Category Archives: Compassion

Deja Vu

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Tuesday morning, right in front of my classroom, a student went into cardiac arrest.  My room is in a pretty isolated part of the building.  Luckily I was in the hall when he fell.  I ran to get the nurse.  The nurse and school police officer performed CPR on him until the paramedics arrived.  I am trained in CPR and was next in line if either of them tired.

It was a very intense, scary scene for well over 30 minutes.  He had to be shocked twice as well as receive other life-saving procedures.  It was deja vu in a sense.  I could not stop crying as I watched the paramedics work so hard to save his 19-year-old life.  The school police officer was also equally shook up having lost his own 17-year-old son a few months prior.

He was finally rescuitated and transported to the hospital.  Wednesday he had open heart surgery to repair faulty valves.  If necessary, they may install a pacemaker.

I wondered why I had to bear witness to this trauma.  It brought back so many painful memories.  This was also the day I ran into my SIL’s husband.  And of course, before I went to sleep that night, I saw a commerical on television and the man’s name was the same as my husband’s.

Yesterday on the way home for school Nicholas was telling me that their principal asked them to pray for one of the 8th grader’s brother who had a heart attack at school.  I didn’t go into details but I told him that I was aware of what happened because it happened right in front of me.  He seemed very surprised–and actually I was, too. What a small world we live in.

Neither one of us mentioned my husband, but I’m sure he was thinking about him as I was.

But it also made me appreciate first responders even more.  They are so efficient, composed, and determined to save lives.  I saw this firsthand with my husband as well as with the young man.  I really have a lot of respect and admiration for what they do.  They are as important, if not more so, than doctors.

Our principal announced that this story will be covered by the news.  However, I don’t want to be in the limelight and will make sure I am unavailable when they do come. 

Some say that there is a message in everything, but I have no idea of what it could be in this case.

Overwhelmed

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One of my coworkers has made it her mission to cheer me up.  She has went over and beyond to do so.  My heart is really touched by her generosity and selflessness.  Here are a few things she has done; although I am probably forgetting something because she has done SO much!

  • She was my Secret Santa for a week (I did not even sign up)
  • She made me lunch and dinner several weeks in a row
  • She organized a group of coworkers to buy my lunch for a week straight
  • When I was sleep starved and not feeling well for two days she allowed me to bring all of my classes to the media center
  • For Christmas she gave me movie theatre and restaurant gift certificates
  • She invited us to her sister’s for Christmas dinner
  • She bought me a fancy journal and pen because she knows that I like to write
  • She attended the wake
  • For my birthday she bought cupcakes for all 135 of my students!  She also gave me a gift certificate to an upscale restaurant
  • She has volunteered her babysitting services
  • Just today she presented me with an autographed copy of one of my favorite books!

How do you thank a person like this?  I wanted to do something from the heart; so I made her one of my special framed acrostic poems and presented it to her.  She loved it!

A small token of my appreciation

A small token of my appreciation

Shoveling Tears

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“…You will surely wear yourself out.  For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.” Exodus 18:18

The unpleasant part of snow is the act of shoveling it.  And with the twelve inches we received, there was a lot to clear.   I didn’t realize just how much until I was knee deep in it with my lone shovel.  My neighbors on both sides were out working as well.  One even had a snow plow but only cleared his driveway and the space in front of their house.

Looking at the couples working together made me so blue that I started crying.  It was another reminder for me that my husband was dead.  I turned up my Ipod and my resolve and tried to focus on finishing the daunting task of clearing our lengthy driveway.  My back and legs were starting to ache from heaving the heavy snow.

I had a ways to go when my neighbor from across the cul de sac came over, shovel in hand, and starting helping.  Much of the time we worked alongside one another in silence as day turned to dusk.  He encouraged me to go on in, but  I couldn’t leave him to do my job alone.   He had already worked a full day, shoveled his own drive, and then came to help with ours–three times the size of his. I felt:

  • Gratitude for his kindness
  • Sadness that my husband couldn’t shovel with me
  • Blessed that God put it on his heart to do so
  • Embarrassment for being a damsel in distress

I also wondered how I could pay him back?  I hate the feeling of “owing” someone.  Thank you just seems so…well, not enough.  But then I thought about a few  of the neighborly exchanges we’ve had over the years.  During the fall we would always send one of the boys over to help him in the yard.  I had also given his toddlers sons a barely used expensive train table.  And when his teenage son often lost his key, we always welcomed him to sit at our house until someone came home.

So maybe he was just paying it forward. 

I know I need to learn how to accept help and be okay with it.  Could this be why God keeps putting me in predicaments where I need assistance from others in order for me to get over myself?

