I've been meaning to write this post for days now. I've spent countless times formulating what I'd type while laying in bed, while snuggling the baby, while just sitting. I realized I doubt I'll be able to do it coherently in one sitting so I apologize in advance if this is disjointed; but, I plan to write it in phases.
Back in 2010, as a newly full time teacher in the toddler classroom, I met a family that was having an intake for their daughter. I remember it like yesterday (I'm like an elephant, I never forget). One of the first things I noticed was how nicely the couple was dressed. It wasn't something I often saw with the new parents and it meant a lot to me as a teacher because it showed that they clearly cared about starting their daughter at school.
The second thing I noticed was their baby. Wow, I remember thinking, they had their babies close together, that must be so hard. Low and behold, they had another little girl in between the two year old and infant. I was surprised, awed, and I thought they were a little crazy.
A week later their oldest started in my class and about six months later she moved up to the next class and I got their middle daughter. I say that I could never be a foster parent, not because I think it's not a noble thing, it absolutely is; but, rather because I'd never be able to give the children back after spending all my time with them. I have loved almost every child I have taught. Genuinely. And I loved those two little girls.
Over the course of the year+ they were at my center I got to know the family. Particularly the girl's mom, Sharla. At the time, I helped to close the center so I saw her almost everyday at pick-up. And, almost everyday, we'd chat.
Technically, I wasn't supposed to talk to the parents that long and I was told to deter our chats; but, I usually failed because by the end of the day I appreciated the adult interaction and we got along well.
Sharla and I bonded over our love of Disney, our love of family, and so many other topics I could never attempt to recount them all. Sharla loved to talk and was practically an open book. She also geninuely liked to hear about my life.
Less than a month after meeting her, she found out I was getting married later in the year and she was so excited for me. A few days later she lugged her large wedding album to the school when she dropped off and you could tell she was so proud of it and so happy to share it with me.
When Sharla found out my hubby and I were making out annual trip to Disneyland she showed up the next day with Disney pin trading pins for us. See, her family had just started trading and she wanted to give some to us. She didn't just bring me any pins though, Sharla was more thoughtful than that. She brought me Winnie the Pooh pins (she knew the nursery for my someday baby was going to be classic winnie the pooh) and Nightmare Before Christmas pins (hubby has a Nightmare tattoo).
For whatever reason we just clicked. Maybe it's because she was a talker and I am a listener. I remember one day she came to pick up and I could immediately tell just by looking at her that something was wrong. I don't remember what it was anymore that caused her bad day; I just remember the look on her face. I walked up to her at the door out to the playground. She just asked me for a hug and I obliged.
We joked that if they, or I, ever left the center, we would be friends (no friendship with parents rule). Sharla told me that we better be friends. She said it like there was no other option.
Like most of the families I worked with, they eventually left the center. On their last day I was puttering around the classroom in the morning and suddenly Sharla popped her head in. She had a gift bag for me and told me she had to bring it mid-day so that she wouldn't cry later. It was full of Nightmare Before Christmas stuff and a very sweet card.
That afternoon we exchanged information because finally we could be real friends since they wouldn't be center parents anymore.
We texted and she sent me a video of the girls saying "hi"; but, admin at the school caught on and threatened to write me up if we stayed in contact. I had no idea I was breaking any rules; but, apparently they were still parents until they left the building and because we had exchanged info on the playground it was a problem.
Faced with disciplinary action I tearfully texted Sharla in the bathroom telling her I had to cut off contact. She told me it was okay and that she and the girls still loved me.
Fast forward a year, and Squishy is born and I can finally quit. Once I know for sure I'll never be going back to the center to work, I add Sharla as a friend on facebook excited to get in contact again. This was about six weeks ago.
A week and a half ago I found out that Sharla had passed away. She was young and had five children, five years old and younger (twin boys were born after they left the center).
I found out while I was out of town when a former coworker called me and asked if it was true. Desperately hoping it was some strange rumor I ran to get my laptop and checked facebook. It wasn't a rumor. I cried.
Over the last week and a half it's been amazing to see how everyone has rallied around her family. Donations, meal deliveries, and fund raiser events have exploded. Posts of love and condolences have surrounded her husband's facebook page. People who didn't even know her, or who had only met her briefly, were talking about how much she had touched their lives.
I held strong until last night when it finally hit me. A friend was/is scheduled to do a trash the dress photo shoot with Sharla's husband. My friend told me last night that when she had told him that I would be helping her out, he was excited and was planning to bring Sharla and the kids. When I heard that I just started sobbing. My heart broke and hubby had to calm me down. It finally hit me that she was gone and we would never get to have the friendship she told me we had to have.
It's hard not to wonder why God would take someone so young and who had a family who needed her so much. But, last night, I think I realized why God took Sharla.
After seeing how many people loved her, even if they only met her in the Kohl's return line (true story) I realized that Sharla was here and taken so early to make us all better people.
You see, Sharla was kind to everyone, she could be everyone's friend, and in her short life she served her country, had a beautiful family, and she was always ready to lend a helping hand.
Sharla was a person many of us should strive to be more like and maybe God took her away so that we could see that. Maybe she was sent to us to provide an amazing example of how kind and amazing people can really be. I strive to be more like her.
Sharla's passing reminded me how short life can really be and reminded me that I don't need to spend my life accepting anything less than amazing. Sure life is never perfect; but, you can definitely make the most of it and that's exactly what Sharla did.
So thank you Sharla, for the lesson. You have inspired me to be a better person and to make my life as amazing as possible. As hard as it is for so many people that you are gone, I have faith that you were taken for a reason and I think many people will be changed for the better because they knew you. Your family has such an amazing support system and I know that your children will continue to grow and blossom as you watch over them.
When I head to Disneyland in a few months, I'll toss a pin in Snow White's Wishing Well in your honor. You will be missed and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of my life and for inspiring me to make the world better.