“God gives his hardest battles to his toughest soldiers.”
This week has been especially hard for me both as a teacher and as a person. Sunday, I learned that I had lost a student, the second one this year. Losing the first student was hard enough, but this was even harder as he was a student that I currently had. James was bright and funny, outgoing, a leader, and a part of one of my favorite classes. In a weak moment while driving to work, I asked myself why God let these things happen. It seems our school has had to deal with so much heartbreak the past few years. Thankfully, however, the strong side of me came back with a quick retort before I even had time to digest my weak thoughts. The strong side of me repeated a quote I read recently: “God gives his hardest battles to his toughest soldiers.” This quote stopped me in my tracks because it is so true. Who was I to complain about this particular battle? It wasn't the first one I’d fight, and wouldn't be the last. No matter how many I must fight, I know God will be by side like He’s always been. I have to trust in God’s plan for me, for my students. I hate that they are losing someone at this age. I hate the heartbreak I see in their eyes, but I know it will make them stronger. God doesn't give us bad times to punish us, but to teach us. He gives them to us for a chance at greatness. They are our time to show what we are made of.
Thankfully, Monday and Tuesday I didn’t disappoint my kids and they sure as heck didn't disappoint me. I was so nervous about seeing them on Monday. I agonized over what I would say to them. What do you say to 14- and 15-year-olds who have just lost a friend unexpectedly? When second hour rolled around a counselor and social worker came to talk to the kids first, which I appreciated. However, as thankful as I was for their presence, I realized within minutes that it was very much like trying to grieve with family and having strangers in your home. My students were respectful, but withdrawn. Once the social worker and counselor left, I realized that I didn’t have to know what to say because there wasn’t anything to say. So, I looked at them and we celebrated James. I told them that it sure as heck was ok to cry, even if they were a boy. I admitted to them that I had cried myself, for James’s family obviously, but also for all of us because it was our loss as well. I told them that it was also ok to laugh, and not to feel guilty. I shared with them that James reminded me so much of my Grandpa Bob. They had the same type of personality. They loved to make others laugh. At my grandpa’s funeral, my sister and I stood together and we laughed through our tears as we recounted silly stories about him. I know that is exactly how my grandpa would want to be remembered, and it’s exactly how James would want to be remembered too. And then, you know what, our class cried together. They had showed no emotion with outsiders in our room, and neither had I. Now it was safe to cry, and so we mourned.
The rest of this week has been hard as we have fought through a visitation and funeral. We have fought through articles in the paper and rumors about his death. We have fought against that empty desk in the first row that seems to echo with James’s ready laugh. However, “God gives his hardest battles to His toughest soldiers,” and we are tougher than we ever imagined.