I’m feeling an nudge within me to post something I’ve already written. As I referenced in “I Didn’t See it Coming,” Kiersten’s second grade teacher died unexpectedly this year. She died over spring break. After finding out the news via email from the classroom mom, Randy and I decided to wait a day to tell Kiersten. The night before we told her, I wanted to journal to capture my thoughts as I anticipated a very difficult conversation the next morning. Here is my journal entry (exactly as written, other than correcting a few typo’s and grammatical errors):
Sweet sleeping Kiersten. Your day today has been full of fun. Playing with friends – Drew and Will and their cousins. A beautiful warm day to play outside…a welcome reprieve from a long cold winter.
You’ve been full of questions. Questions about death, because of Uncle Kurt. Does he know he’s in heaven? Does he remember life here on earth? How did Aunt Lis learn he had died?
Your little self is processing this thing called death. And your little self is doing it beautifully. Appropriate sadness upon learning the news. Comfort and concern for me. Yet the ability to carry on with life. Questions over the course of the past few month. Figuring it all it. Yet sweet childlike faith and knowing that Kurt is in heaven with Jesus.
As I watch you sleeping tonight, I’m burdened by more sad news we have to share with you. I wish I could keep you protected. I wish I didn’t have this news to share. As I watch you deep in slumberland, I know that you have no idea what lies ahead of you. There’s still an element of innocence and death is still an arms-length away from you. Yes, you’ve been impacted by Uncle Kurt’s death, but I realize that your daddy and I and your friends Will and Drew and Aunt Lis have been much more burdened by it than you.
Tomorrow that will change. You will experience the closeness of death in a new way. Tomorrow we must tell you that your teacher, Mrs. Auter, has died.
My heart aches for you. You love Mrs. Auter with such a sweet 2nd grader love. You’re excited to share special news with her. You look forward to telling her about things going on in your life. You can’t wait for her to see and read the Awesome Author book you’ve been so diligently working on over spring break. You’ve told me that Mrs. Auter told you she can’t wait to read your book, My Trip to the Beach. It’s a part of your life that you anticipate sharing with your beloved teacher because you know she will take delight in it and you. We all love to share pieces of our lives with people who seem interested in us. And Mrs. Auter has expressed an interest in you.
With the death of your teacher, your daily life has been impacted. When you wake up each morning to go to school, there’s comfort in the fact that Mrs. Auter is there. Monday morning will look very different. She will not be there. Instead, your principal and a grief counselor (or 2 or 3) will be there. Your classmates and their parents will be there, too. Mommy will also be with you.
What will the rest of the year hold? You will experience loss. Will your class do the play you’ve been talking about? Will it feel different to share your book without Mrs. Auter there to hear and see it? What will your every day look like? Who will your new teacher be? Will you continue to learn cursive, which you’ve been so excited about? Will the new teacher continue reading Humphrey to your class?You will miss her, I’m sure. As will the rest of your class.
I know you will surprise me, too. You’ll have new questions, quite possibly. You’ll grieve, yet as a child you will probably have the capability to process and accept it. As you grieve and process it, I pray that your daddy and I will help you along the way…by the grace of God.
Little do you know of this great loss as you lie there, sleeping. Who knows what dreams are in your head right now. Happy dreams, I’m sure.
I wish I could press pause. I wish the reality of “bad” didn’t have to touch you so closely at such a young age. Yet I can’t protect you forever. I pray that what I view as “bad” and unbearable, will be life experiences that will grow you and shape you in ways that grow character and a deep trust in God.
I love you, my sweet sleeping Kiersten. God’s grace and peace and love be with you.