Welcome everyone! Happy fourth (?) day of Christmas–assuming you observe and/or celebrate, and depending on when you start counting ;). I was blessed to share another wonderful Eve and Day with Hubby (Christmas #21–who woulda thunk it?); our boys; our moms, family and friends. Can I ask for better?
It’s so important to hold on to joy, folks, and to make memories when we can. We never know when we’ll do that ‘last’ thing. Here’s one reason why:
“Special” means so many things, especially when one works in an educational setting.
When it comes to ‘Jewel’ it takes on more than one.
‘Jewel’ (not her real name) was truly a gem. In school, both as a child as an adult, she was often referred to as ‘special,’ perhaps minus the higher IQ that society uses to classify someone as ‘not special.’ A kind spirit, a simpler soul: soaring in goodness and the understanding of function. Did I mention she could play some beautiful pieces on the piano and had no problem kicking out a song too? And how she reportedly devised clever ways around eating the fun foods relative to celebrations her religion restricts?
Jewel didn’t drive. She walked, took the bus or got the occasional ride from staff member(s) or her senior mother—with whom she lived and with whom she is said to be the best of friends.
We go back, Jewel and I. Twenty-two years, if I remember correctly; personal aide for the one of my first six students in the district that now employs me. She never lacked for dedication.
Some other things that made Jewel special:
She was rarely without her smile. Her hearty laugh was always at the ready. Jewel joked and teased without ever hurting a feeling. If a piano was nearby and the timing was right, she played and often sang, too. More times than I can count, our conversations morphed seamlessly into songs with related lyrics. At the end of last school year she auditioned for our school’s first (?) talent show, fretting for a few weeks on whether or not Gladys Night and the Pips’ Midnight Train to Georgia was an appropriate choice for elementary school-aged kids.
She shied away from technology, but learned enough of the basics to help her students make use of it when necessary. Despite that, she knew how to foster function and independence in her charges, often the most physically challenged kids. She cared for them with her strength and with her heart.
Pairing Jewel with her current student—a very physically-challenged child—was the logical choice. They got along well and had a lot of fun. (We all did. You couldn’t help having fun when Jewel was around.) Chances are, Jewel’s heart led her to attend her that student’s holiday concert just ten days before Christmas. After the performance, she took off for home, a mere few blocks from the school.
It was to be the last thing she did.
She never made it home. Jewel was struck by a truck while crossing the street and died of her injuries en route to the trauma center. Reports we heard or read suggest that poor timing ultimately caused the accident.
I’m not quite sure how to wrap this one up, so I’ll share what I told Jewel’s mother at the wake: “Your daughter made people happy.” And in my sadness, I still feel happy, because all my memories of her make me smile. Jewel is one of those folks whose spirit will be consciously with me more often than not. I will miss her terribly, in many ways like the friend I wrote about several weeks ago.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my special friend. If you are so inclined, please pray for her mother, whose new reality leaves her without daughter, roommate and best friend in the day-to-day we tend to take for granted.
Hug, hold and love those with whom you make your memories.
Happy New Year,