About two weeks or so ago, every parent from Kaitlyn’s class received, via e-mail, a letter from the mother of a little girl in the class. The letter was a “heads-up” about the status of her son, who was in fourth grade at Kaitlyn’s school. From the time he was in kindergarten, he had been battling cancer, and his mother sent us all a letter stating that he was losing his battle, and she wanted to tell the parents so that we could prepare our kids since his sister is in the same class. Amber and I are not much for sugarcoating things, so we honestly shared the contents of that letter that night, and told her the best thing that she could do in the coming days and weeks for her classmate was to be a good friend; we had no idea what her classmates parents were going through with their son, or how their daughter was handling the news, but we wanted to ensure that Kaitlyn was a good friend to her. Part of that came from the fact that we figured that Kaitlyn would feel extremely sad for her friend and what her brother was enduring.
One of the many reasons we love Kaitlyn’s school is the way they make each student feel like they are the center of the universe. The young man who was battling cancer was no different; in fact, if anything, the school went above and beyond to make his experience amazing, and I think they did a great job. They held different events for him, and had special days just for him; several FSU football players came out to a flag football game they held for him in the spring. It wasn’t just the school that made this young man and his family feel loved, it was the community as a whole. Just last Friday, one of the local high school honored him at their Senior Night football game, and World Series Champion David Ross presented him with an autographed bat.
This afternoon, right as I was leaving work for the day, I checked my phone and noticed I had an e-mail. It was from Kaitlyn’s school. They e-mailed all of the parents to let us know that the young man had lost his battle with cancer today, and that there would be counselors on campus tomorrow to answer questions from our kids. Not wanting to ruin the evening’s plans, we waited a few hours before we told Kaitlyn. We spoke to her honestly and told her that her classmate’s brother had died today, and we did not know how long her classmate would be out of school, but the best thing she could do would be to continue to be a good friend.
I am not going to sit here and even remotely try to comprehend what their family is enduring tonight. I know that no parent who has kids in fourth and second grade should have to bury their fourth grader; that is just not right. To condense and paraphrase what our friend Chris posted on his Facebook this evening, “even though she drives us crazy, we cannot wait to hug her even tighter tonight.”