Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thoughts on Life

I think by nature, bloggers tend to write about the good in life. Heck, I think most humans tend to want to share the good in their lives. I've been accused (by Beau) of writing cheesy posts. This one in particular was too sunshine and butterflies for him. Understandable. (Looking back at it, I see it is a little gag-worthy...)

I'm not one for airing my dirty laundry for the blogosphere to read. When I have a bad day I don't need to share to get maximum sympathy. My sleepless nights (which are blissfully few and far between) don't need to be broadcast. I don't need to vent to strangers. With that said, I am aware that this mindset leads to a somewhat inauthentic representation of the life I live.

I figure most of my readers know I'm human. I also figure they don't want to read about diapers and spit up, stress and drama. (Which is thankfully not in abundance. Well, the stress and drama, anyway. Spit up and diapers I've got aplenty.) I want this place to be a positive place and I have done my best to keep it that way. Fortunately for me, my life, while not all sunshine and butterflies, is exceptionally positive.

Today, however, I have a heavy heart and I want to talk about it for a few minutes. See, I attended a funeral of a former student today. Sadly, it wasn't the first one I've attended. Nor, I assume, will it be the last.

This particular student, E, was a wonderful young man. Smart. Funny. Talented. Kind. Above all, kind is the adjective I would use to describe him. His life ended when it should have been beginning. E was 143 days away from graduating from college. He was in the honor's program at school and worked so incredibly hard to be successful. I could count on E keeping in contact with me. He'd often  come back to my classroom to say hello and let me know how his classes were going. Most of my former students come back that first year of college at either Thanksgiving or Christmas, but then grow out of it. E didn't, and I was always genuinely pleased to see him.

In a nutshell, he was a wonderful person and his presence made an impact on me.

But this is not a memorial post. At least that wasn't my intent when I sat down to write this. I don't feel that I can do justice to E's memory on the Internet because I didn't get to know him as anything other than a student. I didn't know him as a brother, son, friend, boyfriend, teammate, roommate or any of the other numerous roles he played. I only have my own memories of him. I am thankful to have them.

The funeral was a nice celebration of E's life. The homily addressed the importance of making the most of our time here on earth (which E genuinely did), and touched on the absolute tragedy of a parent losing her child. E died one week after the Sandy Hook shootings and so the entire nation can feel the sting of that particular concept.

There is one image from today that will forever be with me. After the offering of communion, E's father was back in his seat in the front row of pews right next to E's casket. He reached over and rested his hand on the top his son's casket and left it there. It didn't seem to be a deliberate act, instead it seemed instinctual. Had this been a normal Sunday at church, his hand would have rested on E's shoulder in a loving, proud gesture.

Now that I am a parent, I feel things much more than I did before. Seeing E's father's hand resting on his casket was the most intimate, sweet and devastating gesture I've seen in a long time. My heart hurt just thinking about what his family might be feeling.

On that awful Friday of the Sandy Hook shootings, I held my Little Man close and told him I loved him hundreds of times just in case. A week later I learned of E's death on Facebook as various former students posted their RIP messages. Again, I held Little Man close and smelled his baby smell as I quietly cried. I imagined the unimaginable and that thought made me feel ill.

Today, after E's funeral, I got to come home to my Little Man and I got to hold him. E's parents will never get to do that. The parents of the children shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School will never get to do that. The parents of the too-many students who have passed away over my thirteen years of teaching won't get to do that. I won't belabor it any more. You get it.

Like I said at the start of this, I want this to be a positive, upbeat place, yet this post is exceptionally melancholy. We all have those days where sadness reigns. These thoughts of mine, especially the ones in the previous paragraph, make me want to shout the good Father's message from the rooftop. We must all make the most of the time we are given. We must love as powerfully as we can, give as freely as we can. We must be kind, compassionate, strong, deliberate and intentional in our lives.

As the year comes to a close and I contemplate what I hope for next year, I will take E's life and death to heart. For those of you who knew him, I hope you do as well. For those who didn't know him, I think there is still something to take. I think we all have E's in our life at one time or another.

Thank God for that.

Thank you for letting me share my melancholy thoughts today. Sometimes a moment of serious reflection is necessary in a world of sunshine and butterflies-or croquet and cocktails.

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