>Who’s Teaching Whom?

>Never mind if I’m using who or whom correctly; this past couple of weeks our little community has experienced mountains of grief. A grade school principle was shot and killed. Days later, my son’s former teacher, Mrs. Kelleher, died after battling cancer. The sun disappeared giving way to the more typical weather of this region: gray, rainy, freezing. It’s as if God commanded the sky to weep right along with us. I teared up to a Katy Perri song just now…I know…that’s bad…really bad…but I felt like Mrs. Kelleher was a firework that went out a bit too fast.

I thought I was the teacher about grief around my house; I mean I have letters after my name. I have a special grief certification. When there is a death, we talk and talk and talk in our family. We’ve buried birds and said special prayers over them. Years ago, we dug a grave for our beloved dog Charlie in the yard, wrapping him in silks, placing treasured drawings, crystals, and precious stones beside his body. We’ve stood beside a friend, holding her hand, keeping her company, watching her take her last breaths, and tried to make sense of her loss. We’ve discussed suicide and how it robs so many of their loved one, but moreover, how despondent that person must have been to take their life. We’ve covered it…

Yet, here we were, a few days after this precious teacher’s death, and I said, out loud, (buckle up…you may not like me after this) “It’s too bad that we’ll be out of town for Mrs. Kelleher’s funeral.” I know. I take my own breath away with my blatant insensitivity. Even I don’t like me very much as I write this. In all fairness, I had been thinking how much we all needed to “get away” and regroup as a family, but my children looked at me as though I’d just beaten a kitten with a bludgeoning stick. “Really, Mom…I think we should stay for the funeral,” they said. I’d wished a trap door in my kitchen could’ve opened up and let me fall through straight to hell.

This was one of those absolutely, clear moments when the saying, “Your children will teach you more than you will ever teach them,” rang so loud that it was like a gong in my ear. My ears are still ringing from it, although I’m starting to forgive myself…a little…maybe.

Then the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had taught them well. They didn’t grab this out of the air. They are seasoned in the bereavement department, I just had a moment of insanity. I guess we’ve taught each other well. It’s a give and take. We remind each other when we’re off kilter (me, lately reminding them that their rooms resemble Templeton’s nest and they reminding me that the funeral is clearly more important than going out of town-insert Bart Simpson “Doh” sound effect please). The act of going to her funeral; of honoring her life and her death; weeping; laughing; eating; serving–these are the things that glue family together and remind us to love harder and forgive quicker. It’s ironic that death often steers us towards living.

To you Mrs. Kelleher. Every day when I pull up to the school, I see you in your darling green capris, holding the walkie-talkie up to your ear as you stand on porch. You gave much. You will be missed.


3 thoughts on “>Who’s Teaching Whom?

  1. >A meaningful post, indeed.Our children spend most of their waking hours at school, with teachers and school staff often times mentoring them as much, or sometimes more, than family members. A dedicated teacher is someone we all learn from, respect, and remember. Teachers have a special place in heaven, I'm sure šŸ˜‰

  2. >Susan, as I continue to notice, any praise you lay upon your children, I turn back and put to you. They are extraordinary people because they have extraordinary parents. As always, I teared up reading this. And I agree with Christina! Teachers have a special place in heaven!!!!

  3. >There was a story on the radio today about this kid in wealthy Atherton who called 9-1-1 because her teacher grabbed and shook her desk to get her attention; the teacher was put on disciplinary leave. I weep for this nation of kids. The talk radio announcer I listen to said that all good teachers are the ones who were strict and had the reputation of, "OH GOD…NOT HER/HIM." Ms. K was so tough, but so amazing…she's got a special crown!

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