Still, I think I’ll make cookies for him and his family to show my appreciation…

Be There

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Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep..For none of us lives to himself…

Romans 12:15,14:7

As death is apart of the life cycle, it is bound to happen.  This is the one fate we all have in common.  I’m sure many of you have been in the seat of mourner.  During my period of mourning I have had some great support.  Death leaves a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.  Sometimes you don’t know what you can do to help the person through their period of sadness and loss.  Here are a few things that I think are helpful to consider when helping those you are close to are grieving:

  • Silence is for Lambs: Always acknowledge the loss of the mourner’s loved one.  This can be done without words in the form of a simple hug, a greeting card, or a heartfelt smile.  Pretending like nothing has occurred is rather callous.  My own brother (Jazmine’s father) did not bother to attend the service or even acknowledge his death.
  • Practical Makes Perfect:  It was so helpful (and much appreciated) when friends, relatives, and coworkers provided me with meals!  Cooking is the last thing on your mind.  And of course, this is really a time that you need to nourish your body with good food.  Nicholas, Jazmine, and I were often invited to breakfast and dinner by family and several coworkers bought my lunch everyday or prepared it themselves.  If it wasn’t for these people, we would have starved! My cousin also volunteered tireless hours driving me around.  She made the roundtrip so that I could talk to Evan about his dad, too.  Another practical form of help is to assist in addressing thank you cards.  This is something that I didn’t feel like doing but my good manners would not allow me not to.  I even had several babysitting offers when I needed to take care of business.
  • 21 Questions is a Game Not to Play:  I say this because I have been asked some rather insensitive questions, such as was my husband overweight (no, he was not), did I cook healthy meals, (mostly) or was he ill (no again).  Allow the mourner the opportunity to grieve first.  They may or may not feel like divulging details of the death, and if  they don’t, then that’s okay, too.
  • Lipservice is Not Service: “If you need anything, let me know” is a common one.  Now I know people mean well and  hate to see a person that they love or care about hurting.  But only offer services that you are  truly capable of or are willing to lovingly provide.  One day, someone just might take you up on your generous offer which could create an ackward situation for both parties.  Also don’t offer simplistic platitudes such as “God needed him more.”  Even if it is true, that’s not what a grieving spirit wants to hear.
  • Rose-Colored Glasses Don’t Look Good On You:  One of my coworkers who is a wonderful man, is determined that I will not be sad.  He does everything to try and make me laugh.  However, it’s annoying.  I’m sad–sadder than sad and will be for quite some time.  But I have every right to be.  I don’t feel like laughing even when others think I should.  It is totally alright for people to experience a wide range of emotions while mourning.  Please give them this gift without the pressure of feeling that they need to “get over” their loss and be happy again.  I will be okay again one day in my own timing.
  • Disappearing Acts Are For Magicians: This is one of the most lonely and vulnerable times of grieving.  I imagine one could really lose their minds without proper support in place.  So don’t “go missing” after the service!  Grief is not something that ends with the funeral.
  • Use Your Ears for More Than Hanging Earrings:  I am so thankful to my friend Stacy, whom I met through blogging.  She listened to me cry and babble one night for over three hours!  I am grateful that she cared enough about a perfect stranger to sacrifice her time to make me feel better.  My friend Angela was wonderful as well.  I can’t stress how important it is to be a listening ear. 
  • Jumping to Conclusions is Not an Olympic  Sport: Don’t assume that a person grieving is “okay”  because they may appear to be fine. I am a perfect example of this because I hide my emotions very well.   Tears of a Clown is my theme song at the moment!  Check often on the person via email, text,  personal visits, cards, voicemail, or telephone calls to let the person know you are concerned about their wellbeing.  Also, don’t forget to include the mourner in on activities that you normally would.  It is eay to make the false assumption that “they won’t feel up doing anything.”  This is hurtful and not always the case.
  • Uh Huh…Okay…Shut-up: I have had several people tell me that I am “young and will marry again” or “you’ll be fine after a few years.”  Sometimes the best words to say are none at all.  Our society is so used to idle chatter that people are under the false impression that they have to say something when they don’t.
  • Be Clueless:  Feel free not to have a ready explanation as to why their loved one died.  We don’t know the answers to God’s many mysteries of life.  Just be there, your presence is enough.
  • Don’t Tiptoe Through the Tulips:  It is okay to talk about the deceased.  I’ve had a few of my coworkers look in horror when my students discuss the many times they saw my husband and I out.  He was alive once and it doesn’t bother me when people remember him.  Our family talks about him all the time.
  • Lace Up Your Nikes:  Don’t ask IF the grieving person needs something because you know they do!  Even if it is something as simple as a hug.  If you notice they haven’t been eating, buy them lunch.  Invite them to your home, baby-sit for a few hours, offer to run errands for them.  Most people are too shy/proud to admit that they really need someone to lean on.  Most mourners won’t interpret this as being intrusive.  I view it as people wanting to do something to help ease my pain.  The point is don’t wait for a vulnerable person to make a request because that may never happen–just do it! 
  • Orisons Are Awesome: This is the most beautiful and lasting form of support.  I know many of you have sent up prayers for me and I am in awe.  When I feel so low, which I often do, I can only wonder how much worse off I would be without the prayers of family, friends, fellow bloggers, perfect strangers, and coworkers to help keep me afloat.  I am so very grateful for all of the comments and warm thoughts left on my postings!  Thanks to all who have been  grieving with me.

