Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lessons from the First Day of School

Our family learned some very big lessons on the first day of school this year.

1. Awful people exist in this world
2. Good people exist in this world
3. Gratitude exists even in the depths of sorrow

I was nearing the end of my day at work, looking forward to getting home to the first day of school catch-up. I love all those papers to fill out and the stories from my kids about who is in their class and how the teachers are. The chatter on the very first day of school always fills a house with a buzz of excitement and pure joy.

Just past 3 o'clock my phone rang. Instantly upon hearing Michael's voice I knew our day had taken a sharp turn in an opposite emotional direction.

"The vet just called me... Clara has been hit by a car...she didn't make it."

My heart sank to my knees, as I thought about the big lovable, floppy ear basset hound, who just last month came to be part of our family.

The details were very vague. I understood that a neighbour was at the vet clinic, as was at least one of my girls, someone was picking E-man up from school and Clara was gone.

I shut down my work and raced out the door. That 15 minute drive to my kids felt like a million years! Pulling into the vet clinic my heart sank again, immediately, I recognized our neighbour Ed's truck and the car of my good friend Patti. Please tell me it wasn't one of them, I prayed, knowing that the only thing that could make this situation any more devastating was if one of my friends felt responsible.

Inside the clinic I was greeted by a visibly upset receptionist and an equally upset vet and technician who took me to my kids. They opened the door to a tiny room and there they all were. My three babies with tear stained cheeks, Patti with her mascara stained sweater, Ed and Colin clearly deflated. I hugged everyone, asked a few questions and sent the kids home with Patti. Ed stayed behind to catch me up, and hold me up while I dealt with the unpleasantness of saying goodbye and making arrangements with the clinic staff for Clara's burial.

I learned, that the dogs had managed to somehow escape the fenced yard,  thankfully Ed spotted them and let the girls knows. I knew that an army of adults and kids would not have been able to return those dogs home if they got out. They had only been with us a month and while we were working on obedience, when it came to some things they listened like teenagers.

I learned, that the person who hit Clara did not hesitate, did not stop, did not even look back...and my heart broke a little more. I learned that Ed picked Clara up and carried her back to his truck. I learned, that Colin helped Ed the last part of the way and comforted Clara in the back as they raced to the vet clinic down the street. I learned, that KJ accompanied Ed and Colin and Clara and that Lula went to get E-man from school. I learned, that Ed had to use colourful explicatives with a complete stranger at a four way stop and that KJ was touched by that gesture. I learned, that Shawnie took care of Cooper while Patti headed to the Vet clinic to take care of my family.

I learned, that thankfully, Clara did not suffer.

Around the table (when we finally got around to supper) Michael and I tried to focus the conversation around the first day of school. It was clear that most everyone's food was going to be cold rather than consumed and E-man excused himself time and again to blow his nose and wipe his eyes.

I asked KJ to start our gratefuls for the evening. "I am grateful that I didn't get lost on my first day of highschool today" she said.

E-man left the table again, this time sobbing.

Lula was furious with me. "We shouldn't be doing this today, it's too sad, there is nothing grateful about today"

I explained that this was the most important day to acknowledge some gratitude, that even on the very worst day of your life there exists reasons to be thankful.

E-man returned to the table.

Lula conceded and offered a grateful "The first day of grade 11 went pretty smoothly at school."

I offered my Gratitude "I am grateful that Dad didn't get hurt in his motorcycle fender-bender this afternoon." (yes other things also transpired that made the first day back to school one we'd rather forget) I really wanted to grateful for the vet clinic staff and our friends but I did not want to open the flood gates of emotion any further.

Clearly Michael didn't want to either, for his grateful was "I'm glad everyone's first day at school was okay."

E-man's turn came. He choked up terribly and for a minute I thought maybe Lula was right, this was a bad idea. Then came his gratitude....

"I am grateful that we have such good neighbours" he said.

And I learned.... That my son gets it. That even in the face of extreme sorrow he can choose to focus on the space between the raindrops.

The first day of school 2011 was filled with lessons...

1. Horrible people who would rundown a dog exist
2. There exists also wonderful souls like Ed, Colin, Patti, Shawnie, and the staff at Williamsburg Veterinary Hospital.
3. Gratitude exists in all circumstances

Our extreme gratitude to Ed, Colin, Patti, Shawnie, The Staff at Williamsburg Veterinary Hospital and to Lorraine and Sarah who blessed us with the company of Clara. I know this is heartbreaking for you as well and I am sorry.