Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Friday, July 1, 2011

I'm a Father of Two...Forever

Last Saturday was the last day of the two-week long Arkansas ESL Academy. For 13 days, from 8:45 am to 8:00 pm, I and 75 or so other Arkansas teachers were listening to presenters teach us how to better teach English Language Learners in the schools. It was a great experience and I look forward to implementing a lot of the ideas in my classroom this fall.

The one exception to the long days was Father's Day, when we didn't have to come in until 12:30 pm. To make coming in on Father's Day palatable, the folks from Henderson State University who were administering the program called all the fathers to the front of the room to honor us. A paper crown was placed upon our heads and we were adorned with a sash bearing flattering praise for fathers. Then we were handed a microphone and asked to tell everyone about our children.

As you can imagine, the last part was kind of tough for me. There were only four of us standing at the front to take turns at the microphone. My place in the line would make me next to last to share. As the first two told their stories, I heard nothing but an incomprehensible buzz. My mind was racing with how to handle this unexpected opportunity to share.

When the microphone passed to me, I passed it on to the last man in line. It caught him by surprise, but I told him, "You don't want to go after me." He went with it, not understanding, but still going ahead. As he described his children, I still didn't hear a word. When he finished, the microphone was again passed to me. The time had come.

I started by telling them all about Courtney, my 17-year-old daughter who will graduate next year, she works at Sonic, and how proud I am of her. Then I told them about Amanda, my daughter who will forever be 17. I told them when and how she died. Explaining that ever since she died, I've thought about the best way to handle when someone asks about my kids.

Is it best to tell them about Amanda, even though it brings others down and makes some uncomfortable? Should I only tell them about Courtney, and not mention Amanda at all?

After the little Father's Day ceremony was over, we took a short break during which several teachers came up to me and thanked me for telling them. One lady apologized for a comment about teenagers she made earlier in the week, a comment that I didn't even remember. I explained there was no need for an apology. I don't want people to walk on eggshells around me, wondering if they should say this or they shouldn't say that.

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline."-- 2 Timothy 1:7

I decided that day to tell them about Amanda, a crowd of people, most of whom I didn't know and didn't know me. I explained to them the dilemma I face in deciding whether or not to tell Amanda's story. "But I cannot deny her," I said in closing.

Though she may be gone from this world, though I won't see her again in this life, Amanda will always be my daughter, and I'll always tell people about her when they ask about my kids. I want to thank Christine for the opportunity to tell everyone about Amanda, and thank all of my colleagues for listening.



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2 comments:

  1. I'm not sure why, but I'm compelled to share my week with you. Perhaps it is because you're a teacher- I too spent this week in professional development sessions. On that day, my beautiful 22 yr-old son died rather suddenly. He was a college student and avid lacrosse player. He had a hilarious sense of humor and made everything fun.

    My task this week was to trade in his 94 Volvo on something new for myself so that my car could go to his brother. As I visited different car lots, salesmen bombarded me with questions and made comments like, "You deserve to get rid of that thing" and "it's time to move on" not knowing it belonged to my deceased son.
    When I finally found a car I wanted, the salesman was especially pushy when he started with the comments -I lost it. I explained why I wasn't especially excited to part with the car. Then I had a meltdown in the middle of the dealership
    complete with crying and snot and "get her some water". Today I asked someone else to sell the car or donate it to charity for me. I can't do it.

    I guess I relate to your story in that it seems to be those small, unexpected moments (like summer PD or buying a car) that seem to slap us in the face and scream, "You're child is gone!"

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  2. Thank you for sharing. I'm so sorry about your son's passing. You're so right. There are many, many things that come up, things that should be so normal or routing, that bring out a river of emotions now.

    I pray that God helps you find peace and the strength to push forward. It's a journey none of us desired to embark upon, and one that doesn't allow us to turn back and take a different path.

    May God bless and keep you and your family.

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