time my heart broke as I thought what this little girl’s mother is doing at that very moment.
Is she thinking about how her little girl would be entering her class right now, if it wasn’t for being gone? Was she thinking she should have hugged her tighter before leaving for work to teach her own class? Was she thinking she should have gone easier on her while she got after her daughter about putting off doing her homework? All the guilt a mother would feel.
This child’s mother is a teacher in the same school district and her father is a church youth pastor. They are well known and loved in their community and the police to not expect foul play. As expected an autopsy will be performed, but can you imagine the horror of not only finding your child dead in her bed, but then having to answer insinuating questions from the police? Yes, they need to investigate, I do understand that as we all want answers, but I can’t imagine the pain of that experience.
Later, while I worked with individual students at a desk out in the hall, I saw her class walking slowly back from assembly where they were told the devastating news. Seeing her classmates and teachers in tears, with some of the girls so upset that teachers had their arms around them, holding them up was a sorrowful, but touching sight. Seeing other teachers and staff hugging each other in the hallways behind the children, hoping none of the students would see their moments of breakdowns was actually harder to witness.
As I looked back at the little child in front of me who was looking up and needing help with a word, I swallowed hard and smiled through misty eyes. I fought back the tears, saving them for my own moment alone when I could let them flow unhindered.
In fact it wasn’t until the next day did that moment alone where I could finally allow the feelings of sorrow and fear to overtake me.
Emotions have the oddest timing sometimes. Sure I was saddened and a bit melancholy yesterday, but it wasn’t until I was driving home from the grocery store this morning, did my emotions finally decide to bubble up from somewhere deep inside, find their way up to my eyes and begin to flow over like water over a rock cliff.
Like a free flowing stream, once the tears started, there was no stopping them.
I felt the guilt of a parent whose child is still here; I felt the pain of one mother to another of knowing her heart is breaking and how I wish I could gather up all the pieces of her heart and hand them back to her with love. I also felt the fear as a parent feels and hear myself ask the question, “What if that was my child? And I only have one. What if I lose my one and only child?”
See, my biggest fear is losing my child. I have lost many loved ones, including my parents when I was young and it is simply the thing I am most afraid of.
I am a Christian and I pray a lot, but I struggle with trusting God on this one. How do I know He won’t take my child away from me? I pray, I often beg Him not to do that, but I know it’s not up to me to decide when and that scares me.
The greatest gift ever given to me was my son and I know that the gift could be pulled from me in the blink of an eye and I struggle with that knowledge.
Yes, it makes me appreciate each day more and of course, tragedies like this one makes me hug him more and even let him get away with a bit more because who wants to harshly discipline their child now? Especially when a family is now mourning the loss of their child who would give anything, anything for the chance to get mad at her for something.
We will move on and the memory will fade at this sorrow like they always seem to do, but that nagging fear, that scary emotion that is always right there under the surface like a predator ready to overtake me and devour me, is always there taunting me.
It never goes away.
I fear no hell except for the one no parent should ever endure – burying a child. That IS pure hell on earth.
God, please forgive me for my failing faith in you in this one area. I am filled with faith for you in other areas, just please send Jesus to me to hold me up in my weakness, for you have taught us that when we are weak, He is strong. And I could really use His strength right now.
But I can wait, till you get that little girl’s mother steady under your arm – she needs you so much more I know.
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