To Her, with Love

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I have received such an outpouring of love from students both past and present.  Upon learning of my loss, I have had mounds of student visitors bearing cards, teddy bears, flowers, and plants.  Not to mention the  myraid of text messages and phone calls I have gotten. 

There have been so many former students visiting me in the last couple of weeks that the staff has been forced to escort various groups to my class.  Typically visitors are asked to come during a prep or teacher’s lunch, but I guess I must look like I need cheering up because they have definitely relaxed the policy for me.  

I was a bit surprised how quickly word spread.  However, when I learned that the majority found out through a current student’s message of condolence for me on her Facebook page, I smiled.  The kids put everything important to them online.   This act spurred text messages sent and forwarded to any student who has ever had me as a teacher.

I have barely had an appetite and have eaten little here recently.  I was quite touched earlier in the week when Ashley, one of my students who comes to my room for our lunch period placed a bag of chips in front of me.  She shyly explained that she had to make sure that I ate something becasue she has noticed that I no longer eat.

Really, I am filled with such gratitude and awe that they care so much about me.  A teacher couldn’t ask for anything more.  I know exactly how Sally Fields felt when she uttered those lines after winning the Oscar.  Not only do they like me, they love me!

Merci

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I just wanted to take a few seconds to thank everyone who has left a message of support.  You all are the best cyberfriends a girl could have! I truly appreciate the prayers, heartfelt sympathy, and expressions of concern.  I also extend my gratitude to those who wrote posts about our situation.  I too, was deeply touched and moved to tears at receiving a card and a keepsake from Natalie and a card from Stacy.  Diane, thank you for your message as well! 

The kids and I are doing okay. 

I will be posting again shortly.

Hugs,

Morocco

Her Final Gift

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When I was in junior high my mother would often speak of wanting to donate her body to science.  She worked in the medical field and was very conscientious about the need for medical research.  However, I didn’t place too much stock in her desires.  I was certain that it was just wishful thinking on her part.  After all, I had never heard of anyone who had actually done this before.  Plus it was too weird to consider.  It sounded like something that a character would do in a 1950’s B movie.

A year and a half before my mother’s death this very conversation surfaced again.  I was visiting her at home when she asked me if I was okay with her donating her body.  It still felt creepy but I told her that it was fine with me if that was what she really wanted.  I could see the look of relief on her face.  I didn’t like the idea but I didn’t want to tell her that; I just wanted to change the topic. 

A few weeks later she asked me to write down a number.  She said “When I die I need you to call this number.  Put it somewhere safe because it’s important that IU receives my body in a timely manner. (She held up her small Anatomical Will card) I even have to keep this on me at all times.  Feeling very chilled to the bone I replied, “Mommy, don’t say that, you are not going to die!”

I programmed the number in my cell phone with dread.  I didn’t ever want to have to dial that number!  I knew that my mom was pretty ill but I didn’t want her to be so accepting of it!  I didn’t want to think about her dying.  I had to choke back tears.   I knew my sadness would worry her.  I wanted her to think that I was stronger than what I really was.

The day she took her last breath and gave into death I thought of her instructions.  I hesitated briefly to make the call.  I felt horrified at the thought of both students and instructors discussing her in impersonal tones and dissecting her diabetes ravaged remains.

A little while later I managed to compose myself enough to make the call.  The people at the IU Anatomical Gift Program were very kind.  However, they were appalled that the hospital staff had allowed me to make the contact–asserting that they should have made the arrangements.  It was a difficult call to make but I remained encouraged by the notion that I was carrying out her final wishes.

It was strange not having her body at the service.  I knew many people were wondering if she had been cremated.  On her program I made note of my mother’s contribution.  I was undone with emotion when the funeral director read the statement. 

I felt so blessed to have had the generous, gracious, and thoughtful mother that I had.  She wanted to help advance the research for diabetes, a disease that has all but annihilated our family tree. 

