Monday, September 27, 2010

I am a Teacher. I am a Mother.

I am a mother. I am a teacher. I was a teacher before I became a mother, but there are times when the teacher in me is silent and I must love as only a mother can.

This weekend I attended the wedding of a former student. It was a joyous occasion and one more reminder (not that I need any) of the fact that I am getting older! When, I had to ask myself, did that cute little boy change into the handsome, young man awaiting his bride at the altar? Not while I was watching, I can assure you! Was he really old enough to do this? Legally?! The grey hairs upon my head confirmed the bittersweet truth.

Other former students were also there. We've never really lost contact, but walk different paths that seldom cross, except for times like these. We chatted and laughed, catching up on each other's lives, and reminiscing. Oh, how the memories came rolling in!

But, for two of these students the memories don't always bring a smile to their faces. I was their teacher during the darkest period of their young lives, when their mother lost her battle with cancer.

Although we don't mention it at social gatherings such as these, I have to wonder, have they truly healed? I remember the talks and the tears we shared. I remember the funeral and the empty, lost looks in their eyes. Their whole world had collapsed. Barely in their teens, they still needed a mother's love and guidance. And she had been such a wonderful mother.

Each child grieved so differently. The boy simply shut down, not wanting to discuss her or anything about her, except for the one day when he asked me to take him to her grave. Even then, he changed his mind at the last minute. The girl wanted to talk, wanted to share her thoughts and feelings. She needed to be around people so she wouldn't be alone with her thoughts. She showed up at school the day after her mother's death. When we expressed our surprise, she said simply, "I want to be here. It's like a second home for me."

The years passed. Their father remarried. They accepted their step-mother, but she would never replace their mother. She couldn't. The shoes left behind were way too big for anyone to fill. They moved out on their own. Worked. Traveled. Partied. Socialized. Smiled. Drifted.

This weekend, I wasn't satisfied with the simple "How-are-yous" and "I'm-okays." This weekend I felt I needed to reconnect with them. I needed to know how they were really doing deep down inside. I invited them to lunch, just the two of them, so we could talk and catch up. They quickly agreed. "I'm probably going to cry," he said quietly and looked down. She squeezed my hand.

I am their teacher, but it is my mother's heart that loves them so deeply.