Class of 2011

Thanksgiving…..Christmas…..her birthday…… and the one year anniversary of Kayla’s death were all significant dates that I expected to be extra painful for me.  But, the one date that I didn’t realize would hurt so much was graduation day.

In May 2011, I began to see large banners and signs hanging from various subdivision entrances in and around our area congratulating the soon-to-be-graduating high school seniors.  This is nothing new; I’ve seen these signs each and every spring since living in Atlanta.  I remember thinking that one day Kayla would be the first one of my girls to have her name on a graduation sign.  Unfortunately, the graduating class of 2011 is missing, at least, one student this year from Archer High School in Dacula, Georgia.

A few weeks before graduation, I received an email from Kayla’s school counselor informing me that her school had prepared a high school diploma for her.  I simply did not know what to say.  I was so moved and touched by the fact that they were not going to forget about her.  I thanked him for the school’s kindness and thoughtfulness and asked when I could stop by and pick up her diploma.  “The principal would like to have a private presentation with some of the staff to give you her diploma,” the counselor said.  Again, I was moved to tears and promised we would be there.

I get a sick feeling in my stomach whenever I drive by Kayla’s high school which was exactly how I felt when Allison, Ashley and I pulled into the school parking lot that morning.  “This hurts so bad,” I thought to myself.  I didn’t want my girls to see me hurting, so, I just silently prayed and made myself walk into the school.  We were escorted into a small conference room where we met some staff members that Kayla worked with in the front office as an office assistant.  A few moments later, Dr. Buchanon, the school principal, entered the conference room.  I had only met him one other time….at Kayla’s funeral….probably one of the nicest people I have ever met.  The principal and the staff members each took a few moments and said some kind things about Kayla that day.  As he was presenting the diploma to us, I was thinking to myself, “don’t do it…don’t cry…don’t cry,” which didn’t work.  Through my tears, I thanked the entire staff and explained how important it was to Kayla for her to receive her high school diploma; to her, it was a ticket to freedom.  However, Kayla had already been set free on September 22, 2010.

Before we left the school that day, we began asking some of the staff about Kayla’s favorite teacher.  But, there was one problem….none of us could remember his name.  One of Kayla’s best friends, Courtney, was also there for the presentation.  “I can’t remember his name, either, but I think he was her teacher for English Lit her junior year,” Courtney said.  They finally decided it was probably Mr. Coleman, the junior English Lit teacher.  It was so hard for anyone to really get to know Kayla and it was difficult for her to let anyone in to see just who she was.  But, she really liked Mr. Coleman and would come home from school many days telling me about this teacher.  She told me that one of his children had been very ill at one time and she felt a lot of empathy and compassion for his family and all that they had been through with the illness.  He, also, took the time to really talk to her and not be bothered with just another teenage student.  We had the opportunity to meet Mr. Coleman on the day of her diploma presentation.  I thanked him for making such an educational impact on Kayla.  Courtney then reminded me about something I had found in Kayla’s room a few days after she had died.  It was a spiral notebook from Mr. Coleman’s English Lit class.  The first entry was regarding a poem by William Cullen Bryant titled “Thanatopsis,” which is a greek title and it basically means “mediation upon death;” an explanation of the poet’s view of death.  The poem is lengthy and is rather difficult to understand and comprehend.  However, it is amazing to read such powerful words from a poet that was just 17-years-old when he wrote it; the same age as Kayla when she died.  The assignment from Mr. Coleman’s class was for her to interpret the poem in her own words.  The following entry was written by Kayla on December 3, 2009:

“What does the poem (Thanatopsis) say about death?  The last few lines of Thanatopsis really caught my attention.  It tells us to have a positive image about death.  The first two words of line #73 are “so live.”  I interpret that as live, don’t worry about death.  Later on in the poem, it says to not be so worried about death.  It is going to happen to everybody eventually.”

Who would have known that a homework assignment that Kayla completed on December 3, 2009 would become so meaningful and significant just nine months later when she passed away?  I now keep that notebook nearby and every once in a while I will pick it up and read it, which gives me a little bit of comfort.

