The Empty Seat in Kindergarten This Year

IMG_0100August.

Back-to-school ads play on the TV and radio.  The stores have devoted giant sections to school supplies.  Kids wait with excitement (or perhaps dread) for their class placements.

Very soon, the schools will be filled with students walking down the freshly shined floors to new classrooms, new beginnings.  Through those busy hallways, the little kindergarteners will find their way like tiny fish in a fast current, half-swimming, half being carried away.  Perhaps their boisterous nature is good-naturedly corralled by a teacher, maybe they are clutching their mom’s hand, eyes brimming with tears.   One way or another, they will find their desks, put their things away, and look around to the faces of their peers, wondering what this year will hold, each of them filling a small chair, full of potential.

During this beautifully crazy scene, what none of them realize is that there is an empty chair.

A chair that held that same potential.  One that was supposed to hold a little girl with brown hair.

Five years ago, when Callie passed away, I had coffee with a friend who had lost her son.  We talked about how hard all those ‘firsts’ are without your baby.  First Christmas….what should have been her first birthday… and so on.  But what I wasn’t expecting to hear was that there are other hard ‘firsts’ that stretch well beyond that first year of grieving.  At that time, her son should have been getting ready to enter Kindergarten and it was an especially painful reminder of all that she had lost.  I remember not really being able to fathom what I would feel like in five years.  I was only able to go one day at a time.

But now, we are here.

With the wave of Kindergarten registration in the spring and now back-to-school mania in August, I am once again feeling that sinking drop in my gut, that punch and twist in my belly.

I wake up in the middle of the night wondering what things would have been like, dying to know what it feels like to send your child to Kindergarten on a big yellow school bus.

They say that when you go to Heaven, you are whole and healed.  What does that mean for my sweet Callie?  I ask God this all the time.  Would she have Marfan syndrome still?  I guess I won’t know until I see her when my time is up, but I think the answer is yes.  Yes, because Marfan syndrome was written into her genes, God’s blueprints for us.  That was his intentional design for her, not an accident.

But I do believe that, up in heaven, the hard parts about having neonatal Marfan syndrome are gone.  {Marfan syndrome can be subtle and not detected until later in life -if at all!- or very severe, like for our sweet girl.}  I just know that, in heaven, her heart is strong, her sight is perfect, her spine is straight as an arrow, her hands and long fingers move freely without any contraction, and she is able to run, walk, and play with all the other angels.

If she had lived, what would school have been like for Callie?

Would people have stared at her because she looked different?  Would kids have been cruel and called her names?  How would she have felt during recess or PE, knowing that she would not have been able to participate in the same way as her friends?

She would have had to be strong and so would we.

I won’t lie.  Sometimes, I thank God for sparing her all of the pain of this world.  But then other times, I get mad at him for not giving her the chance to prove herself.  I know with every fiber of my being that she would have kicked major ass in school if she had just had the chance.

Back in the Kindergarten classroom, the teachers are wondering what this year will hold too. They have prepared, planned, and prepped some more. The long hours of creating, doing, dreaming, checking lists (only to make more!), has led them to this day.  In kindergarten, you can bet that teacher is giving hugs, wiping a tear, smiling, singing, and somehow getting 20+ five-year-olds to do what she needs them to do. In short, she is performing magic.

Does she know that there is an empty seat in her classroom?

One that should have been filled with a tall and thin little girl, with brown eyes behind glasses.  One whose left hand doesn’t open up quite all the way, but who is incredibly smart.  Maybe she needs help getting around a little bit (a walker perhaps?) but still she sits in that chair, eager to please, ready to make friends, just like the rest of her classmates.  I’d like to think that her personality is sweet and that she follows all the rules (especially since her mom and dad have their hands full with her sassy, independent sisters).

Would her teachers have seen her for the amazing person that she would have been?   Would they have believed in her?  Would they have treated her differently?

We will never know.

And the not knowing is so incredibly painful right now.

All I can do is daydream and wonder.

