Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday SOL Sickness, death, and wisdom of children

I "just knew" yesterday was going to be tough for me. It was my first day back after my mother's strokes. I had missed a week of teaching and then we had spring break - so, two weeks out of the classroom. I "just knew" there were going to be many kind words and hugs from my colleagues, and I still feel quite vulnerable, with my mother now in a nursing home with dismal chances for full recovery and, instead, a slow withering of her very self; my father, living alone, far from my siblings and I (though he at least lives very near to Mom). Yes, even as I type, I can make myself feel quite sad and vulnerable - so, yes, I "just knew" that yesterday would be a little rough, emotionally. I thought, please let me get through the day without tears!

First thing, a colleague came by and spoke kind words and my jaw began a slight quiver; I think she noticed it, too, and we both, respectfully, changed the subject quickly to matters of the day - "Do we have a staff meeting after school?"

But then the children arrived. Bouncing in! I hadn't anticipated their embraces. One little girl went racing by everyone to find me, and gave me the biggest, longest hug. Another boy jumped me from behind, laughing, "I got you, Ms. Ingram!" Still another just grabbed my hand and held it, smiling. What a gift children are! Wow! My morning trembles were long forgotten as I slipped into being present with them.

I had to check out the new haircut, the new "shoes for running." I had to hear about the trip to the zoo, the family trip to the beach, the hockey game, the movie on tv. I had to find gak ingredients, because "we need to make new gak, Ms. Ingram - purple gak."

A short while later, we were gathered in whole group, and I wanted to hear their recall of their fun with Ms. McCarthy, what did they remember from the week? Well, truly, too much time had past for this kind of thinking - they had an entire week with their families since then! Also, my provocation was a little dull, I think I said "so, tell me what you did at school when I wasn't here..." Instantaneously, everyone started speaking - not about their doings, but about the reason for my absence -

"Your Mom was sick. Did she die?" [I looked at them with surprise and said, 'Yes, she was very sick, but she did not die.']
"You took care of her when she was sick, right?" ["Yes, yes, that's where I was, taking care of her."]
"You were pretty sad she was in the hospital, right?" [I broke into a small smile at this bluntness, "Oh, yes, I was."]
"Usually when you get very, very old you might get sick and then you die, right?" [There was no time to think through my responses; these questions were coming one right after the other! "That is true, and she is very, very old, but she did not die."]
"She will get older and she will die." [I found myself smiling. "Yes, you are right."]
"My Mom's Mom died and my Mom was sad." ["Oh, that is very sad."]
"My Mom got sick and my Dad came and got me and my Mom did not die." [I was wide-eyed at this bluntness. "No, that is true, your Mom is very young."]
"My grandpa died. He was old." ["I'm sorry to hear this; I'm sorry your grandpa died."]
"I got sick and my grandmother took care of me and my grandmother got sick and I took care of her." ["That is very loving."]

I wish you could have seen these precious preschoolers, all talking at once, jumping up from their seats, standing in front of me to make their emphatic comments. How refreshing - to just bluntly talk about sickness and death, to just put it out there! Preschoolers are concrete thinkers, very present, wanting to know the succinct truth.

I, myself, felt almost giddy by the end of this chat - lifted up by their calm, clear questions and statements. They were present with me in my pain, yet, taking it all in stride. Keep on keeping on! I was smiling, truly smiling, shaking my head in incredulity. It's as if the preschoolers "just knew" what I needed.


  1. I'm so sorry about your Mom - I hope she finds some peace (and you). I will say a prayer for her tonight.
    Great slice recalling that conversation - I could see why their honesty and bluntness made you smile. Such caring and kind creatures, aren't they?

  2. Preschoolers are a blessing with their outlook on life. They do make life interesting.

  3. You must be a very special teacher, too, Maureen, to receive such response from those little ones. I am happy for you that the day was like a big hug for you. I am also sorry for what you've just experienced, and now to help and 'worry' long distance is not easy. I hope the nursing home is comforting to all of you, and your dad will be okay, too. Tell, when you think he's ready, to try to get to know other visitors. It helps to have someone who is going through the same thing to talk to because they understand. Sending best wishes for you all.

  4. That is so cool - thank you for sharing all this wonderful conversation. (and I'm sorry too.)