Thursday, October 8, 2009

To Everything a Season

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4
To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance...

It is with a heavy and mournful heart that this passage from scripture comes to mind for me. Because of my involvement, dedication, and commitment to this child, I feel compelled to respond to her death here in my blog. Yesterday, my homebound student died of heart failure. While this was not unexpected, the pain and grief is no less enormous. I have worked with Alice* (name changed) one-on-one since she was a fifth grade student; now, as an 8th grader, she would have turned 14 on October 22. Alice challenged me with her wit, her sassiness, her giftedness of mind and knowledge, and her physical limitations resulting from her Muscular Dystrophy. I am a better, more creative teacher because of her. I am a more fierce advocate for students with special needs because of her - especially when those students are also gifted. I will never forget, in her 6th grade year, when I boldly announced to her classroom teachers that "There is no assignment that Alice is incapable of doing. No matter what it is, assign it to her and I will help her adapt it into something she can do independently." That teacher took me at my word - her first project was to create a diorama. I laughed out loud, because what could be more hands-on than a diorama? Did we find another way? Of course we did! Alice created a beautiful tri-fold travel brochure highlighting the same region of the U.S. that the other kids used in making their dioramas. And she did it completely on her own. And together, I think - or at least, I hope - both Alice and I opened the eyes of many teachers at her middle school with our absolute, rigid insistence that there would never be an assignment that she couldn't do.

I am so, so very thankful to have been able to see Alice this past Sunday. Her mom cooked a meal for our family, and I went to pick up the meal from them for the sole purpose of seeing Alice and giving her the chance to meet Pax. Alice looked terrific when I saw her - great color, and in great spirits. Her mom took a photo of us, one I will always cherish. I am forever grateful for this last chance to see her looking so well and on such a happy occasion.

Once again, I am acutely reminded of the seasons of life, the birth and the death that is a necessary and definite part of our existence. Acutely I felt this when Leo was born; Jeff's grandmother had just passed away days before he arrived, and tragically, a young teenager from our church congregation died in a car accident that same time. Additionally, Leo was born on the same day that we found out, the year before, that I was pregnant with the baby we lost. Acutely I felt the pain, and then the joy, of our life's cycles. Again, with Pax's birth, and now with Alice's death, I am reminded of both the joy and the sorrow of life.

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