My daughter is entering adolescence and is taking us all along with her on that roller coaster ride. Tears one minute and laughing the next. She is quite emotional about leaving her elementary school. She's had the good fortune to attend the same school for the last six years. Leaving is going to be hard for her but also for me.
She was given the assignment of writing a memoir about her years at school. Her memoir was so good, that she (and two other students) were asked to read them on the morning announcements. I've heard from four people about what a wonderful memoir Kate wrote. So, I asked her to read it to me. She wrote about being scared on the first day of Kindergarten and then about all of the wonderful things she has gotten to do and the wonderful teachers that she has had over the years. And then, the last paragraph was a little something about each teacher that she had: how her kindergarten teacher's smile, her first grade teacher's laugh, her second grade teacher's hugs, her third grade teacher's soft voice, her fourth grade teacher's encouragement and her fifth grade teacher's strength would all be things that she would lock away in her heart forever so that they would always be with her wherever she went. Memories are pictures that we take with our heart.
I am so proud of that memoir. I know that this will be an emotional week, and I'm dreading it.
As sorry as I am feeling for myself this week, there is one thing that I think about to give myself some perspective. I remember a ten-year-old boy who lived in our town and had an incurable form of cancer which started to take a turn for the worse in the spring of 2007. I followed his Caring Bridge website and read the journal entries of his parents while they were fighting a courageous battle with cancer. They had pulled him out of school at the beginning of 2007 because of seizures. On the very last day of the 2006-2007 school year, the boy wanted to ride the school bus to school and participate in an awards day. His mother rode with him on the bus that morning and she wrote about it in the journal entry for that day. She wrote about the joy on his face and the energy of all the kids on the last day of school. And she wrote about all the conflicting emotions she had and how she knew that this would be the very last time her son would be riding a school bus. Her son continued saying good bye to all the things he loved in this world - he would watch the farm equipment on his family's farm, and he tried to play baseball with his little brother in the outfield right beside him. All of the normal, everyday things that fill our time and that we sometimes complain about were the things that he loved so much.
This journey that I'm on this week with all the craziness and all the transitions are nothing compared to what that boy's mother has gone through. I often think about that little boy. At the local community park there is a climbing ladder that bears his name and is called the "ladder of hope and courage." I sit at the park and watch the little ones climb all over it, enjoying a normal, ordinary day at that park.
I read that the boy's classmates sang the song "Go the Distance" from the movie Hercules at his funeral. There was farm equipment in his funeral procession. And I've never forgotten that family and the journal that documented the strength they had on their journey.
Instead of being tearful and sad this week, I'm going to try my best to celebrate and enjoy this journey and hold on tight to the pictures in my heart.
"But I won't lose hope till I go the distance and my journey is complete. But to look beyond the glory is the hardest part. For a hero's strength is measured by his heart." Lyrics from "Go the Distance" from the Disney movie "Hercules"