Last Tuesday my son went back to his initial preschool for a super heroes summer camp. Even though he didn’t attend that school for pre-k, I stayed in contact with one of the directors, especially after some devastating news in early Spring. My son’s first teacher, Miss C, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Six years ago, my oldest uncle lost a short, but courageous battle against the same enemy. Therefore, I knew she didn’t have much time left. Pancreatic cancer is the worst kind, because there has no such thing as “early detection.” When this monster shows its ugly face in a MRI, it’s simply too late.
As I arrived at the school, the director approached me and told me the news I feared: Miss C was in the hospital on the path to meet her creator. She gave me the room number and her husband’s name if I wanted to see her one last time. I got in my car and drove there immediately.
Sobbing, I remembered when I met Miss C for the first time and how her tenderness relieved my anguish for leaving my baby in her care. At that time my son spoke like Curios George–just a few monkey sounds and syllables–so I couldn’t ask him if he had a good day. Nevertheless, every day he was so happy to go to school, and I knew it was because she made him feel loved.
When I got to the hospital’s palliative care floor, my heart started pounding. I remembered the last days with my mother-in-law, also six years ago. She too fell victim to an aggressive cancer that took her from us in exactly ten days.
Surrounded by her loving husband and one of her daughters, a couple of friends, and the pastor of her church, Miss C rested on the bed in a deep sleep. They invited me to sit by her side and, as fragile as she looked, she seemed at peace. A woman of very strong faith, she passed the love of Jesus to her little munchkins. Her family estimated that at least 500 kids passed through her classroom over twenty years at the same preschool.
With tears rolling down my face, I kissed her forehead goodbye, and I told her husband and daughter how thankful and privileged I felt for having known her. She truly was a gift from God and a guardian angel to her little students.
Growing up I saw another teacher who devoted her life to her kindergartner students: my oldest aunt. She was always looking for new things to teach, play, and explore with her kiddos–1500, approximately, in over 30 years of teaching in public school. In her eyes, they were all special, and regardless of their limitations, she always made them feel capable of achieving their goals.
She saw firsthand the scars of the children–on their flesh and in their souls–who were victims of abuse, in all of its forms. Many times her class room became a shelter for those kids who didn’t know what a tender word or a sign of affection was.
Exceptional teachers like these two women showed me that teaching is not a profession, but a noble vocation. It is a calling to serve the community, to help nurture the future generations, and support the work that parents do at home. Teachers are also guardians and important role models who leave everlasting memories in their student’s lives.
As I started writing this column on Monday, I received an email from the preschool notifying the parents that Miss C. passed last Saturday. I prayed for her family, especially for her oldest daughter–who was my son’s teacher in the three-year-old class and who is expecting her first baby. Having lost my uncle and my mother-in-law the same year I was pregnant, I know how it feels to have two broken hearts inside.
Her work on Earth was taking care of angels. Now, in heaven, she received her wings. Rest in peace.
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