Wednesday, January 4, 2012

An ode to Mimi Helen and my students

Two nights ago, my mom's mom, Mimi to me and my brother and sister, died at 90 years old from pancreatic cancer. We only found out about a week ago she had cancer; the obvious symptoms did not show until the very end. Mimi was quietly strong, compassionate, perhaps shy, unassuming, and, above all, incredibly sweet. Not a negative thought seemed to cross her mind, not an ill-sounding word escaping her lips. She loved her family, especially her daughters, and quietly sat as an observer at most family functions, laughing at the antics of my cousins on my dad's side, proudly smiling at her grandchildren on my mom's side. She was forever accepting... my Mimi Grace just told me a story about the first time she met Mimi Helen, at the bank right after my parents started dating. Mimi Helen spoke highly of my dad, despite my grandfather's disdain at his dark-brown skin (He grew to love my dad as his own son...but at first he hesitated at letting him in their home). In third grade, I wrote an essay dedicated to Mimi titled "My Hero: Mimi Helen" I can only hope to become a woman like her: humble, patient, and kind. She is the epitome of this for me and my family--my Mimi Grace would say saintlike. My sister, Mom, aunt, Dar, and David were with her when she died, and perhaps now more than ever I understand the importance and, at times, fragility of family. How lucky I am to have this group of rocks around me...I crave being around them now, I find myself needing the memories, shared laughter, and understanding that can only come with family.
I returned to my classroom today, expecting to feel agitated, exhausted, or melancholy, but what happened was actually quite healing. The routine of being at school, the feeling of my clean (too-warm) classroom, and most of all the hugs of my students and their parents were very healing today. There seemed to be this understanding--though it was hard not to be with my students yesterday and I worried a bit even that it would hinder progress in coming back to school--from the families that of course I wouldn't be there. I found great comfort in loving hugs from my students' moms. Not everyone knew, but those who did accepted my choked "gracias" knowingly and with comfort. My students and I had a talk about death and I explained it just how it was--how happy I was I got to spend so much time with my grandma and how it was so wonderful to be with my family during this time. So many of them have lost aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas--they knew to an extent, and our conversation made me laugh, nod, and appreciate the humanness of these children--what they are able to understand and empathize is striking.
Christian cried approximately 4 times today (about literally NOTHING--Lili telling me he didn't want to go first in the math game and then he bawled for 3 minutes and was fine immediately after), IB got angry because I came down on him for acting ridiculous, and EC tried to get in everybody's business, as usual. I touched the hair of my students a lot today, enjoyed their BIG wonderful personalities, and felt comforted to be back with them--we'll see how I feel tomorrow.