Child, Stay Close to Us
He was a Middle School student and an avid Red Sox fan.
The child died when his aorta ruptured Wednesday while he was in the emergency room after becoming ill during an after-school program.
He was my student in a class that met once a week. A sweet kid who smiled without trying, he was all goodness. He did his best in his laid-back way, and everybody liked him.
Friday, as students were digesting the news, one of his classmates said to me, "I wonder if he knew how many friends he had. Everyone liked him."
That everyone liked him was pretty clear on Friday. Kids were solmen, overcome by tears, and feeling very lost by turns.
We were told to run our classes as usual, and I set up shop to do just that, but there was no way we'd be so savage as to carry on as if our friend had not died.
Friday, my students taught me a lesson in caring.
As the kids trickled in, they took their seats as usual, but as it became clear some kids were already sitting with the grief counselors, they moved to one side of the room. Just kind of happened.
I had cut paper for them to create origami daisies, and we agreed we'd make a bouquet for the family. Quietly, they folded.
Meanwhile, I had put our friend's class notebook--a plain, marble notebook in which he wrote the answers to the questions I posed every week--and asked the kids to write a good-bye message to him and his family. Each of the kids chose a marker and waited his or her turn to write. I had put the book at a table in the back of the room so they'd have a bit of space while they wrote. They moved to and from the book without a word. The kids who didn't want space asked that the book be passed their way. It was.
Their movement was symbiotic, each student in harmony with the other.
I put the movie version of our book in the CD player, and the kids pulled their chairs in a small group in the back of the room and watched but didn't watch. The movie gave them a reason to sit closer.
One of the boys, our friend's good friend, suggested they take the book and have all the seventh graders in their house write in it. He and a few girls took the flowers and book to the house office to express their very excellent idea to the house principal.
That was the last I saw of them that day.
Today, I saw two of the paper daises the kids had made inside the coffin beside this beautiful little boy. He looked so very small and peaceful. So loved.
The adults had heard the children, and love found its way home.
When my friend quietly introduced himself and me to this child's mom, she thanked us for making him happy at school.
Happy. At school.
Rest in peace, child. And stay close to us.