But also hope…

…hope that because of that empty seat, a teacher this year will work that much harder to help a student who looks different or learns differently.

…hope that because of that empty seat, a child will be an includer instead of an excluder.

…hope that because of that empty seat, a parent will take that extra deep breath with their Kindergartner and give a few extra hugs.  (And at the very least, won’t complain about school supplies).

…hope that because of that empty seat, a stranger will make the world a brighter place by doing an act of kindness (donating school supplies, maybe?).

All because of that empty seat.

 

 

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Let’s Make Inauguration Day (1/20) a Random Acts of Kindness Day, Shall We?

january-18-2017-2It’s January, once again.

Five years ago on January 27th, our first daughter, Callie was born.  And five years ago on January 28th, she died.

Fast forward to the present and as you can probably see, things here on the blog have been pretty quiet.   I assure you that my life has been anything but quiet.  I never made it blog-official that…guess what?  We are having another baby!  A boy!  (He is our third rainbow to be due in April- fun fact!)  I also didn’t tell you that I took a break from teaching this year to stay home with the girls and focus on photography.  I haven’t written here about any of our ups, downs, and in-betweens.  In fact, I haven’t written (at least here) in 9 months!

Because by the grace of God, I’m busy.

The luckiest kind of busy there is.  I’m a mom.

A mom to two healthy little girls and a little boy on the way.

But I’m also an angel’s mom.  And sometimes I feel really badly that I haven’t sat down lately to use this space in the way that I originally intended- to share my love for her and to share her story so that it may impact others.  Does Callie know that through all the busy, hustle-bustle, that she is still there?  In my mind, in my heart, echoed in my actions?  I hope so.

I also know that it’s ok.  My writing is at its best when I’m feeling it, when my words are bursting out of my heart and have to be heard.  And usually, that’s also when I’m feeling pain and heartbreak.  So, it’s ok- it’s actually a good thing.  My moments of pain and heartbreak are still there- just quicker, faster- and the next thing you know, someone needs a snack.  (Doesn’t someone ALWAYS need a snack?!?)  So it’s a good thing that I haven’t written in a while… it means my heart and arms are full.

But… January.

The memories, the pain… it all bubbles up to the surface again.  Just right there, quivering and shaking right below my skin, like an overfilled balloon, stretched to its breaking point.  The slightest of things can poke holes in my fragile January shell and let the pain escape in jagged bursts that takes my breath away.  The feeling leaves, and my balloon fills back up again, but inevitably something else happens and I pop all over again.

This is how January goes.

I wanted to write today for myself, to have a little relief from the build up.  But I also wanted to ask a favor.

Every year, John and I wear yellow on Callie’s days -her birthday, Jan. 27th and her angel day, the 28th- and we always invite others who feel so moved to join in.  We also like to do random acts of kindness during that time period too (Kindness for Callie) and we love hearing from other people about the nice things you do for others.  It means the world to know that her little life can impact the world in such a meaningful way.

But this year, I thought that maybe we could move it up just a little bit.

Zero percent of me would like to engage in a political discussion, but I do think that we can ALL agree that no matter what you believe in or who you stand behind, that this last election was pretty ugly.  I really can’t think of many aspects of it that showed off the BEST parts of our country.

So let’s make up for that now.

On our nation’s Inauguration Day- January 20th-, I’d love it if you would join me in doing some random acts of kindness (and wearing LOTS of yellow!!) to show the kind of love that our country is really all about.  I can’t think of a better way to kick off a new presidential term than to spread love, kindness, and smiles.  For one day, it would be really awesome to not see a nation divided- red and blue.  How about a country, joined together….in yellow!

My sweet friend and I will be delivering the signature smiley cookies (pictured above) that I give to all of my photography clients to a local women’s shelter on the 20th.

What will you do?

