A week ago today we had a tragic car accident here, a head-on collision. Two students at my school lost their mother. The driver of the other car turned out to be a Jr. High friend of Dugger's. This young man and Dugger were friends in 7th and 8th grade. The young man visited and spent the night many times at our house and Dugger at his. This was a child that had circumstances in his life where I think he needed Dugger's and our friendship. He was a very kind and somewhat quiet child and I felt that Dugger also benefited from this friendship. When they started high school they lost touch with each other.
During their eighth grade school year, I went on a couple of field trips with Dugger's class. I don't think too many people want to chaperon 8th graders because I clearly remember Dugger coming home and saying that his science/homeroom teacher wanted me to go on their spring trip to the Museum of Science and Industry. I had previously gone on their outdoor hiking trip earlier in the year. Doug chaperoned at their end of the year picnic. I'm pretty sure one of us went on every field trip they had that eighth grade year. Daniel's core group of friends included this child and he was in my assigned group for both field trips that year. For me going on the field trips was a chance to be a part of Dugger's school life at a school event. I got to be a parent and not the teacher. Dugger was the only one of my three children that never went to a school where I taught, so the opportunity to see him daily at school and capture the occasional school moments on film eluded me. This field trip was one of the few times that I had a chance to share his school day and capture a few memories. Here is Dugger and his friend chilling out.
I dug up this picture and another after the visitation and funeral announcements were made. I had given the photos to the boy's mom the year that I took them but wondered if they still had them and thought she might like to have them now. I took Dugger to the visitation. I felt strongly that we pay our respects to his mom, for her son had been a special person in our lives. Dugger didn't particularly want to go but I explained that this was not about us. It was about letting his mom know that we care about her and her son.
I wasn't sure if his mom would remember us, since it had been a good four years since we had seen each other. Yet when Dugger walked up to her at the funeral home her face lit up with a big smile and she said I didn't know you would come. She commented on how grown up Daniel had become. She and I hugged each other for a long time. How easily our roles could have been reversed. Two boys, one month's age difference, attending the same college, and driving on a rainy day. Graduation pictures sat on display by the coffin with her son in an open casket dressed a concert t-shirt and jeans. This picture I had given her all those years ago was in the DVD show that was playing in the back of the room.
My heart aches for my child who at his young age has yet again lost a classmate and friend. My heart aches for this mom who has lost her oldest child in a tragic accident. And my heart selfishly aches because I know that it could easily be one of my children. I think of all the times when I am in a rush and don't stop to say good-bye or I love you, or really look at them as they or I go out that door. A tragedy like this makes me hold them a little more tighter in spite of the fact that they are almost 19, 17, and 12. I hope it is something I never loose touch with again. That I always make that personal contact with them every day as they go out into the world.
I really appreciate my daughter who almost always runs after her dad or I, when we leave the house, and yells "bye, love you." She was compulsive about doing this when she was younger. She almost had a desperateness as she'd yell out from the far reaches of the house, "WAIT!" and would come running into the kitchen to say "Bye, love you" as we headed out to the garage. It use to drive me crazy until I finally thought about why it bothered me so much. Her behavior always brought up another tragic loss and my need to cling to my children with a desperate I Love You. For a long time it literally hurt to see them walk out the front door to go to school or walk down the sidewalk and disappear into the school building. Acknowledging why my daughter's behavior bothered me allowed me to let that painful association go and just accept her action as a gift.
Now days she doesn't have that desperate tone and doesn't always say bye but as you pull out from the garage and look toward the house she has her knees buried in our big comfy chair by the front window with her body facing the back of the chair as she waves and blows kisses to the driver. Often the dog is right beside her. I'm not sure why she started these behaviors but I've come to cherish and appreciate it.
Hug your loved ones a little tighter and cherish all the moment you have with them (even those frustrating, sad, or angry moments). Just think at least I have them with me today.