I usually start my blogs with the title. This one is untitled. Maybe that will BE the title "untitled". Usually I have my blog half written in my head before I start putting words down. So the title is my hook.... my opening line.
But I have no hook. No opening line. No idea where this is going to go. I am a swirl and whirl. I have been since Friday.
What happened Friday? My 11 year old let us know over pizza that she felt sorry for a classmate. (I shall call her Jenny) Emma had been friends with Jenny for several years. She ended the friendship when Jenny bit her last winter. We thought 5th grade was a tad old to be biting when angry. We also thought it was a solid idea, ending the friendship. Obviously the child is troubled. Some minor bullying occurred afterwards. As the incident did not occur IN school, there were no in school repercussions. An uneasy truce was reached. Tenuous at best. Desks are apart in the classroom.
So Emma feels sorry for Jenny this day. I was only mildly interested. I figured Jenny had thrown up at school or split her pants. Mortifying in 6th grade to be sure. But not tragic or life altering.
"Her dad died suddenly last night."
WHAT?? Who said THAT? Well, the teacher told the class that Jenny's dad died suddenly the night (or maybe day) before and no one knows what happened. Ok... the teacher isn't prone to rumor mongering... Surely it must be true.
We saw her dad about a month ago at Back to School Night. He appeared healthy. Did he have an accident? Did he drop over dead from a heart attack? Wow. Norm and I were rocked back. Wow. Yes. We feel badly for Jenny too.
I went to bed that night and didn't sleep. Not because of the news, but just because. Norm stayed up and was watching the news. He comes in to see if I'm still asleep.... "There was a report on the news... a guy last name "Jones" was shot...." I gasped. I KNEW. I had half heard a report on the news on the radio after I did the school run that morning.
How do you tell your child that her classmate's father committed suicide by cop?
Of course I didn't. I just told her that Jenny's dad made a mistake and it resulted in him being shot by the police. I said how sad and unfortunate it was.
I asked Em if she knew Jenny's dad. She said she had seen him at school once and maybe he picked Jenny up from her Nana's house once. Emma had always been in the care and custody of her grandparents when she "went to Jenny's house". We had wondered where he was and were told he was living and working out of town. According to news reports, he was living courtesy of the State of California.
Of course that swept away the fog of mystery surrounding why Jenny would act out the way she did.
Jenny's family is angry. They blame the police. They will be forever angry. Emma knows that the police aren't bad people. She's friends with them. They are family friends. They've tucked her into bed. They've driven her places. They've fed her. They've slammed her with a water balloon (and she's fired back). She knows the police as good guys. God Bless that child.... She also knows that (and I quote) "they don't want to hurt people, they want to be nice to them, but sometimes they have to so they can keep other people safe."
I am seething. Jenny's dad knew what would happen when he acted the way he did. He knew the drill. He had done it before. He knew to do as instructed. He chose not to. He chose the easy way out. Emma wanted to go, so I took her to the funeral. I watched the grief fill the sanctuary. I watched Jenny and her younger brother. Her too young to get it brother was mostly just bored. Jenny is not. Jenny gets it. He left her to carry his burden. He added anger to her burden. He added a fear and distrust for the police.
His family is suffering. Our family has been affected. The family and friends of the officer involved are affected. The paramedics are affected. So many people carrying this around. Jenny's dad is the only one who is not suffering.
They spoke of how much he loved his wife and children. How he would lay down his life for them. Big whoopy shit. Live for them. Face your mistakes and deal with them like a grownup. And live for them.
Emma keeps coming up with things that Jenny will miss out on because her dad died. He won't walk her down the aisle..... Her children won't have him as a grandpa....
I got in bed with her last night and told her how proud I was of her at the funeral earlier in the day. She met Jenny in the lobby and gave her a hug and told her she was sorry about her dad. She hugged Jenny's grandparents and told them she was sorry. After sucking up a big breath of courage, she approached Jenny's mom and said she was sorry and gave her a hug too. (Jenny's mom was very visibly mourning and I could understand Emma's hesitation) She was able to do what many grownups cannot. Just be there for those who are grieving. In the dark she said it just made her think about how lucky she is to have the family she has. I thought it was an interesting way to put it. Not "How lucky I am to have my family alive"... how lucky she is to have the family she has.
Sometimes I look at that child and wonder where she came from. She might narrate her life as she walks through it, but she generally doesn't really SAY anything. She sits and absorbs and just doesn't react. When I told her how Jenny's dad died (sanitized) she just said "oh." No real reaction. But she's thinking.... the gears are turning. And when they finally mesh together, she says the most profound things.
I told her this week was going to be difficult and I was sorry that it was going to be hard for her. It would be hard to BE a friend to someone you don't want to be friends WITH. But that's what we are called to do because we want to follow Jesus. "No one said it was gonna be easy! Besides. It was hard for JESUS." Well.... yes. Yes it was....
I am angry that my 11 year old is having to confront the idea that a Dad could choose to confront the police knowing they would shoot him instead of facing his consequences like a grown up should. I am angry that my 11 year old had to compromise her personal space so she could reach out to someone who had hurt her. I am intensely proud of her for doing so. I am profoundly sad for the children of a man I only set eyes on once. I am resolved to the idea that they will be angry at the police forever. I am worried about how that will play out at school... a school with more than a few children of law enforcement in attendance.
Today, as Emma was serving as Line Leader, Jenny came up to her and said thank you for going to the funeral and gave her a hug.
I am hopeful that Jenny will see that forgiveness, kindness and compassion are possible. I pray that Jenny chooses hope.