This is dedicated to the hearts of grieving children who are going back to school…
It was my first day of 7th grade, and I was terrified. After all, there is so much for the 12-year-old heart to consider. Will I find all of my classes? Who will I sit with at lunch? What if I don’t like any of my teachers? Am I wearing the right clothes?
I was still reeling from the death of my dad, a little over a year earlier. My mom, who had been a stay-at-home mom, had begun working. Already shy, I was terrified others would learn my secret; my dad was dead.
I mustered up all the courage my little heart could and off I went. The day sped by, all going well with nothing extraordinary to speak of. By the end of the day, I even had a little strut in my walk, feeling pleased that I had made it through.
Although most of the school had emptied out, I thought I’d better make one more stop in the little girl’s room before making my way home. After entering the bathroom stall, I heard a male voice yell, “Is anyone in there?” Feeling scared and embarrassed to answer, I sat. Silently. But when it became a noticeably loud silence, I thought, I’d better run.
Now, running from a stall is no easy feat for any female, young or old, but I swiftly did what I could do. From that point forward, everything occurred in slow motion. I grabbed the door handle and pulled. And pulled again.
LOCKED. The door was…LOCKED.
Sheer terror was now running through my entire body. Realizing the voice I heard was the janitor coming around to lock up, I tried to find my breath in order to, well, scream! And scream I did. I pounded on the door until my fist became an exquisite shade of blue.
Within a short eternity, the janitor returned to release me. If the humiliation of facing the janitor wasn’t enough, there stood two of the prettiest and most popular girls in the school, giggling and pointing at me. A day that had been unremarkable quickly turned to an experience that has never left my soul.
I could feel my body shrink to nothing. My ego gutted. I would now have to deal with the entire school knowing how pathetic I already knew I was.
Not pretty, no dad, shy, and now…stupid.
I ran home to an empty house. My dad, a school teacher, would have arrived home shortly after.
I picked up the phone and called my mom, and sobbed. I know how badly she wanted to wrap her arms around me at that moment. But she couldn’t. She was performing the duties of both mom and dad.
The feelings of that day rest deeply in my body. I wish I could go back in time to hold that little girl tightly, as the tears flowed down her cheeks.
As school begins, please keep a gentle, watchful eye on grieving children. As they walk silently through the halls; sit quietly at the lunch tables; play with reservation, on the blacktops…
…their little hearts may be bouncing and thumping with an unseen yearning, loneliness, confusion, and fear.