You all know the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Well, tonight I am realizing just how true that cliche really is, and how much more there is to the story than simply the raising of the child.
About 15 years ago, I met a sweet young kindergarten teacher. She was gentle, thoughtful, very beautiful, and she possessed an innocence of spirit that made this older woman want to hold her close and help her through the struggles of public school teaching. She and I worked together with many children, she as the classroom teacher, me as the speech/language specialist and special education connection.
I remember watching her mature, watching as she learned the ropes and developed her skills in teaching and in meeting with anxious parents.
And I remember, so clearly, one Valentine’s morning. I was in her classroom to help with a reading lesson. Suddenly, a group of men stood in the doorway, wearing black vests and bowties. The tallest of them, sporting a wicked grin and an armful of long-stemmed red roses, said, “Dave sent us to serenade you!” The four men came into the room, arranged themselves around the little tables filled with cut out paper and crayons, and began to sing. The lush harmonies of a barbershop quartet competed with the giggles of delighted five year olds, and the teacher stood motionless in blushing beauty.
I remember when her sweetheart (another of my colleagues) proposed, and she accepted. I remember seeing photos of their wedding.
And I can clearly remember when they announced that they were expecting their first child. She was still the kindergarten teacher, and he was teaching phys ed, keeping the hordes of active children in check with his firm, calm, gentle hand. All of us at school were delighted for them! It was such a sweet story, and we all basked in its warmth.
I remember meeting that sweet first born girl shortly after her birth, and I remember my pleasure when I found out that she was going to be a big sister.
When the second daughter was born, I remember attending an end-0f-year party with the parents and both little girls. I can recall, so clearly, shooing the parents into the back yard to relax a bit and to let their toddler play while I held the sleeping infant girl in my arms. I remember her smell, the softness of her golden hair. I remember the laughs, at my expense, when other teachers called me “Nonni-wannabe” and teased me about my skills as a baby rocker extraordinaire.
I remember the shock that I felt three years ago when we were told that the younger child, the sweet golden haired baby, had been diagnosed with leukemia. I remember the sorrow, the helplessness, the prayers.
I wished on falling stars for her recovery. I picked four-leaf-clovers. I prayed, I sang, I tried to make bargains with God.
With all of my colleagues, and with all of the friends and family and neighbors of this young family, I baked and made suppers. We raised money to help defray the terrible costs, we donated gift cards, we wrote checks. We hoped, we offered encouragement, we engaged in every kind of magical thinking.
For three long, long, years this family has fought the good fight against a vicious and insatiable disease. That little girl and her Momma were away from home for over a year, trying everything to keep her alive. Her big sister and her cat and her Dad stayed at home, working to keep the home fires alight.
For three terrible, deceitful years that poor little kid underwent every possible treatment to defeat her awful foe. She struggled, she fought, she kept going against all odds. By all accounts, she kept on laughing, kept on demanding, kept on living as long as she possibly could.
Last night, after so much pain and so much suffering, her little seven year old body could take no more, and she succumbed.
How do we make sense of such a thing? What can we possibly say to explain how such an unfair and unwarranted event could be allowed to happen? Where is God? What is he thinking? Where is the plan? What purpose was served here?
I have no words to put meaning to what this loving, kind, generous family has had to endure.
What I am left with is this: Every day is a gift. Every child is a blessing. Every life is worth everything. We must all take care of each other, every day. And in honor of this brave, strong warrior of a girl, we owe it to all of the children on earth to fight as hard as we can to ensure that they live well for every minute that is granted to them.
It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a village to mourn a child, and to comfort and support those who are left behind by the loss of that child.
In honor of Meg, 3/25/05-7/4/12