Friday, March 29, 2013

It matters!

S.O.L. #29/31
I had a “first” in my career that I wish would never have happened. A former student took his own life. Sam* (named changed) was an intelligent boy. In fact, he was in the gifted program at our school. He was the boy who used his intelligence in all the mischievous ways, if you know what I mean. I had Sam for 4th grade, only my second year of teaching. Sam’s and his family were actually the first neighbors I met when I moved to this  town. They lived right across the street. I knew before I actually had him as a student that he was going to be a challenge. Boy, did he ever keep me hopping. Although, he was very likeable and witty. For instance, after getting into some trouble in art, he wrote the art teacher a seemingly heartfelt apology note. At the end of his letter, he writes,
“How can I ever repay you? Oh, I know,......

(signs his full name like an autograph).....

This will be worth millions some day!”
Unfortunately, I don’t think this young boy’s autograph will ever be worth a million dollars. However, it has been worth a million laughs.

I shared that story and many more as I reminisced with his mom and dad when I attened Sam's memorial. I was teary eyed as I tentatively walked along the tables viewing the displays of photographs and keepsakes from Sam’s life. The wide toothless grins of a baby in a bathtub; a young boy with tousled hair proudly wearing his boy scout uniform--This is someone’s baby boy who has grown up in her arms within her reach but now he is gone.
       Then it caught my eye a small Christmas wreath made of puzzle pieces painted green that encircled a wallet sized school photograph. Sam made this as a gift to his mom in my 4th grade class!!! A few of the puzzle pieces were missing, some of the green paint was chipped away and the picture was a little faded and bent but his mother obviously treasured this gift and kept it all these years. Now tears stream down my face. It mattered! Of course, it mattered it was created by the hands of her precious little boy. It would matter to me. I am so thankful that I have taken the time each year that I have taught to gather old puzzle pieces, paint them and let my students great a gift. Somebody’s mommy just might treasure it forever.

Love em while you got em!


  1. This story breaks my heart. So thankful his mom has that memory from Sam's days with you.

  2. I think this is important to remember...even those little rascals were once their mother's baby boy. xo

  3. This is such a heartfelt story. You are so right, it is something we teachers hope never to face, a tragic loss. Yes, that Christmas gift a teacher took time to help students create means so much. I have several made by my children (now all grown-ups! well, the youngest, almost- she's in college) and they mean so much to me, stir so many memories. I can only imagine what that battered picture surrounded by pieces put in place by her son means to his mom. I can only imagine how much it meant to you to see how lovingly it was saved and displayed at such a time. Thank you for writing the story.
    Yes, love 'em while you got 'em!

  4. Mothers losing sons appreciate that others grieve with them.

  5. I'm so sorry. Losing a student is never easy, but this story is even more tragic. I would have lost it seeing the puzzle-piece wreath. Thank you for making such a difference with your students.

  6. There are no words. I'm sorry for the loss of this young man. It's a no-win for everyone.

  7. I am so sorry for the loss of this young boy. Nothing anyone can say will make the pain better. In my teaching career I experienced this a few being a young man who took his life after the first year in college. I still cry about this. Blessings to you and his family...and especially to him. Jackie

  8. One of my former students passed away from an illness last year. It was heartbreaking for our whole school. I can only imagine the pain a family must feel at the loss of a child. It is a small comfort to know that we contributed in some small way to their treasured memories. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Oh, so sad... but I love that the craft he created in your class is now a treasure to his family! My parents still have all sorts of crafts I've created around their house, and they are truly special. I'm sure the family appreciated your attendance.

  10. What a hard slice this muct have been to write. I have taught for over 30 years and have not lost a student . (some parents and grandparents yes) I have lost someone I have known to suicide - it is something so difficult to come to terms with.
    We as teachers can give our students so much. So glad that that craft you did with Sam and the other students became a treasure I am sure for all.

  11. What a beautiful tribute to your student. And to you as a wonderful teacher! You have been a gift to hundreds of students! And how wonderful that his parents kept his wreath! We never know what will take on such importance!