A 35-year-old 5th grade teacher passed away at my daughter's school this week, leaving behind his wife and two small children.
My 4th-grade Kiddo came home after learning of this news ... she told me what had been said and done in class to deal with the grieving process. I asked her if she wanted to talk a bit and she said ''no, I'm okay, I think I can handle it, we talked a lot about it in school today''.
She went up to bed, and when I went to tuck her in 15 minutes later she was crying. She'd written a letter to ''God''. She'd asked him why this had happened, how his family would cope, and she confessed her ''sins'' (about thinking this particular teacher was weird when she crossed him in the hallway because he had an earring). She felt so guilty. And she couldn't understand why he was gone. She felt bad for his family. She couldn't forgive herself for having judged him.
I sat cross-legged on her bed, listening to this child of mine expressing the guilt that all of us have felt at one point in our lives for judging someone without reason. And I felt such pain knowing that she would never get to set this right with him. I listened, and I told her it was ok. He was up there somewhere in Heaven with her Pepere, and they were laughing and reminiscing about what an awesome kid she was.
And she said ''no, Maman, he didn't know who I was. I was just another kid in the hall. Just another kid who thought he was weird. But now, NOW, I wish he'd been my teacher Maman. Because the 5th graders said he was awesome. Why was I so mean in my head, Maman? He was just a good person and a good teacher, and now his family don't have him anymore. His babies won't ever be able to love him the same way again. Why Maman?"
And of course, I had no answer for her. All I could do was listen and hug her. I asked her if she wanted me to get her Papa to talk about it. She said yes. I went and explained to him what was going on. I asked him to come talk to her. He came, but he didn't talk to her. He said ''Grab your blanket, you'll sleep with us tonight.'' So she did.
We lay there in bed, the three of us. Last night. And she whispered to me ''Thank you, Maman.'' And I asked ''Why?'' And she said '' You always listen to me, and you're always there for me.'' And I hugged her.
And we fell asleep.
And I felt ok. Because even though my child was in pain, we'd delivered on our promise to always keep her safe. No matter what, we've promised ourselves we'll always be her soft place to fall.