Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Butterfly Effect

You just never know how you effect someone's life. It's like the butterfly effect. One tiny flutter of a wing can change lives, and it does. When you become a teacher, you are constantly reminded and told that you are touching lives, changing them, shaping the futures of the world, and, really, you do. (And I have about a dozen coffee mugs that say so!) I still get Christmas cards from students long ago, who are now teenagers, taller than I ever was. (Hi Brett!) I have notes scribbled in messy crayon about how much they love their favorite teacher, and I have emails and letters from parents that mean so much to me because they are filled with stories of how much just a flutter of my wing meant to their child. It reminds you that the crappy pay and the long hours (with NO lunch break, mind you!), are well worth it in the end. As I left teaching, I never forgot how much it meant to me. I eventually began teaching a baby sign language class, which I genuinely loved. This is where I met my little Samanatha. 


Yesterday, I attended the memorial service for this beautiful little girl. It was gut-wrenching. Literally. I felt as though I could have gotten sick at any moment. As I walked alone into the church I came to a small table filled with Samantha's most important things. Her favorite books, the plastic balls she held on to up to her last day on Earth, and 2 brightly colored diplomas from her baby sign class.


And they were signed by me.


I can't tell you how much I wanted to run out the doors that moment. How hard it was to keep from falling on my knees. Why did this sweet, smart little girl have to leave us? She had only 20 months on this Earth! This smiley little princess with her mom's gorgeous face and her dad's sweet temperament.


But the doors closed, and it was time to sit. I had to keep my eyes down most of the time. I couldn't bear to see that tiny little casket, all white and satin with bows and lace, just a few feet long. She should have all this on her wedding dress one day. Not this. Please, Lord. Not this. 


As the preacher spoke about Samantha's last weeks in the hospital, he told us all about her affinity for these plastic balls. That when nothing else would do, these balls did. She held on to them until the end. It was about this time that a small plastic ball proceeded to roll off a table right into the middle of the room. I guess some might have seen this as an accident, a little "oopsie" in the middle of a funeral. I didn't. And when I glanced over at Samantha's mom, I knew she didn't either.


It was this moment that I remembered that Samantha wasn't gone. She wasn't taken. I should not be mad. I should not ask why. Here she was, no longer in stress, in pain. She has everything and everyone at her fingertips, and she was telling all of us, who needed to hear it, with that little roll of the ball. 


As they rolled the tiny little white casket out of the room, I had flashbacks of Eli's little bassinet being rolled out of my hospital room, and decided that I must leave. 


But there was the table again, and the line of people waiting in line to give reprieve to these parents who needed it more now than ever, and so I waited. I needed to tell them how much she meant to me as much as they needed to hear it.


A nice conversation with a friend in line held off the thoughts that were burning my head with pain, and eventually, there I stood, in front of Samantha's grandparents. They looked so strong. They told me that Sammy was signing to the nurses to the very end, what she wanted, what she didn't want, and that I should be proud. And I was.  I was proud that just an hour a week, I gave these parents a small tool that turned into a big part of this little girl's life. And even more proud that here, standing in front of me, were grandparents, showing me signs with their hands that even I didn't know. This one tiny little soul had passed her gift on to those she loved. 


As I hugged them both, I turned and looked at these two young, gorgeous, parents. They looked so brave, so strong. I was tear-stained, blotting my not-even-existent-anymore-makeup off my eyes with my third tissue, and they were here, in faith and love, to receive us all. Even through this hardship. Mom made sure I had seen Samantha's diplomas on the table, and I assured her I had (not the part that I almost ran out and got sick part, but...). Dad told me how much she loved to sign. She watched her signing DVDs all the time, and signed in the hospital the whole stay. She was always a smart one, and Mom and Dad worked with her so well. The picture perfect parents. I loved them then, as much as I do now, and it makes me smile to see them in my head, watching her eating that messy first birthday cake, smiles as big as the moon. 


I guess I'm a little off track here, the moral of the story was that you never know when something you say or do can make an impact on someone's life. I never thought any of my signing babies would take it any further than my 10 weeks of classes, but I was wrong. You just never know where life is taking each of us, so send them along with kindness, wisdom, or love.


It just might be contagious.


I'm going to miss you, little Samantha. But I know you're Home now, and I know a few good people up there that have been praying with me over you for a long time now. It's gonna be great. I can only imagine...


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2 comments:

  1. Wow! What a lovely post. I hope her parents can rad it someday and know that their little butterfly touched you too.

    Thank you for reminding me. My job can really overwhelm me, but a glance at my bulletin board, covered in "love" notes, reminds me that I make a difference.

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  2. I can't imagine. How brave she must have been.

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