Riding on the train to work I was interrupted by a phone call from the kid’s school. I couldn’t imagine why I would be receiving a call from the school at this time of day. I quickly slid my thumb from left to right answering the call to hear the pre-recorded voice of the school administrator. “It is with great sadness and distress that I am calling to announce the passing of Mrs. Broy,” she said.
Mrs. Brenda Broy was Buddy’s third grade teacher. Her death was sudden and sad. Unexpected, unplanned and unapologetic.
The message continued on for another 45 seconds with words I did not believe nor comprehend. While the school administrator spoke with pain from her heart, I was not comforted by the impersonal nature of the robocall. I sat hunched over, listening intently trying to conceive what could have possibly happened. Like most, we never expect death to come. While we know that we are all on a trajectory toward this inevitable destiny we are always shocked when it actually presents itself. We live our lives avoiding this truth as a minor detail to deal with later; sweeping the closet corners, filing old birthday cards.
I cried from a place deep within. I was too upset to consider the stranger sitting next to me and what he could possibly be thinking as I wept on the train. I was hurt.
When the call ended, I called home to talk to my husband. From the tone in his voice I quickly assessed that he too received the call, it was real, and now I had to settle into what to do next.
Kevin and I decided that we both would share the news with the kids before school started that day. He put the phone on speaker so the kids could hear what I had to say. I prefaced the news with affirmations of our love and support for them, knowing that this news would be difficult to comprehend. When I finally got around telling them the news Kyli was silent while Buddy wept. Telling them of this tragedy from a telephonic device was awkward. I suppose the school administrator must have felt the same as she recorded the message for those on the call list. I wished I were home to hold my kids and weep with them.
Buddy didn’t go to school that day. He was too upset. Instead, he and Kevin hung out watching cartoons, laughing, trying to avoid the sadness that hung over our home.
Funeral arrangements were soon made and the school posted the obituary on the website which read “Celebration of Life”. I don’t know anyone who really believes funerals are celebrations. Weddings, birthdays, baby showers, anniversaries, New Years, Halloween are celebrations, not funerals.
I attended the “celebration” without my husband or the kids. This was difficult. Instead of being able to lean on them for comfort, I sat with another parent who admittedly didn’t do well at funeral services. The service was no easier for me. I was thankful that I had moments to reflect on Mrs. Broy’s life but fearful of what the remaining school year could mean for Buddy.
When I returned from the services I hid Mrs. Broy’s obituary in a basket that sits under my night stand next to my bed. I didn’t want the kids to see it. I felt that preserving their innocence to this final life cycle was best. It wasn’t until Buddy came upon the small booklet that I changed my mind.
“Oh is this Mrs. Broy’s funeral book,” he asked.
“Yes honey. They gave them to everyone who was at her funeral service,” I said.
“I didn’t know she had so many brothers and sisters,” Buddy said as he flipped through the pages.
“Yeah, she had a big family. She even was a pageant queen when she was young. Did she tell your class about that,” I asked.
“Um, no,” Buddy said. “But she used to sing songs all the time.”
“She was a nice teacher, huh?” I asked.
“Yeah, and I miss her,” Buddy said.
Quietly we both sat together looking straight ahead, expressionless. We leaned back against the headboard of my bed and slunk down into each other. I put my arms around Buddy and held him close.
He began to cry. “I miss Mrs. Broy,” he sobbed.
“I do too Buddy,” I said.
He wrapped his arms around me and we both cried. We sat together for a while exhaling the sadness we felt from losing Mrs. Broy.
I’ve learned that life is about experiencing it all. While I do my best to shield my children from unnecessary pain and hurt, it is also my responsibility to usher them through difficult times. Allowing time to cry, to reflect, to mourn, they grow into adults who learn to honor those feelings and more easily walk through this final life cycle with honesty and respect. Death is never easy but with love and support maybe we can celebrate the life of others in a healthy and life giving way.
So it goes…