Friday, February 11, 2011

Small Mementos

The time spent in my classroom teaching international students is truly priceless.  No price tag can be attached to the healing that I experience as I teach.  Even when I am teaching grammar, I am happy.  I get excited teaching such topics as the one we covered today:  past progressive.  I'm in my element when I do this.  I explain.  I draw charts to show the concept.  I give examples.  I ask for the students to give examples.  I wear myself out.  It feels good to teach again.

When I am teaching, I laugh a lot.  I listen to my students making their first few sentences in a classroom that is taught in a language that is not their first language.  I learn about their cultures.  I learn about each student as an individual.  I see growth.  I experience healing.

My mind is not on my loss.  My heart does not feel quite as broken.  I see the future that is in my students' eyes.  I am a part of something that is bigger than I and my sorrows.  It does feel good to teach again.

On a day like today, I leave my classroom feeling upbeat and happy.   I walk across campus to my car grateful for times of peace, joy, and accomplishment .  Our class had just had a small Valentine's Day Party.  As I walk to car,  I see a young mother approaching me.  She has her darling sleeping daughter in her arms.  The young toddler is dressed so cute in a little hat, coat and boots.  I wonder if she can even walk in those cute boots.  She seems so small.  Suddenly, I find I am weeping.  Babies still do that to me.

I think of my darling Julie.  I see her in her dressed in her cute little pink coat and her Raggedy Ann hat.  I see her impish little smile.  I think of how many nights I walked the floor with her because of her persistent earaches as a toddler.  I remember her finally falling asleep in my arms only to wake when I put her down because of the pain in her ears.  I remember what a sweet baby and child she was.  How could I have ever imagined that one day she would take her life.   She was a such a sweet, fun-filled, vibrant, loving child. I want to go back to those days when I could hold her in my arms and make whatever was bothering her all better.  I want to hold her.  I want to carry her.  I want to have her curly head tucked on my shoulder.


After the wave of sorrow washed over me today, I came home and made a hot cup of tea.  I drank the warm comforting brew from a tea cup that Julie gave me a number of years back.  I have not been able to use that cup since her death.  I have been afraid that I would somehow break it.

I've always loved that cup.  Julie knew that I like to drink my tea from china mugs.  She found the perfect one for me.  I always think of her when I use it.  After losing her, I just couldn't risk losing the cup that I loved using.  It is the special tea cup that she had picked out just for me.  Today, I knew I had to use this small memento.  It seemed that the only comforting thing I could do was drink some hot tea from the cup that had been a gift from Julie.

I brought the tea up to my study, settled into my favorite chair, and sipped the tea.  I looked at the rainbow rock that has always been on my reading table.  Julie painted the rock when she was about four or five years old.  She would paint rocks and try to sell them to the neighbors.  She gave her rainbow rock to me.  It has been one of my favorite treasures ever since.  It has always kept its place of honor beside my favorite chair that I have used for reading.  My Julie rock painted with rainbow colors always makes me smile.

My favorite family photos, books and keepsakes are found in my study.  That is where I also have my favorite chair.  This place is the place where I go for relaxation, reading, and reflection.

Julie smiles at me from the photo made on Amy's wedding day.  She smiles at me again from the photo of her, Amy and me that was taken just before a Christmas season parade in Lafayette, Colorado a number of years back.



I then looked at one of Julie's small wallet sized senior pictures.  The photo shows my dear eighteen year old Julie.  She looks so happy.  The truth is, by then she was already suffering from depression.  Usually she was the life of the party.  She had loads of friends who adored her.  She was successful in school.  She ran track and cross country.  She also was just beginning the long, difficult struggle with a disease that would haunt her until her death.

Not long after Julie's death, I decided to reframe this particular photo, one of several that were her senior pictures.  The old frame had become tarnished.  I found a frame that I thought the photo would fit.  It had hearts on it.  The photo was just a bit bigger than the frame, so I trimmed a small amount from each side.  That is when I noticed writing.  Quickly, I turned the photo over and realized she had written on the back.   She had written:

Mom,
This is one to show my happiness & I would like you
to show it to me when I'm down
to show me that a smile
lights the world.
Even though you make me feel better just being around.
Love,
Julie

Thankfully, I have these small mementos.  I can pick them up and remember the beautiful child that gave them to me.  I won't ever have new photos of Julie.  I won't ever receive another card with her sweet message written inside.  I won't ever be able to make it all better for her like I tried to do for so long.   I won't ever see that smile again, but I promise you, that beautiful smile did light up my world. 

All I have now, are those mementos, many photos, lots of cards, and my precious memories.
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