Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Jar

November 30, 2010
Just before Thanksgiving break, something very sad happened at school. It started out as just another typical day. After recess, I take the kids to P.E. As I was picking them up, one of my little boys looked at me and said, "Mrs. Barnhill, XXXX said that when your baby is born, he's going to live for 2 weeks and then die."
My heart sank to my stomach. My eyes welled with tears and my jaw froze into place. What was only 3 seconds, 1,000 questions ran through my head.
How could he ask me that question? Who told them about you? How do I answer him? Do I lie and tell him he's wrong? Why is he being heartless about it? Who asks questions like that?
That's when my mind snapped back to reality and I realized, he's not heartless. He's a curious little second grader that has heard something out of the ordinary. Kids don't hear about babies dying. He's curious and he's seeking my help for understanding. But the tears in my eyes were getting heavier and heavier and I knew I just couldn't talk about it right now. So I did what I always do when the kids ask me a question in the hallway. I put my finger over my lips and whispered, "We're in the hallway."
Bless his heart.
We walked back to the classroom and I was still on the brink of breaking down. I knew this meant I would need to bring up what's going on with you, but I wanted to do it when I decided to do it, on my own time. But of course, when you work with 7 and 8 year olds, nothing is on my time, it is their time. My biggest fear was how inquisitive they would be. Their little questions and sweet spirits would just tear me up, and I wanted to stay strong for them. I can only imagine their questions. They would be raw questions, as children don't yet have the filters that we acquire when we mature. What if one of them asked me what a dead baby looks like? I am sure their questions would be more about death than about life. The thought of it all just made my stomach hurt. I shouldn't be the one that had to explain something so tragic.
There was lots going on in the office today, so I couldn't ask for someone to come cover my class while I pulled myself together. Instead, I just got my children busy on some work, and I took a little moment to take a couple of deep breaths. I finally felt some control returning. The sweet Lord answered my prayer and no one else asked more questions about you the remainder of the day.
After school, I went to speak with my principal. I figured out how the children were learning about you. We are on lots of prayer lists at the local churches. One child heard about it at their church, and you became the topic on the playground today.
My principal was so supportive. I'm nervous to tell the children about you. I also am not sure of my students' parents, and if they would even be comfortable if I told them about what is wrong with you. Its a lot for a child to swallow. Babies are born, and they grow up. Babies don't die, and you certainly don't bury them.
We came up with the most amazing idea, the "Charles Patrick Jar". First, I would send a note home to parents explaining to them the heartbreaking news. I would let them know that I'm aware that some of the children know through their churches, but I want them to hear it from me. The jar is going to be amazing. If the children have questions about you, they can write it on a slip of paper and put it in our Charles Patrick Jar. I can read the questions after school. This way, if I need to get emotional, I can do it and not be sitting in front of my class. I can't come to terms with the question, and also think carefully of an answer appropriate for a young child. I can also weed out any inappropriate questions.
So over our break, I got you a precious little jar. I had a friend put your name on the side of it. I sent the note to parents at the beginning of the week, and today was the day that I spoke to the children.
It was a little hard. My voice was shaky, but I stayed strong. When I told them that you might not live, their sad and genuinely concerned faces almost got to me. I told them that they could probably see that talking about you made me sad, so I needed a special way for us to talk about you. That's when I told them about your jar. They absolutely loved this idea, and I could see them just itching to write you a note.
Before we got back to our schoolwork, I told them that they didn't have to be sad. I told them that you have been sick for a long time now, but I didn't let it make me sad. You are still alive in my belly. You're growing, kicking, and happy, so we should be too. I told them that doctors say that you won't live very long, but there was only one person who could tell me that you won't live and that was God.
When the children got back to their seats, they all wrote you notes! :)
It was the sweetest thing. Some were questions, but some were just notes to you telling you to be strong and hang in there. I had one favorite. I will remember it forever. She said,

"Mrs. Barnhill, you were right about God."



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