Sunday, July 31, 2011

In Joy and Mourning

I was going through a box of old writing, reworking some essays and stories and poems for upcoming contest deadlines, and I came across a poem I had written years ago, 1995 actually, and I cried.  The poem brought me back twenty years, when I first started out as a teacher.  I wish every teacher could have started out like I did - a small close-knit school, amazing and diverse students, supportive parents, and incredibly inspiring colleagues.  I was 22 years old, and "my kids" were 11-14 years old.  Yes, they're all in their thirties now, but back then, they were the little siblings I never had.  I adored them all, and I worked overtime every day with student council or the yearbook or the play or tutoring or attending their sporting events.  I have such fond memories of those days.  Sometimes when I pass the school, I see the tree we planted on the corner; we named her "April."  She is no longer the bare twig, but a fully blossomed and beautiful example of God's blessings.  And these students, each and every one of them, blessed me in his/her own unique way; even today I am so very grateful.

As much as I've always enjoyed reading and writing poetry, I've never been the best of poets, but this particular poem is special because it was written after attending the funeral of one of those former students.  She was just 16 or 17; she died with her parents in a car accident when traveling out of state.  It was tragic.  She was/is one of those special blessings I talk about, and all these years later, I still remember her vibrant smile and sweet, big, brown eyes; her laughter and innocence and intelligence; her kind soul.  I'm glad to have found this poem.  Even though it saddens me, those memories of St. B's will forever hold a special place in my heart...

In Mourning

I entered from the
side door -
that same side door
I entered
so many times before
but this time
I walked
alone -
there was no
behind me where
whispers and giggles
were heard
beneath the shushing
of index fingers
placed on lips.

I arrived early
and I felt a presence
lingering in the air -
the air which occupied
much of the space
as it reached
up to the far away
heights of the ceiling
where Latin verses
were carved into the
dark wood
stretching between all
four walls
like extending hands
from the extended arms
that hung up front
for all to
see and reflect upon...

I walked
down that aisle
hearing the click-clicking
of my shoes on
the freshly waxed floor
looking down the path
at the archway and
recalling how that
just three years ago,
stood tall and proud
with tears of joy
and sadness,
and hope,
dressed in their
uniformed robes and caps
and how they
held hands
and walked
down that very same aisle
as friends
fellow graduates
as brothers and sisters...

And then the main doors opened
and my memories were
whisked away.
There they were -
together again
and they were crying again, too -
with the girls
now so grown up
huddling outside
but there were no giggles,
and the boys
now looking like young men
but they no longer
needed to be shushed - 
they still stood tall
but this time
they did not walk
in that single file line -
they        processed
in            two
lines        with
their        clammate's
eternal     bed
between   them
and their hands were placed
upon the blessed blanket
covering her coffin
and that vision will not
my mind -
that vision
that thought
is so powerful
so sorrowful

And when they came forth
to offer roses as their
final farewell
I wondered if they remembered
one lesson...
my children
my friends
my loved ones who touched my
more than you'll ever know...

Rest in peace
my sweet angel -
I know you are one
who understood my words.

(Still thinking of you, Dorothy.  With love from Miss Hesslau.)