This week I learned that a boy at my school, a freshman and the brother of one of my students, died by his own hand. He was fourteen. It would be accurate to say that this has been a week of card-making and heavy boots.
This morning was the funeral. I got ready slowly, looking at the clock and thinking, 'Gee, this morning would be a great morning to wash my baseboards' and 'I mean I guess I really don't have to go, I mean not really.' This is what all three of my therapists have called my tendency to avoid, push aside, and or swallow pain and let it fester, like cancer, in my chest. Therapists get paid way too much money to state the obvious, in my opinion.
But of course this is not my pain. I went today for my student, because that's what teachers do. I listened to stories about this young person, searched in his eyes while they displayed his pictures, and sat broken hearted for his mother listening to Amazing Grace. I looked at his sister, the one whom I will somehow have to teach in the coming weeks that Sophocles gives life purpose, and my boots got heavier and heavier.
So I thought about Taco Bell, and how awesome a bean burrito sounded. I thought about how gorgeous it is outside, and how I've never been to a funeral in my entire life where the sun wasn't shining so brightly that, mercifully, people are able to hide their swollen eyes with sunglasses. I willed myself to be anywhere but in that place.
I loitered in the entrance to the church for a long time after the service. I would be lying if I said I wanted to give comfort to the other people there I knew, teachers especially, who carry the weight of this child's death as though he was their own son. I stood there hoping that I could avoid that receiving line, that it would somehow dissipate and I would be spared the agony of having to look in the face of (another) mother who has just lost her only son.
Taco Bell, I thought. Baseboards. Something else.
When I finally mustered up the courage to leave, I put my arms around my student and said something dumb like, 'Anything at all I can do'. When I burst out of the church doors I felt the warmth of the afternoon sun and the shameful release of a million pounds from my chest.
A woman in her thirties can be such a coward, I thought to myself. Then I took my sunglasses out of my purse so I could finally cry for the loss of a young life, and because the sunlight was so bright and so beautiful, it was just too much to take.