The Friday tragedy in Connecticut was deeply upsetting in a raw internal way for me. As a formal high school teacher and now graduate student teaching assistant, I have loved and continue to love my students as if they were my own children. Each and every one. We practiced the same lockdown drills that the teachers at the Connecticut elementary school put in to practice in live time. I remember huddling in corners with my students telling them to put away their cell phones and reading passages of whatever we had been working on the time. We had giggled at the situation. But, had that been real, certainly no smiles would have been visible.
Something a college degree in secondary education never taught me was how to deal with the death of a young innocent person. In my first year of teaching I lost four students. Two to suicide-one with a bullet to her head-one in a motorcross accident and another to a lifelong medical condition. I remember having to go home early that day with the flu and before walking out my principal called me into the office to notify me of this. Not one, but four-all in the same week. All within two days.
As years passed, I would attend another four wakes or memorial services. Two in a deadly car accident and two more teenage suicides-one in front of his girlfriend in her home. I could never bring myself to do the whole funeral. Selfish on my part, but the sadness was overwhelming. These deaths took a toll on me and played a part in the stress and burnout that made me think about going back to school. I never learned how to grieve. I never learned how to reach out to the parents. I wish I had practiced both more diligently. These students touched my heart. I loved them. I want those parents to know this. I would share a memory in the receiving line then get in my car and cry on the drive home.
Understanding the “why” of these tragedies is always the most difficult. However, we must remember that with every evil or sick person there are many many more good people. We are surrounded by good people with big hearts. Stopping to give thanks for that is so important.
I spent the weekend with my family. I couldn’t think of any other way to honor those bereaving 2500 miles away than to shut off the news, read books to my little two and half year old niece, take her to the Denver Children’s Museum, go running with my sister, enjoy laying on the couch watching movies with my sister and brother-in-law, and picking out not one but two christmas trees for my Mom. These are the people who matter in our lives. Our family. These are the people that we need to hold close in earnest.
This is the season of love and gratitude. When the days become shorter and darker we light up our homes to honor the deep simplicity of the changing seasons. We give thanks for the abundance of joy and fortunes in our lives. I didn’t know those children, those teachers or those parents. But, as a teacher I can certainly empathize. My thoughts, prayers and positive energy reaches out to those in Connecticut who need them the most this time of year. May they find guidance and light in this murky and dark days of life.
**The pictures are meant to break up the darkness of this post. They are in no way meant to downplay this atrocity or take away from the meanness that has happened.**