Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Village for Kate

Last week we lost a friend and neighbor in a terrible accident on 2222. That road continues to be a source of tragedy for those who use it regularly.  As with most tragedies, there is a deep sadness and loss….but this one particularly hit close to home with me and in a way I wasn’t really expecting.

Barb was a neighbor and acquaintance, but most relevant to me, was that she was the mother of one of my cheerleaders. I knew her as the supportive mother who had encouraged her very shy and athletic daughter to join cheerleading with some of her other considerably more extroverted friends.  In the beginning in practice and games, Kate was most likely to voluntarily stand in the back row, her cheer voice could not be heard above the other girls and her motions were good but tentative. It was exciting to see throughout the season, her growth and development, not just as an athlete, but as little girl gaining confidence in herself, day by day. By the end of the season, you could always count on her to be where she was supposed to, she was always willing to play whatever role she was asked and lo and behold, she would actually smile and her face would light up with enthusiasm, especially when she saw her parents watching her.

Following the accident, I reminisced about those days and was so deeply saddened to know that Kate would not get to see her mother’s smile cheering her on, clapping exuberantly as she tackled and overcame new obstacles, garnered new successes and continued to develop, mature and become the wonderful woman we are all sure she will become.  How do you tell a little 11-year old girl that Mommy’s not coming back?

Eleven is such an influential time in a young girl’s life. The impact of her mother’s death will be immeasurable. Kate will never again be the Kate who woke up Tuesday morning, hugged and kissed her mom as she left for school. She has by a quick stroke of fate been ushered hurriedly and unwantedly into a new life. I feel such grief for the loss of her mother Barb, but I feel even more for the loss of that other Kate.

I don‘t know that there are any words to soothe her, and hugs that will make her feel better. How do you tell her you know it’s going to be very hard and it is going to hurt so badly, but you hope that somehow, some way, she will find her way through these toughest of times?  Does she need to know that her life will never be the same, but she will make it and she will make her mother proud?

When I saw her yesterday outside on the steps following her mother’s reception, I had no idea what I was going to say or what I was going to do. I simply scooped her into my arms and hugged her tight. I told her I was so sorry. I felt her nod quietly in my chest. I said “Be Brave…..and when you can’t or don’t want to, come find me and we’ll be brave together.” We squeezed each other a little tighter for a little bit longer and then I let go. I didn’t want her to see me cry. I want to be a place where she can come for support. Someone who can be strong when she can’t be.

In many cultures, children are collectively raised by the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and all the women of the village. I know Barb has lots of wonderful women friends, many who are much closer to her families’ lives than I am. I know that we will all come together and support Barb’s family, not just in this immediate crisis, but as a stabilizing force moving forward.

It takes a village. I will be in that village for Kate.