“If I had died today, I would have told Lenard Nimoy hello for you,” said a tear-stained fourteen-year-old girl.
“How can that be? There’s no way I would have let a shooter come in here to get you, without having first gone through me. If it was your last day, I’d have met Lenard Nimoy first. We’d have had time to become old friends before you joined us. I’d be the one introducing you.” My words gain a small chuckle and an eye roll. A moment of distraction.
Another student, shoulders slumped, face cast downward, moves in front of me. I open my arms and she latches on, quietly sobbing without care for her classmates’ thoughts. “It’s okay,” I coo into her ear. “You are safe. I won’t let anything happen to you. You. Are. Safe.”
The announcement went off at the end of the day.
It was not a drill.
My, normally boisterous, students gathered silently against the wall. “How do we know it’s not a drill?” one of them asked.
I made a shushing movement with my fingers and whispered, “because they would have told me.” That was all it took for fear to wash across all fifteen faces. They would know what I know and we would be safer as a result.
The minutes ticked by slowly.
They remained silent.
I didn’t have to give them a lecture. I didn’t have to scare them with the truth of my past.
These students have their own pasts. They’ve had their own run-ins with bullets and bad guys. They have their own history and that is enough to keep them quiet.
To keep them safe.
In the end, we were all safe. The bad guys never came to the school, instead, fleeing after their nearby armed robbery.
Sometimes I wonder if these reminders are more scarring each time or if they get easier each time. I don’t think easier is the right phrasing. Maybe because I had so many students upset, I stayed extra strong. I didn’t start shaking or crying. I moved through CostCo after work in a zombie-like state though. I got home, made some eggs, and climbed into bed by five.
It wasn’t just another run-in with the dangers of guns fresh off the back of the Santa Clarita shooting. It was death in another way too.
The person who is becoming my person lost his Grandfather yesterday. This was something coming and known but it doesn’t make the loss any easier to digest. I find myself thinking of my own Phil. Not quite my grandfather, but the only one I knew well. I spent last December with him and my aunt as he passed into the next life. Whatever secrets it holds are now shared between these two grandfathers. I wonder if they’ve met and swapped stories about their grandchildren. I imagine it would go something like, “Mine’s nerdier, she did this.” And…”Nah, he’s got her beat, he did this!” And they’ll have this mile-long nerd-off filled with laughter that could seemingly last decades but with the time difference in this other plane of existence, it would be a micro blip. They would go back to watching over their respectful families and nod at one another with a knowing look. After all, they know more than the rest of us combined at this point.
Perspective and all.
I spent my morning reading back over my posts from last December. They are sometimes somber but I was surprised at how much hope they had. Life is all about perspective. They were a reminder to live and to love and to let go of pain. That we only have this one life. So we best make the most of it. Even through loss. Our loved ones who’ve passed on would not want us to wallow forever. They would want us to smile with their memory and hold on to the happy. To celebrate who they are and what they brought to this world.
I did not know his grandfather outside of a handful of stories and the memories he shares with his grandson. I am humbled by this. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that this grandfather shaped the man I know today. That he added to the person who has made me a better person as a direct result of him entering my life. So indirectly, my life is better because of a stranger. It’s funny how life works. Our lives can be made better or worse by people we know nothing of. A good reminder as we move through our days, of our effect on the world.
I hope my students know I would step in front of a bullet for them. Something, up until yesterday, I couldn’t say for sure. I want them to feel safe at school. Safe to learn, safe to sit in their desk without fear of unknown bad guys. I hope my person knows that even if I never met his grandfather, I see the good he brought to this world, every time I look into his own eyes. Every time he tells me a story about grandma and grandpa, his eyes light up and glitter. I look forward to hearing more of those stories, as he moves through this pain.
Life is short. Sometimes shorter than we expect it to be. Sometimes longer. I have high hopes for this life. I am thankful for the reminder
Uncle Grandpa Phil.
If you too need reminding, here are the posts on our final days together. Despite the pain of loss, it was a good walk down memory lane.