Feel free to spread the word.  🙂

Nov. Kindness for Callie

NovemberK4C

 

Oooops!  Half-way through November…how did that happen?  Please join me in thinking of those who are less fortunate this month by doing a Kindness for Callie for those who are homeless or going through a hard time financially.  This is a month where so many of us pause to reflect on what we are thankful for.  Don’t forget to give back!  🙂

Sept/Oct Kindness for Callie

September K4C.jpg

Oops!  Totally forgot to post September’s K4C theme with all the back to school craziness…and guess what??  The theme is SCHOOL!   It’s not too late to do something really nice for the teachers, principals, and other staff members at your local school.  They work hard all school year, but the beginning of the year is so unbelievably stressful and they do their work with such patience and love.  Show them some love!

 

While I’m at it, I thought I’d go ahead and post October’s theme as well since I have the tendancy to be a *little* late with these.  I chose “Fight Cancer” as the theme for October because that is breast cancer awareness month…but I’m certainly thinking of so many others.  When I sat down to write these monthly themes, I didn’t know that September was Childhood Cancer awareness month and I probably would have changed things around a little because of that because of a special little guy we know who is so brave and for his brave mommy and daddy.  Please consider buying a Team Trevor shirt 🙂  I’m also especially thinking of a good friend who is fighting her own battle with colon cancer and has the most amazing positive spirit.  Thinking and praying for you every single day.OctoberK4C.jpg

August K4C: Children & Update on the Garden

Thanks to Carly and Mark for donating Callie's marker.  It's beautiful.

Thanks to Carly and Mark for donating Callie’s marker. It’s beautiful.

 

When Callie passed away, John and I had to make the most heart-wrenching decisions.  I can’t even begin to describe what it feels like to contemplate things like burial vs. cremation when it comes to your baby.  We felt sick, drained, tortured.  What was the right thing to do?  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a “right” thing to do…no rules, no instruction manual, no guide for the path we were walking.  Ultimately, after discussing it with our pastor, we decided to have Callie cremated and buried her ashes in the prayer garden at church, which we later redesigned in her memory.  We marked her resting place with a rock with the inscription, “Sunshine Angel”, because it was just too cruel to see her name and short life written in stone on a grave.

As time has gone on, John and I have gone on a roller coaster of emotions when thinking back on these decisions.  A lot of times, we wish we could go back and change our minds.  We miss her and wish we could be close to her again.  But we know that no matter what we would have decided, the outcome would still be the same.

She is in heaven.

On Earth, her soul dances in the sunlight on wings of yellow butterflies, or floats to the ground on the back of a feather, or pops up when you least expect it in a million different forms.  I see her all the time everywhere I go.  But I know she truly resides in heaven.

Yet even with this knowledge, I began feeling empty when I looked at the spot where she was buried in the garden.  That part of me that had not wanted to see her little name in stone began longing for just that.  I needed to see it.  And I needed others to see it too.  She mattered, she was here, she was loved, and she will never be forgotten.

We put Callie’s new marker in the garden last month.  Just this past Sunday, we visited her after church and after watching John and I put a kiss on the stone, Charlotte bent down and touched her big sister’s rock just as sweet as could be.  I’m not sure she will ever understand just how meaningful that was for us but it was a beautiful moment that I wanted to share with you.

***

AugustK4C.jpg

This summer is going faster than the blink of an eye.  I’ve loved every sweet moment of being home with Charlotte.  She is so active and fun and her smile lights up a room.  This month for Kindness for Callie, the theme is “children”.  I’ve always had a soft spot for kids, but even more so after becoming a mom.  I hope that you can find a way this month to do a little act of kindness to brighten a deserving child’s day!

 

 

 

June K4C: Animals (Really Late!!)

June K4C

 

Well, since June is almost over, I thought it would be a great time to share the June Kindness for Callie theme which is ANIMALS!  Man, I feel so badly that I didn’t post this earlier, but the end of the school year is always a busy time for our family.  I’m going to have to double up on my acts of kindness next month!  I’d love to hear your ideas for random acts of kindness that involve our furry (or feathered! or scaly!) friends 🙂