It is a sad day in the land of Raabe. For those of you who don’t know me, besides moonlighting as a novelist and blogger, I teach seventh grade English. It is a wonderful world of people dealing with emotion turmoil and chemical imbalances, and that is just our staff. Normally, I enjoy my life in middle school, but some days are tougher than others.
We returned to school on Thursday on a somber note. We lost our second student of the school year. The first was a young man who I had the privilege of teaching in seventh grade last year. He was struck by a car while crossing the street before school in September. This time the tragedy was different… she just stopped breathing. No foul play, no accident to lay blame, just taken from her family.
The visitation was tonight, and my eldest daughter had classes with both students. She knew both students well enough to want to go to each visitation and to be affected by both. So the question most parents fear is the “WHY” question? Why do bad things happen to good people? That is a great question, and it is one that I don’t have the answer for. I don’t know why these things happen.
I know that we are all given the freedom of choice. We have the ability to make choices, and the consequences come from our decisions and the choices that other people make. Sometimes, there is a place to put the blame when bad things happen, and sometimes there is no one to blame. In this case, it was medical. She just stopped breathing. That’s it. And the emotions came out tonight as I watched students make the slow walk to say goodbye one last time.
I really struggle with the death of a student, the death of someone so young. My heart is for the kids that I teach. I even wrote novels for reluctant boy readers because I had boys in my classroom who didn’t want to read. I can’t imagine why this was allowed to happen, but I am not in charge. That is really the tough part, not being in charge of your life. I mean, you can control part of your life, but if you try to take on the whole thing by yourself, get ready for some serious heartache.
In times like these, I thank the Lord for the blessings that I have. I take time to turn inward and realize how fragile life is and how quickly it can change. I know that some will blame God for these things, and I guess I have fallen into that category before. Here is what I know about God… He is in charge.
He gives us the freedom to choose, and those choices have ramifications that are positive or negative, and sometimes both. But this was not a choice; it was the tragic ending that parents fear of. But as a parent, there are things that I tell my kids “NO” and they just have to accept it. There are times that they don’t understand why I appear to be so cruel, times that I appear to be unfeeling when I am actually doing what is best. People may disagree with me on this, and that is okay. I am not in charge. I am only going off of what I know as a parent. We are His children, and He loves us, all of us. So like the kid who is angry at the parent for something the kid doesn’t understand, so too are we like that child. No, I don’t understand, and I don’t agree with it, but I am not in charge.
So what am I to do? Look for the good. It is that simple. I look for the good. What good will come from this event and any event for that matter? I try to be positive and focus on the good things in my life.
Over a decade ago, that same daughter that wept tonight was involved in a life or death event. She was only eighteen months old when she fell through football bleachers at the high school I taught at in Phoenix. She fell ten feet to concrete, and my wife and I thought she was dead. I fought through fans and pushed my way to the stairs, frantic to get to my only child. I found her in a pool of blood between jagged pipe and track hurdles. Sure she was dead, I lifted her into my arms, and over the din of the band and the fans I heard her cry. She was rushed to the hospital and after a tense evening she was released. No concussion, no broken bones, just a scar from 33 stitches was all she was left with as a reminder of that night. I have often thought about why I was so lucky. Why was she allowed to survive this fall in such a miraculous manner with nothing but a scar as a reminder when other parents lose children? I am not in charge, so I don’t know. What I do know is that those dangerous bleachers were replaced years later, due in part to that accident. I know that the outreach and support of our Christian friends brought Jesus into the lives of many, and that event drew me closer to God.
My advice is to look for the good in everything and everyone. Mourn the loss, but look for the good. We serve a mighty Father, and we don’t know why these things happen. We may never know the answers to some of our questions, but we are not in charge, and that is a tough pill to swallow sometimes.