A student of mine was hit by a car when she was riding her bike to school a week ago Thursday. She did not survive the accident.
Friday morning I sat in a circle with all the sixth graders and told them what happened. We shared many tears and memories. I attended her funeral on Tuesday.
Today we watched a beautiful movie with pictures of Heather that my principal created. Holy macaroni, that kid had a wonderful smile. A whole face and whole body smile. Some of us wrote her goodbye letters and we also wrote some specific memories to share with her family. After, we went outside and let go of 40 yellow balloons. I did my best to communicate to my students the message whispered into my own hurting heart: Love her. Love her, and let her go.
I've always enjoyed how teachers wear many hats. We are clowns, anthropologists, nurses, and social workers. At times, I've learned this week, we are also ministers. We hold the fragile, broken hearts of innocent children. We give them comfort and we help them create meaning from deep, deep sorrow. I was worried I wouldn't know exactly what to say to my sixth graders last Friday, or how to honor Heather today. But I think I did okay. We are all doing okay.
A few things I loved and enjoyed most about Heather. She was brave enough to always be herself. She would introduce herself to new students, she would talk openly about whatever was on her mind, and she didn't hesitate to show that she genuinely cared about people. Her sense of humor was mature and quirky and fun. And those radiant, generous, expressive smiles. My favorite was her mischievous smile. I can't help but laugh remembering it. Thank you, Heather, for being you, and for being part of my class this year.