Graduation day……The principal previously had invited us to attend the graduation ceremony.  I so appreciated his invitation, but, I knew I could not emotionally handle sitting in the school football stadium as I watched each senior wearing their caps and gowns joyfully walk across that stage and receive their diplomas.  And, every one of those students absolutely deserved to be excited about graduating from high school.  But, I knew what I would be thinking if I was there, “Kayla is supposed to be here graduating with her classmates.  This is just not fair.  Dear God, why did this have to happen to my daughter?”  So, I made the decision to not attend the graduating ceremony.  I explained my concerns in an email to Kayla’s school counselor.  He said that the principal and school completely understood how difficult it would be to attend graduation, but, assured me that her name would be in the graduation program along with her name being announced.  I was also told that her chair would have her name on it and would be decorated with ribbons.  Once I heard how the school was going to take the time and effort to decorate her chair, I knew I had to see it.  I contacted the school and requested that we could come to the school stadium early in the day, long before the ceremony would begin, to see her chair.  But, I knew it wasn’t just about seeing her chair.  It was the opportunity to take a few minutes to stand right where she should have been standing, to look around at the school and see what she was missing and to simply hold onto something that belonged to her……as we pulled into the school parking lot, the sick feeling in my stomach that I anticipated, unfortunately, returned.  Allison, Ashley and I then began our “trail of tears,” which began from the moment we got out of the car until we reached her chair.  From the top of the stadium, there was no doubt which chair belonged to Kayla; it was the only one with ribbons.  As I got closer and closer to the field, the tears flowed immensely.  And, there it was; her graduation chair that she would never sit in.  The ribbons were red and silver, the school colors, and were the size of wedding bouquets.  There was also a sign that the school had made which said, “In Memory of Kayla Jones Class of 2011.  “Once I pulled myself together from the tears, I took some pictures of Allison and Ashley sitting by her chair and holding her diploma.  I looked around at each chair with a graduating senior’s name and tried to take in everything that Kayla would miss.  But, in my heart, I truly believe that she was looking down from Heaven and embracing the love that her school and classmates had for her……Congratulations, Kayla!!!  I love you!!!

“Thanatopsis”

by: William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)

O him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder and grow sick at heart;–
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature’s teachings, while from all around–
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air–
Comes a still voice–Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourish’d thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go
To mix for ever with the elements,
To be a brother to the insensible rock,
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.
 
Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world–with kings,
The powerful of the earth–the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills
Rock-ribb’d and ancient as the sun,–the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods; rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, pour’d round all,
Old Ocean’s grey and melancholy waste,–
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.–Take the wings
Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon and hears no sound
Save his own dashings–yet the dead are there:
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep–the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest: and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favourite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glides away, the sons of men,
The youth in life’s green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man–
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side
By those who in their turn shall follow them.
 
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain’d and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
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About MomMinus1

Welcome to my blog, momminus1 (mom minus one). I am a mother of three beautiful girls, Kayla 17, Allison 13 and Ashley 5. One of my daughters recently became an angel; Kayla passed away on September 22, 2010 due to complications from AML leukemia. She was diagnosed on July 3, 2010. She endured harsh chemotherapy treatments, hair loss, rare and painful skin disorders, horrible stomach infections, weakness, loss of appetite, depression, anxiety and fear. From the time she was diagnosed until the day she died it was just 81 days..... A short, but, horrific battle with cancer. I am always asked, "How are you doing? What can I do for you? How are your two girls doing?" At times, these are tough questions to answer. And, I express myself best when I write. Writing is so helpful and therapeutic for me. Maybe I can answer these questions for those that are concerned about us. Maybe I can help another mom that might wake up tomorrow and find out that their child is diagnosed with cancer. Maybe there is a mom somewhere, like me, that just lost a child to cancer and is searching the web for answers. She might be thinking, "Is there anyone out there that understands what I'm going through?" I understand. I am grieving. I am in pain. I have a big piece of my heart that is now gone.....I would love your feedback about my blog, too. Thanks for reading!
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5 Responses to Class of 2011

  1. judy says:

    that was beautiful but i couldnt understand the poem.. she wa such a beautiful girl with a great drumor. i can still see her sittiing in the back seat of the car that day years ago talking to herself when we wouldnt answer her. she was my first great niece and i loved her so much. hang in there sweetheart, god has a plan for you….i love you

  2. judy says:

    that was beautiful but i couldnt understand the poem.. she wa such a beautiful girl with a great drumor. i can still see her sittiing in the back seat of the car that day years ago talking to herself when we wouldnt answer her. she was my first great niece and i loved her so much. hang in there sweetheart, god has a plan for you….i love you…that was dry humor!!!!!

  3. Marianne Volpert says:

    The first thing that came to my mind regarding the teachers and staff was they know what teaching is suppose to mean. Her spirit was there with you all as it will always be.
    marianne

  4. Ann Johnson says:

    I’ve only just begun to read your awesome writins. I wish I could say I understand your pain, but I can’t…I haven’t experienced what you have experienced already in life…but I can assure you that I am praying for you and your family. I know God is the answer. I’m so thankful when we lose a dear one, he lets us keep our memories to cherish during the rough times ahead. (I’m a friend of your mom) my love and prayers, ann johnson

  5. Sally Beechner says:

    THE POEM WAS BEAUTIFUL, MAJESTIC ALMOST, AND THE CRUX OF IT TO ME WAS, FROM DUST THOU WAS CREATED, TO DUST THOU SHALT RETURN….AS IS COMMON TO ALL OF MANKIND,…..,.BUT ONLY FOR AWHILE. REST WELL, ANGEL KAYLA

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