There are two worlds. Mine, which is a made of moms and dads who have walked through the fires of hell on earth from losing a child. And then there is the other world made up of those who are lucky enough to have all their children accounted for on earth with them.
Together we share the same space on a daily basis. We work together, we are neighbors, we see you at barbecues and Christmas parties. Our living children are friends with your children.
Even though we occupy this space together and we can smile at one another, carry on conversations, laugh at the same joke - there is always the unspoken words in the room.
The words you avoid saying to us. The words that scare you. These words, they linger in the air so heavily we can almost feel their weight on our shoulders. We wait, silently hoping you will gently pick one ripe off the vine and hand it to us. The words of compassion, the words of acknowledgment, the simple word of a name.
My oldest son, a Senior in high school, graduated today. For us it was a happy moment of celebrating an accomplishment. A chapter closed and another beginning.
But that wasn’t the same story for everyone in the room. Fourteen years ago, when he was in preschool a little girl in his class, his classmate, was in a horrific car accident with her family. She died that day along with her daddy. Her two year old sister and mommy survived.
For her mom, today was a reminder of what life should look like and the stark reality of what it is not. It was waking up and remembering her little girl would not be walking across the stage to receive her diploma today. She wasn’t making plans for her to go off to college. Her future was taken from her at four years old.
Several parents with students in the class of 2019 wanted to do something in her honor, in her memory. She was a part of this class and she will always be a part of this class. A chair where she would have sat with a gown draped over it, her cap on the chair along with a photo and white rose. A very brief acknowledgement during the ceremony. Nothing fancy, just a way to symbolize she was here. She is here.
This should be an easy request right? One extra chair.
When the subject was first discussed not everyone was in favor stating, “she was only four years old, nobody is going to remember her.”
As a fellow loss mom these words crushed my heart. I imagined someone saying this about my son and I felt ill.
And this is the great divide, our side and their side. This is the disconnection. This is why the space between our two worlds expands further than we can see.
With those words this is what we hear; my child no longer matters because nobody remembers.
The actions you’d rather not carry out are loud and clear; my child does not exist in your eyes.
What you need to know is the smallest gesture, setting up one metal folding chair, will mean more to us than you can fathom. Because it’s not just an old metal folding chair we see.
It‘s a chair representing what our child’s future should have been. A chair that represents even though she is not here on earth we can still choose to celebrate her today.
It means she mattered. It means she was here and still is. It means we haven’t forgotten.
More conversations took place between parents and the school. There was an opportunity to express what it would truly mean to this family. A conversation that was bridging the gap between our worlds. A place where heartache could be expressed and empathy could be returned. It was a beginning.
I’m happy to say one special little angel got her chair today. She got her cap and gown, her rose and a moment of silence.
The entire class of 2019 walked in and took their seats proudly carrying a white rose in her honor.
It was beautiful. A vision of two worlds becoming one. An example of how things should always be.
As the class stated, “why wouldn’t we have a chair for her, she’s still our classmate!” This generation is full of compassion and so much heart. Some of us adults may not get it but these kids sure do.
Class of 2019, you’re going to change the world ❤️