Thursday, October 14, 2010

Before I forget (and some details are already fuzzy)

I don't think I've shared before how beautifully our elementary school handled Steve's death.

I thought of it today when a store clerk and I were talking about Bledsoe, and she asked if we liked the school. As I typically do, I gushed. Our neighborhood school has been a huge blessing -- for its academic strengths, its variety of programs, relationships formed.

Bledsoe has been more than a school to our family. It is a safe, comforting home for Cooper and now Katie. It is filled with a talented group of leaders, teachers and staff members -- and supported by compassionate families.

On the day that Steve died, I spoke with Cooper's teacher, Brae. Cooper said that he wanted to go to school the very next day. We weren't sure that this was a good idea, but Cooper was certain.

Brae and Angie, the school's guidance counselor who had already spent a lot of time with Cooper, planned the next day together.

First thing Tuesday morning, I met with Angie and two specialists from the district. By this time, Cooper thought he wouldn't be able to stay the full day. But he did want his classmates to know all at one time that his Daddy had died. He was worried about having to tell people one by one.

Angie, Cooper and I walked to his classroom. Everyone gathered at the back of the room. Cooper sat on the carpet next to his best friend, Asher, who was celebrating his birthday that day. Asher put his arm protectively around Cooper's shoulders.

Angie sat in front of the group and said she had some very sad news. She tried to keep her composure, but she understandably cried some as she told Cooper's classmates that Steve had died after fighting brain cancer.

She told his friends that it was OK to tell him that they were sorry and to show that they cared but that he might not want to talk about it all the time.

Then Cooper and I went home. He spent the rest of the day at the house and returned to school Wednesday.

Angie met with Cooper three mornings a week over the next few months. We eventually reduced the days to two. This school year he hasn't yet expressed interest in counseling. But he knows it's always an option.

She and Brae are just two of the special people who took deliberate, gentle care of us when we so critically needed extra care.

So, if you ask me if I like our elementary school, I'll either give you the short answer: an emphatic yes. Or a long, emotional answer that ends in an emphatic yes.

Brae, Cooper, Angie, Kelly (former assistant principal at Bledsoe) and Jess (a teacher Cooper never even had) at one of his soccer games last October

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