Let’s be honest, being a teacher is hard. I teach kindergarten and there are days I go home completely spent. Having given so much of myself to my students. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching, I love my students but their needs are never ending. It can be exhausting. But we are also mothers, daughters, sisters, friends. If you are lucky enough to still have your parents continue to cherish them, love them, laugh with them. For the vast majority we will one day watch our parents die. Being part of that eventual transition of being the child to becoming the caretaker for our parents is often an emotional one. To watch a powerful father who commanded respect become so sick that he is confined to a bed wearing a diaper is awful for him and awful for you. To see your mother, who took care of everyone and everthing, need you to be her voice, to ask for her pain meds, to feed her. It can be unbearable one second and feel incredibly noble the next. No one gets out unscathed. We will all have our day when we lose the person who loved us most, who saw the very best in us. Losing that person changes us; we are never the same. Never recover.
The transition of illness to loss is a painful rollercoaster. Often filled with tears, fear, and loneliness. But we must continue either during the illness or after they are gone. Our job is hard. Our students need us in a way that an accountant will never understand. For goodness sake we can’t even go to the bathroom when we need to. Every teacher I know has trained her bladder to go hours without being emptied. There is no relief to walk away and have a moment after or during loss.
So to those of you out there that are suffering with an ailing parent and trying to be an excellent teacher, here are my words for you. You are not alone. There are
hundreds thousands of us traveling the same path. Let’s reach out a hand to our teacher friends and lend a smile to those who are smiling on the outside and crying on the inside. Let’s start this week with kindness and support in our heart for our fellow warriors. Let’s focus on the humanity of the teacher. Let’s stand together. We may be “Mrs. Larsen” from 8:30-3:00 but we are “my loving Della” the rest of the day and into the night as we sit in a hospital room hour after hour watching our parents slip away.
Let’s remember to always be kind and gentle to those around us fighting a battle no one knows about.