There are ten minutes before the final bell of the school year rings. The students are buzzing around my classroom like little bees.
What’s the buzzzzzz?
“Ms. Beach will you…
*Write something in my yearbook?
*Take a selfie with me…us…me first, then us?
*Sign my t-shirt…yes, my mom knows.
*Sing that one song once more…no, watch us sing it!
*Help me find my red sweatshirt that I left in your room before Christmas break?
*Open my card… but not when I’m right here, though…OK, open it.
*Change your room around next year? You can’t, Beach!
*Forget about me?”
I hugged them tight, holding them maybe a little too long. I laughed big and cried bigger. I knew it then. I would not be returning to Beachland in the fall. My Jimmy and I had not formally made this decision, but internally, I knew. I could not tell them or anyone. Saying it out loud was not even an option, because I could not yet formulate those words, nor could I mentally face this reality. They all ran to the buses yelling, “See you in the fall, Beach!” I needed someone to teach me how to say goodbye.
The summer swirled past me at lightning speed. Doctor appointments. Diagnosis change. Discussing and praying and crying and paperwork. Even though my Jimmy and I knew that making the decision for me not to return to teaching was the best for my overall health, it did not take away the humongous, gaping heart-hole that was widening daily. He is so wise, my Jimmy. He patiently reframes and lines thoughts with silver. Words like, “Even though this is a decision that will ultimately help you, doesn’t mean it will be painless now… but together we have twice the blessing, half the stressing.”
But, my eyes were filled with negatives. No more classroom. No more “Beachlings.” No more teaching kids that learning through Arts Integration is everlasting. My life was pretty much over. In depressive desperation, I decided to write down all of the positive things that would come from me being away from the classroom. At first, I could only find one plus.
1.) I will not have to wake up at 5:00 am any more so I can have and hour recovery time between showering and dressing.
Yep. That’s about it for pros.
The short list stayed that way for several weeks. The day finally came when I had to make that final step into my classroom to empty it of all that was me, and prepare it for someone else. My momma, sister, brother-in-law, and youngest daughter met Jimmy and me at the Beachland door. As I sat like a huge log bump, they swirled around me packing and tossing, organizing and boxing. When the time came, they each embraced me, taking turns whispering encouraging words in my ear. I had a few moments alone to gather my aching body and brain before closing that door. The memories that flooded over me were massive, like there was standing room only in my brain. I could almost see them. I wept out loud. But, I kept hearing that one student’s voice….” Will you forget about me?”
I had not eaten all day, and would have probably chosen to sleep to escape my sorrow for awhile if my Jimmy had not put me in the car and taken me out to dinner. While waiting for our salads, a lovely older woman came over to our table. She simply said, “You don’t know me, but I wanted to tell you that you are both of my grandsons’ favorite teacher. They just love you! You have touched their lives forever, and I just wanted to thank you.” As I looked at her smiling face, it suddenly became overwhelming clear to me why I was so heartbroken. It was simply the fear of being forgotten.