Over the past few days, two things occurred that stopped me in my tracks. First, our school experienced the passing of one of our students. The second, our annual Holiday program was held at SECCA in Winston Salem, NC. I found myself on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum this week as these two events occurred within days of each other.
Make no mistake, the death of someone at any age is sure to cause an overwhelming amount of grief to those who lose a loved one. It doesn’t seem to matter if the passing was the result of a long illness or whether it was entirely unexpected. It seems to me, though, that the passing of a child is a bit surreal and against the laws of nature. There is something about the death of a child – a life cut short by tragedy – that causes us to ponder our own mortality. We see the tens of years we assume we all have ahead of us and question why that particular child was taken from us before we felt it was time. When a child passes before they reach double-digits in age, we can only see the years they didn’t get to experience.
Perhaps that is why we feel such loss.
The people I work with felt the loss of this child and I feel certain we all thought of her as we watched the holiday program. Most of you know that during the day, I work for a school that cares for children with special needs. While I am not a teacher, even my minimal experience with these children has increased my capacity for empathy tenfold.
But what I need to make clear to you is that my days are not filled with sadness over what our children cannot do. Actually, quite the opposite is true. My days, while filled mainly with numbers and spreadsheets, are filled with all sorts of positivity. Over the sound of my calculater, I hear the laughter from the little boy who took his first steps in his new walker, giggles from the little girl who learned a new word when her parents were told she would never be verbal; and shouts of encouragement from the therapists who are encouraging a child to perform a movement that was impossible for the child mere months ago.
Will these children live to be seventy? Eighty? Even ninety? I have no idea. All I can tell you is that each and every day, we are celebrating what our children can do.
This is what I took away from our holiday program.
Some of our children were wheeled around in their chairs, others stood with assistance from their nurse or teacher, while others were able to stand usassisted. What was unique was that every child had a smile on their face. They were having the time of their lives up there on that stage. The day before may have been a struggle, tomorrow may be a struggle, but in that moment, these children were enjoying being in the spotlight and enjoying just being a kid.
So while my school experienced a tragic loss this week, every day we experience miracles. Every day we see possibilities that we couldn’t see the day before.
This is what we need to focus on this season. The possibility that exists in every single day.
What is possible for you today?
Donna Small is the author of two novels, Just Between Friends and A Ripple in the Water. Both available from Second Wind Publishing. She lives in Clemmons, North Carolina with her two daughters and her beagle, Charlie, where she is at work on her next novel.