So I made it through Meet the Teacher night at Zoe’s school. What a great school, by the way! I almost made it through her entire schedule without crying, even though my heart was heavy.
The thoughts about not having a First grade teacher to meet with crept in…and I found my mind wandering during “class” much like my school days. Four more years before Zoe goes to college. Then what? It makes me want to grab on to her and just immerse myself completely in every moment that I have with her. But I know she is her own person…and nothing can ever take the place of Noah in my heart or my mind. I kept thinking about all of the wondering we do as parents; what your child might be like or become as they grow. What will be the next thing that they’re “into”? What will my child look like, play with, want to wear or watch or explore next, and when? All these questions that we as parents don’t even realize…just kind of hang out there in space now.
I tried to keep myself from thinking “he’ll never…” and wondered if he would have played a musical instrument. He loved music. Or maybe he would have graduated in his art from pencils, crayons and markers to explore paint, pastels and charcoal. Would he have liked his new school as much as Zoe likes hers? Would he have made lifelong friends there?
It was this haze that clouded my zombie-like progression from class to class. I listened and paid attention to the teachers but all of these thoughts just swirled around like smoke in the back room of my mind.
Then, we got to Zoe’s last class. Geometry. I won’t lie – it was a relief to have just this one last class to get through before I could finally go home. When the teacher began to speak, I remembered that this was the teacher who was a transplant recipient. So when I realized that he was going to talk about that, I listened intently. He began by saying that today was the anniversary of the day his heart disease became too much for him and he collapsed, unable to climb the stairs to his classroom. The room was silent as he told the adults crammed into this stuffy classroom about the boy in Wichita who was in a fatal car accident at age fifteen. His heart donor, as it turned out.
This kind gentlemen with gray hair and kind eyes told us that he never gives homework to his students on this anniversary day. But that he had homework for us, the parents. Our homework assignment was to “Go home, hug your kids. Tell them that you love them and that you’re so glad that they are ok – and that nothing like this has ever happened to them.” It was at this point that I began sobbing. I spent the rest of his discussion trying to get a hold of myself. I thought about running to the bathroom but I didn’t want to miss anything else he might say about his experience.
After class, most parents made straight for the door. A few stayed, asked geometry questions. Jason and I waited patiently, hanging back a little. When he had spoken to everyone else, I drifted over to shake his hand and introduce myself and Jason. I must have looked like a wreck: mascara running, eyes red, sniffing constantly. But for the first time that night, I did the talking instead of making Jason ask questions, pick up handouts and interact with people. He knew who we were as soon as we mentioned Zoe and he said she had told him about Noah’s accident and that he had been an organ donor. I explained again how there was no question in our minds about whether or not to choose organ donation for our son: my mother, who passed away six months prior to our son’s accident, worked for the Midwest Transplant Network for 26 years. Unfortunately, she had passed away from cancer, making her ineligible for any kind of organ or tissue donation.
So…shaking…I removed the green “Donate Life” bracelet from my wrist and gave it to him. I thanked him for sharing his story. For viewing his donor with such reverence and appreciation. He just took my hand and said “No. Thank YOU.”