One of my favorite students from my first year of teaching died at the beginning of school year. He wrestled a match, won it, shook his opponents hand, waved to his Mom and collapsed while he was walking back to his bench. He was rushed to the hospital, but died in route. The cause of death was having too big of a heart.
This was a big kid. In 8th grade he was over 6ft tall and looked a lot more like a high schooler than an 8th grader. He made my first year of teaching better. When I had a bad day, he would leave notes of encouragement on my desk. I still have one "Miss Lomas, you are good teacher and we like you. You are funny and make me like Language Arts." As my TA he defended an autistic girl against other students who were making fun of her. He was goofy, funny and pushed himself and his peers to be the best version of themselves that they could be. If I have a son, I would be happy for him to be like Charley.
The 8th grade football team was undefeated for the first time in LCMS history that year. When I asked Charley why that was, he told me that it was all about the attitude. He liked to think to that if he went into things, even tough things, with a good attitude things would work out. In the last moments of his life, he was still living that philosophy.
No one teaches you what to do when a student dies. No one tells you how to comfort the students crying in the halls, or how to speak to his friends who come back to work in your classroom. There is no amazing message to write to two parents who have lost one of their two young sons, and no amount of preparation can get you through a funeral where boys on the brink of manhood carry the casket of one of their best friends. All you can do is remember the lessons they taught you.
Charley has been on my heart the past week. I have been thinking about how he chose to embrace life and use it as an opportunity to spread good things and not bad. His heart really was too big. When a young person with unlimited potential dies, you want to get angry at such a senseless loss, but Charley would have pointed out that God is in control and it is all about his timing.
Our social worker told us that children's social workers aren't picking us because we don't have children, or experience with children. I want to be angry about this. I want to point out that no one has experience with children before becoming parents, but we have been given a chance to get experience and help kids. We are going to be respite providers.
Respite care is taking in foster kids for a weekend to two weeks to give the foster family a break or allow for a transition. We will have our first visitors August 5th -13th, twin two year old boys. Let me say that again, twin two year old boys. My instinct is to run and say I can't, but somewhere I hear Charley's note, telling me it is all about the attitude. I am thankful for the chance to be able to show two kiddos love and happy to allow them to teach me what I need to know. It is all about the attitude.