35. Everything happens for a reason

Everything Happens for a Reason

(I met this wonderful, warm, caring teacher at her school and was very moved by her and her story. I herewith share it with you. ABE)

Written by Suz "Angel" Brozenec, Fourth Grade teacher (4B) at J.B. Nelson Elementary School, Batavia, IL Angels3fly@email.msn.com

The sharp glint of the late afternoon sun bounced from the metallic braces supporting the slight frame of the child standing in front of me. The darting flash seemed a direct parallel to the glistening tears that shone in his small sad eyes. The boy’s usual bright smile was replaced with a drawn, quizzical and strangely haunting mask as he gazed up into my face. His normal joyous gait was oddly still. I slowly walked closer and pulled his shivering body closer to mine. He eased himself into my grasp and lowered his head. It was then I heard the plaintive words that cut into my very heart, a little voice raised in a plea for help. He looked to me as if I could put things right. Scotty whispered, "It’s not supposed to be this way. I don’t want it to be happening like this… This isn’t right…." And the boy was painfully correct. It wasn’t supposed to be happening like this… Not now, not ever, certainly not for him.

I pulled Scotty closer to me and tried to give what little comfort I could offer. What should I do? What COULD I do? I had been his teacher for the entire previous year. He looked to me for help, for direction. Wasn’t I the one who had told him "Once a 4-B, ALWAYS a 4-B? If you need me, just ask"? Well, here he was, looking to me, asking, and what was I doing? Not much. What soothing words would help ease the overwhelming heartache of this child who personified spirit, growth, and heart? I had come to know this boy as the very essence of courage, ambition, and perseverance. His pain struck deep into me. I stood gazing gently at this mourning bit of a man-child who looked to me for something. Though physically challenged, he’d lost sight of his difficulties through the eyes of the man who now lay so silent in front of us, the man who had helped Scotty become a bird stretching his wings and beginning to fly. How could I help this boy handle the sudden loss of the caring, nurturing presence of his beloved grandfather? It was then the feelings came flooding over me like a sudden tidal wave rising out of a calm sea. It hit me full force, and I held Scotty and let my own tears fall. Together we stood in the hush of the flower adorned funeral parlor, hoping the water would calm.

Instead, the waves crashed over my head and pulled me back into the early morning hours of August 17, 1999. It wasn’t a long journey, but it was a painful one. The blaring ring of the phone on that dark morning dragged me out of a sound sleep into the confusion of a waking world I did not yet want to see. Who in the world would be calling at such an ungodly hour? Wrong number? Prank? I sat up and reached for the phone knowing I was at the mercy of the caller because it was too dark to see the Caller-ID.

The sound of my mother’s voice puzzled me. We were going to see her later that day as part of a surprise celebration for my father’s eighty-first birthday. What in the world could she want this early? I yawned and responded sleepily, probably far too grumpily. I had been up the night before talking to a close friend whose father had just died. The emotion had played with my spirits, and I was still wondering what to do to lighten his load. I had tossed and turned, searching for answers and praying for guidance on this part of my life journey. I was tired but okay. Answers would come when the time was right, when I listened closely enough. Everything happens for a reason….I shook the fog of too little sleep from my eyes Okay, Mom… what? The strain in her voice and the quiet tones of "I’ve got some bad news to tell you" shook me awake. I felt like a glass of ice water had suddenly been thrown in my face. Bad news? Right. No one phones with GOOD news at 4:30 in the morning… but bad news on Dad’s birthday? Not today. Not now… She continued, though my ears were trying to block out what my heart already felt. If I didn’t hear the news, it would be all right. I just wouldn’t listen. The loud pounding of my heart would cover the words. No problem. But her voice continued, seeping through the very barriers I erected. "Your dad died this morning." NO! The same words Scotty had used were rattling around in my head…"It is not supposed to be this way. I don’t want it to be happening like this. This is not right." No. Not Dad. Not on his birthday… not now…. not ever.

I tried to slip the phone back into the cradle, but I could not get it to stay there. I couldn’t breathe, and the pounding of the blood in my ears was making me dizzy. I knew I had to talk to someone. NOW. With no conscious thought, my trembling fingers pounded numbers on the phone pad, and I heard the distant ring. I knew in an instant my prayers had been answered. The warm, soothing voice of a dear friend in North Carolina blanketed me as the tears rolled down my cheeks and fell onto my nightgown. …. "John? Oh, John..."

John’s words, "Okay, tell me… I’m here. I’m listening" loosened my tongue, and the dreaded words spilled out with sudden ease. I wasn’t alone now. I was in the company of friends. I was safe, even in the middle of the storm. John listened to my painful explanation and then urged me to think, to remember talks and discoveries, to look to recent growth in my life that would get me though this, that had prepared me for this. Reaching out over the thousand miles was easy for this wise and caring friend. His warmth and his willingness to hold a light out to illumine my path was a comfort and a boost over this unwelcome speed bump suddenly thrust in front of me. The waters were receding.

Reaching down inside myself, I paused and took a deep breath. As I placed the phone back in its cradle, I turned in the quiet and walked towards my CD player. Without making a conscious choice of music, I adjusted the volume and started the player. Soon, John Denver’s voice wafted through the darkness of my bedroom. I smiled as I listened to the words that hit my ears. "The body is merely the shell of the soul…." I began to listen and to sing with the comforting words of the artist. "My spirit will never be broken or lost, for the soul is a free flyin’ thing…." Everything happens for a reason. Everything has its time, its place. The link of Alan’s father’s death a few hours earlier and the sudden death of my own father made perfect sense. Everything happens for a reason. The commonality, the universality of the events showed the need for this step along life’s path. The connection proved the importance and strength of friends. We each walk life’s path alone, but we can walk along together if we care to, if we are fortunate and wise enough to be alert and responsive. We make choices. Everything has a reason.

The catching sob in Scotty’s throat quickly brought me out of my journey into the recent past. This was a path that he was on now, and, like me, he was being guided in love and friendship. His family surrounded him, but the small body was feeling so alone. I understood. His pain urged me to bring my face close to his. I gently placed my hand on his shoulder, and I began to speak, "I am here, Scott. Always. Remember…" Before I could finish, his mother’s soft voice suddenly joined with mine chorusing "Once a 4-B, ALWAYS a 4-B".

A soft "I know" told me we had connected. A hug told him that I cared. Our paths had converged, and we did not walk alone for that short poignant moment.

The tears in my eyes and the lump in my throat as I walked toward the casket were a necessary part of the experience. As I gazed on the silent face of Mr. Dauksha, the laughing man who had been such a guiding light in Scott’s progress and my work with this boy, a feeling of peace floated through the still air. I softly whispered to the uniformed body, knowing that he would hear, "Thanks for sharing your time with me and with Scott. You did a magnificent job, Sir. I am proud to have known you and to have walked for just a short time with you and this wonderful young man. Help Scotty. Let him know that you will always be watching over him. Let him see that heaven is a bit brighter today." As I turned to leave, the smile and silently mouthed "thanks" of family members standing nearby dried my tears, and I felt the lump in my chest sink away. The journey continues. Everything happens for a reason.