This is going to be difficult to write because my heart is so heavy and broken this morning.
Each morning when I walk in, I have a chipper 6th grade girl from my first period class, Adela, who meets me at the door, chatters all the way in, and immediately sets about passing out folders, changing the date, anything she can do to help.
Adela is 11 years old and a foster child. She and her 12 year old sister, Sarah, have been through much abuse and heartache in their lives. Their mother ultimately decided several months ago she didn't want the girls in her life anymore because they'd crimp her lifestyle. She had them too young, she told the judge, and she wanted to enjoy life a little before she had to settle down. She voluntarily severed her rights to them and told them she didn't want to see them anymore. They have never known their father.
The girls, despite all this, have not been outwardly mopey or depressed. They love to talk and have friends here at school.
Adela told me last week she thought maybe her mother had died. I asked her why, and she said, "I just feel inside me she may have died. It feels like it." The social worker told me as far as they knew, the mother was alive and partying hard. We all assured Adela and Sarah their mom was indeed alive, though just not able to be a part of their lives right now.
Last night, Sarah hung herself. Adela is in the hospital on suicide watch. Their pain had reached a tipping point and at 11 and 12 years of age they decided there was no hope anymore for them. Period.
I can't even write this without tears coming again. When I found out, I had to lock myself in a bathroom and weep for a long time. I keep examining things, wondering if there were signs we should have spotted. Really, there weren't. They'd been dealt some horrific blows, but their counselors, social workers and foster family felt they were dealing with things in a resilient way.
The only thing I can come away from this with is to talk to the kids in your life often. They become very good at covering up what's inside. You can't ever tell them too often you love them. That prickly teen of yours? Wrap them up in a big bear hug and whisper to them how your life is so much grander because they are in it. That niece or nephew who's silly and immature? Smile and let them know how they bless your life. Those grandchildren? Cup their sweet faces in your hands and tell them you'll always love them just because they are who they are.
And this morning when I get to my classroom, I know I will be passing out folders by myself. I will have a time of chatter free quiet before the tardy bell rings. Yesterday's date will still be on the board in Adela's handwriting. I'm going to leave it unchanged for a while. It will be a good reminder that life is precious.