Three weeks after her death, I received a letter from the IU School of Medicine.  It read: “The generous donation of Mrs. D. Cooper is much appreciated.  Human bodies used for teaching are obtained entirely through donations.  This gift has contributed significantly to the advancement of health science education programs in our state.  Teaching and research programs at the IU Schools of Medicine and Dentistry rely on these generous body donations to teach physicians, dentists, physical therapists, nurses and other allied health professionals.  Those who decide to bequeath their bodies to the health sciences have made a significant contribution that benefits the quality of life and care for the living.”

I was simply overcome with admiration, pride, and solace.  I could not stop my tears from flowing or my smile from forming.  I realized that my mother was beautiful in life as well as in death.  It was a bittersweet yet triumphant revelation.

I know that my mother cared enough to carry out this final act of grace in hopes that her children and grandchildren won’t have to suffer the same fate as she did.  Or her mother, baby sister, only brother, and great-aunt did.  Not only would we benefit from her selflessness, others would as well.  My mother, the giver, had one final gift to share with the world–herself.

Pray Back

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Even though Rhonda wisely cautioned me not to open Pandora’s box, I did.  When writing the post Her Footstool, it wasn’t enough for me to recall the hurtful comments that Eliza had left on our voicemail three years ago in her “footstool” sermon.  And because I have quite a memory for detail, there was really no need for me to dig out the old tapes and listen to that message or any of the other ones that I did for that matter.  I guess in a way, it was a test.  I wanted to see if I was truly “over” the past.  Unfortunately I did not ace the test.  I only listened to five or so of the messages, but it was enough for the old wounds to fester and burn.

 

Listening to her biting lies and fanatical commentary really cut me.  It was like reliving the nightmare over again.  I recalled many of the things she did, not only to me and my husband, but her crazy attempts to involve Nicholas as well.  I contemplated how and why things got so bad.  I wondered how one person could have so much hatred for another.  I was indignant at her nasty, superior tone laden with accusations.  In her “footstool” sermon she declared “my kids don’t even like you.”  That instantly upped my ire.  She knew as well as I did that they were conditioned not to like me.  In short they were forbidden to like me.  I finally had to put the tapes away.  I had heard enough.

 

 This past Sunday when I took Ethan down to visit her; I was in a weird kind of mood.  After they chatted for a while I sent him to gather snacks for the three of us. I took that moment to share with her something that I thought she needed to hear.  In a sober tone I said “Recently I came across some of the old voicemails that you left for me.  Those tapes have further confirmed for me that it is only with the grace of God that we are sitting here today.  It has been nothing but God behind this.”  This wasn’t what she expected to hear.  I figured she would rapidly change the topic, but she responded by agreeing with my statement.  She also admitted that she probably has done some mean things to me due to my loyalty to her ex, my husband.  She also said that she did not know me back then.  Eliza finished by preaching about Matthew 7:5.  Touche, I stand corrected. 

 

For the rest of the visit we played our customary game of Scrabble.  I allowed her and Ethan to carry the conversation.  At the conclusion of the visit I gave her a heartfelt hug just to let her know that I did not hold anything against her.  She hugged me back tightly and told me for the first time in person “Morocco, thank you for bringing Ethan down, thanks for the snacks…I appreciate all you do.”

 

I was not expecting any grand revelations from her about what I said to her.  I knew she would be too proud to apologize.  Believe it or not, an apology is not what I wanted.  I think I wanted her to simply acknowledge the things that she did.  Once Eliza is released from prison I’m sure I will never have her ear again.  She won’t have to listen to me.

 

I experienced a lot of emotions on the drive home.  I felt so vexed that I had to email a good friend for her support and advice.  Stacy, formerly of the Perfect Blend, really helped put things into perspective for me.  She also suggested that I do an exercise creating a timeline of the events that transpired with Eliza.  With each event she suggested that I write about how each one made me feel.  I started working on it yesterday. 

 

I don’t know why it has been so hard for me to forgive Eliza, especially when Jesus so freely forgave us and still continues to do so.  There is no sin that can’t be forgiven…70X7 is what I believe he said.  With this in mind I have made up my mind to let go of the past once and for all.  I know that I don’t have the right not to forgive her. 

 

Initially after hearing the tapes I felt a surge of vengeance.  I could hear James Brown in my head singing his song about retaliation.  I wanted payback.  But after having the space to think about things I realized that I don’t really want to pay her back.  That would just keep the bitter cycle going.  Besides, she is already suffering enough and wanting her to hurt more is just cruel. 

 

 

Instead I am choosing to “pray her back.”  After my exercise is completed, I am going to pray her back for each incident on the timeline.  I am going to pray consistently that God change her heart.  I’m praying that she experiences the true glory of God. But I will be praying for myself as well.  I am going to pray that God gives me the strength and grace needed to be as quick as He is to forgive others.  I am praying that I am finally able to release the hurt that has caused me to have an unforgiving spirit once and for all.