I was recently in a Bible study where we focused on the teachings of a man named Bob Goff. He wrote a great book called Love Does, about really living a life of action and intention towards others. Inspired by it, I immediately began to think of all these elaborate ways that I might be able to apply “love” as a verb … and then, reality took over, and the idea of thinking of ideas took the top rank on my, “Someday” list. (I’d like to call it a, “To Do” list, but “Someday” is much more realistic and honest.) Nevertheless, I didn’t have an in-my-face opportunity … until now.
A few days ago, I received an email from one of my students, telling me that CeCe, (or so I’ll call her) would not be in class that day. The girl wrote that today was CeCe’s mother’s birthday; and her mother died last year. Struck by the sad note, I thought of the poem by Edna St.Vincent Millay, “Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies.” There is a line in it that says, “Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies that matters,—mothers and fathers don’t die.” Except hers did. Her mother was gone … and in the moment of the email I didn’t let myself feel it; I let myself think–how sad, but anything beyond it I avoided, for pain’s sake. My mother and I are incredibly close, and my whole life I’ve known absolutely, and without a doubt, that I could never have made it without her.
So, I was incredibly surprised when eighth hour came, and in walked CeCe. It felt like I was seeing her, this sweet, thirteen-year-old girl with the quiet smile I’d known all year long, for the very first time. Before the class started, I walked over to her and said, “I heard today was a tough day,” and hugged her … tight. I held on, and then she held on … tighter. When I finally pulled away, she looked up at me through misty-eyes, too aged with sadness for her young face and said, “You give really good hugs.” The rest of class went by … the rest of the day went by, and I came home … to my mom, who happens to be visiting right now. I told her the story and we did the only thing we could do, pray.
Today, before eighth hour, CeCe met me in the hallway, greeting students and said, “Um, Mrs. H, do you think I could have another hug?”
“Of course,” I said, pulling her in. Students and teachers shuffling around us I asked, “How about I’ll just be your school mom?” And she smiled a watery-smile before nodding.
It wasn’t long before I came to remember something Bob Goff said, “I used to think you had to be special for God to you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.” So I think it’s time I say it. I may not be able to change CeCe’s circumstances, but I can show up … like love does. So tomorrow, I’m giving her this.
I wanted to take a minute to tell you that you’ve been on my heart, and in my prayers. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I can’t even pretend to relate, but I do know what it feels like to miss someone until your life just aches. I agree with author John Steinbeck when he wrote that, “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” I didn’t know your mom sweetheart, but I know you … and if she was anything like you, then I know the light you must miss.
I wish there was something I could do to fix the pain, but sometimes pain is love in reverse, and there’s no cure for love. What I can do, if you’d give me the honor, is be there. Not always, like she would have, but sometimes … for the moments no girl should ever have to do alone. So if you’d give me permission, how about we do a checklist for life–together. Though I can’t predict the future–where you or I will go or move, how our lives will change, how about I commit to be your mom-substitute, in just these few special moments. If you want to add to, take away, or change the list … I can be there for that too. But for now, here’s a start …
A dinner date after your first day of high school
Practicing with you the day before you try out for your first club or sport
Going with you to pick out your prom dress
Taking you for ice cream the first time things don’t work out with a boy who has your heart
Any mother/daughter days that you didn’t see coming
To make you a birthday cake for your sweet-sixteen
To get celebration pedicures on the day you get your license (you’ll drive of course)
To sit in the audience when you graduate high school
To help you write your letters of interest to college
To sit in the audience and cry over how beautiful you are on the day of your wedding
These ten times are yours my sweet girl. They’re an insubstantial gift of time to help ease the time that was taken from you too soon. But I need you to know that you are brave, strong and filled with a light of amazing promise. You will be more than okay. You are a victim, but you’re also a survivor … and I’d be honored to walk with you on this bittersweet journey we’re a part of. Pinkie-swear. 🙂
So readers, I would love to hear how you are “doing” love. Please thread comments below and let’s encourage one another to think, and pray, and do.