School starts soon. I took last years papers down from the bulletin board to make room for the influx of new information coming next week. I took down Samuel’s kindergarten schedule.
There won’t be a 1st grade schedule to replace it.
I hold it, stare at it, wipe the tears from my face so they don’t drip on it. It’s his first and his last school schedule. I don’t want to mess it up with wet spots.
It’s not fair he’s been robbed of so much life.
My other kids are watching music videos on youtube in the kitchen. It happens all the time, some music in the background of my life that seems at odds with my experience.
And on that day when my strength is fading, the end draws near and my time has come. Still my soul will sing your praise unending, 10,000 years and then forevermore.
I want to be moved by the music, but I am not. I don’t grieve as one who has no hope, but I am certainly grieving as one who isn’t sure. I want to be settled, to feel comfort and know that Samuel is singing and dancing for Jesus. He would love that. He’s so cute he’d draw a crowd, even in heaven.
Meanwhile, back on earth, we’re organizing backpacks, writing names in composition notebooks, and digging out lunch boxes. The kids and I have decided which teacher Samuel would have had this year. I can’t decide if discussions like that help me, or if they add to my sorrow by giving me made-up scenarios to grieve. In reality, he was never going to have a 1st grade teacher. I just didn’t know.
Back-to-school is as hard as any holiday. Like a birthday, it’s a milestone of forward progress and expectations. This year it is happiness for my living children undercut by the pain of watching time go by without Samuel.
Social media turns into a danger zone, with photo after photo of the anticipated day. I can’t do it. Each picture taunts me, highlighting the gap between normal childhood and our agony. This is our first year to start school without Samuel, and it seems someone should realize how hard it is and say something to us.
We go to school to drop off our supplies, meet the new teachers, and help the kids find their desks. In the hallway I see Samuel’s kindergarten teacher from last year. She has suffered too. She’s taught two of my kids. She knew and loved Samuel before he was her student. We talk for a few minutes, both feeling disbelief that he isn’t here. I am thankful at least one person knows this is a painful time.