My friend died, and I am sad.
My daughter is a student at a cooperative parent participation preschool. For those unfamiliar with the concept, this is a school where the parents are also the staff – at a co-op, the parents are the teacher’s assistants, and the cleanup crew, and the yard maintenance, and the board of directors…you get the point. I do this because it’s important to me – one of my few memories from being 3-4 years old is my parents at my preschool. I want my kids to have memories like that, too. At any rate, I volunteer once a week, and have been on the board for the past school year.
At Emily’s school, I am the unusual individual. I have a full-time job…in fact, I am a “professional”. I carve the time out of other things to make it happen. I am always the mom rushing her daughter away at the end of lunch so that I can teach a class at 1:00. I don’t really have the time for this…but, as I tell my colleagues when they ask where I get all this time, I don’t “get” the time. I make the time. As a result, I have made some truly wonderful friends and gotten to watch my daughter do the same.
All of this introduction is by way of making readers understand that the people in a co-op are important to one another. We’re family.
Last night, we lost a member of this family. The mother of one of Emily’s classmates, a woman I will call “Laurie” (not her real name, as her family has not been consulted about this post), died. It was not unexpected, but…well, it’s always sudden.
Laurie was, unlike me, exactly the woman you’d expect to find at a cooperative preschool. She was outgoing, friendly, very…well, “crunchy”. The sort of mom who doesn’t want her babies born in a hospital and who spends her time teaching English as a second language to immigrant women. She was the first person who reached out to me when we joined the preschool mid-term last year. She was the person I went to with questions and concerns. She was the person who strong-armed me into volunteering to be a member of the school’s board.
Laurie was also slated to be on the board this year, but she stepped back in order to focus on her new pregnancy. She spent the school year glowing and happy, and, as the holiday break approached in December, was preparing for the home birth of her second child. The last time I ever saw her, she was driving away from the school on the last day before break. The last time I ever talked to her was a text exchange a few days later – she telling me about the birth of her son, and me demanding pictures.
Laurie went into cardiac arrest five days after her son was born, on Christmas Eve. She slipped into a coma, and she never recovered. The past few months have been so very hard on her husband…her daughter, “Fiona”, has reacted in typical 4-year-old fashion. When she’s at school, she’s at school, and apart from her needing more hugs and some shifts in the way she carries on conversations, she’s been Fiona.
The adults, Laurie’s friends, talk about it and cry over it at school meetings and board meetings. We try to keep things normal for her daughter. Many had been holding out hope that she would recover, against all odds. My own background and nature caused me to give up all conscious hope a couple of months ago, but…it was still there, in my mind. The hope that a miracle might happen. Even though I don’t believe in miracles. At the same time, I increasingly wished the family would let her go, because I was pretty sure the woman I knew had been dead for a while, and I was having a hard time coping with the idea of keeping her body alive without her mind…without her soul, if you believe in souls.
This past weekend, her husband made the decision to take her off the ventilator. She was stable for three days, but died peacefully last night, surrounded by her family. I am shocked, and sad…and relieved. But mostly sad.
Now we move forward, with what must come next. Tonight, my husband and I have to talk to our daughter about the death of a friend’s mother. Friday, Emily must go to her classroom without me, because I will be at a meeting. I’m not sure how she will react; I do wish her own Mommy wasn’t going to be away from her this week. She’s experienced death before, with pets. We’ve talked about Fiona’s Mommy and how sick she is, and Emily has gone so far as to ask me if Laurie is going to die. I said, “I don’t know, but I’m worried about that, too.”
Yesterday, Emily’s teacher and a few others went to visit Laurie for the last time. Emily’s teacher told her that we would take care of Fiona, and we will. She’s part of our family, and we will care for her for as long as we are able. We have to move forward, and, to paraphrase Emily’s teacher again, our children are looking to us to see how to do so with grace.
But for today, I miss my friend. The world is a little bit darker and sadder.
My friend died, and I am sad.