This is the conclusion of the series of blog posts I wrote about the death of my daughter’s first grade teacher. You can read part I here The Great Mrs. Parker:
November 13, 2009:
The funeral home for Mrs. Parker was packed with a great number lot of people who wanted to pay their last respects. With a 35 year teaching career, she impacted many, many young lives and you could tell she meant a lot to a great many people.
I was uncertain how tonight was going to go, for many reasons. I worried that I would cry. I worried that my oldest or all of my sensitive daughters would get upset. I worried that it was going to be awkward, knowing that we weren’t close to the family. I worried that one or more of my girls would whine/misbehave or want to go home.
All of those worries didn’t happen.
What did happen was a lot of wonderful stories were shared about how Mrs. Parker inspired a lot of people. Her determination and her strength in the face of fighting her cancer for 5 years was a testament to her faith and will to live. She was amazingly cheerful every time I saw her, and she always had positive things to say.
We saw her last over the summer, after science camp got out, the girls and I saw her when we went to pick up M afterwards. She always had a smile on her face, but every time she saw M, her smile got even brighter, and she would say that M’s smile was like a ray of sunshine. She always had hugs for my girls.
I’m so glad M had been blessed to have her for a teacher. And I think that Mrs. P was very happy to have M as a student. In M’s yearbook, Mrs. P wrote:
Little Miss M,
I’ll miss your wonderful smiling face! Love you lots!
We got the chance to hear talk with a few other teachers, like M’s kindergarten teacher from two years ago, and her second grade teacher (Mrs. M) this year. It was very good for M to have familiar faces there.
Earlier today I sent in a card for M’s current teacher, because while I knew we lost a great teacher, she lost a great friend. I spoke for a while to her and her husband, and just before we left, he said that his wife (Mrs. M) really appreciated the gesture.
When it was time to pay our respects to Mrs. Parker , I was very proud at how my daughters handled themselves. M and little E went up to the casket with me to say goodbye. K was too scared to go up close, so she stayed a little bit back. E asked me how Mrs. Parker died while we were waiting in the long line, and it just occurred to me that I probably should have done a little more to prepare the other two girls. But it was only at the last minute that we decided to bring all of them.
After we paid our last respects we went off to a side of the room where they had a table set up with crayons, markers and paper, so that if any students wanted to draw some pictures for the family, they could. K and E drew some pictures, and M already came with a card that she made last Friday but didn’t get the chance to give to Mrs. P.
About that time I saw my friend and her son, who was a classmate of M’s since kindergarten. M and N hung out for a while talking and looking at all the pictures of Mrs. Parker and the class pictures that someone placed on a table for guests to look through. They saw their class picture. I think it was nice for both of them that they were able to spend some time together. I think my friend was both surprised and a little relieved I didn’t cry. Well, to be honest, I’m relieved I didn’t cry. Every time she’d give me updates on Mrs. Parker’s condition, I’d cry right then in front of her. It was probably awkward for her, but I really couldn’t help it. The tears just came. I am glad I didn’t cry there though. I think that I would have been a bit embarrassed. I know I shouldn’t be, but I do become self-conscious around people I don’t know very well.
I also got the chance to talk with Mrs. H – the co-teacher for Mrs. Parker’s class last year. During the days Mrs. Parker was very sick, Mrs. H took over the class so that there would be continuity for the kids. Mrs. H talked with me quite a bit. There wasn’t any awkwardness, she shared some lovely stories with me about Mrs. Parker and about M. She asked me about how M was doing now, and even about how K was doing in kindergarten, remembering that she had selective mutism.
Everyone I spoke with admired Mrs. Parker’s courage, her determination to beat her disease and her formidable will to live and live with joy, and her desire to put others at ease and inspire her children to do well and be kind to each other. She had a heart of gold and a smile that warmed you from the inside. It is hard to accept that she’s gone. I’m saddened that my other two girls do not get the chance to know her like M did. She was an incredible teacher and role model for children and adults alike. I wanted them to have her for a teacher, too.
We are blessed to have known her, at least for a little while.
Rest in peace, Mrs. Parker.
November 30, 2013
I still have emails from her when my daughter M was in her class. I have never wanted to delete them.
Here is one that still warms my heart:
I enjoyed reading your thoughts here….reminds me of being a mom and a grandmother. Yes, it’s amazing how quickly time goes by.
Thanks for your concern, I’m feeling good today and enjoying God’s blessings inside and outside!
You are right on target with M, she’s a worker. I’d bet the house payment that she will be honor roll material. She’ll probably be in the merit program. They are recommended in 3rd grade, tested, and placed by 4th grade.
She’s a joy and I adore her. She keeps me on my toes and that’s the way it should be. I think M & I have a good relationship and that’s another perk in teaching.
Enjoy the sunshine
And another one:
Our Little Miss M has read so many AR books that she has earned the right to be principal for a day. She will be recognized on the morning news on June 4. There are only 8 children in first grade to receive this recognition.
WHOO-HOO! Your wonderful little girl helps make life so good!
I can’t say how grateful I am that my daughter and I was truly blessed to meet such a wonderful soul. I wish more people had Mrs. Parker’s radiant joy.
In hearing about how highly she thought of my daughter, I still am warmed about it. All those times I ignored “conventional” wisdom (along the lines of “put that baby down or you’ll spoil her” and other types of ‘hands-off’ parenting advice) and went with my gut and attachment-parented my child instead paid dividends already.
I honestly wish I did radiate joy, but joy is something that is hard for me to come by these days. The legacy of my upbringing in a dysfunctional home and some of my own poor choices led to relationship trauma that I still struggle with today. Every one I meet has pain they are medicating away with antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, alcohol, shopping, over-eating or chasing away their with drama and mishandling their sexuality. I have to admit I was among them for a while. But no longer.
But I do find some joy. I find it in moments I forget the past and I hug my daughters, moments of genuine connection with my husband, make art, take photographs, spend time in meaningful ways with others.
I’d rather not have just moments of joy. I’m selfish. I want it everyday.
And I intend to find out how.