The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School led educator Cathie Broocks to share what helped her keep going after the death of her daughter, a student in her own kindergarten classroom. Her daughter was killed 25 years ago, but Broocks still remembers all the little acts of kindness from her friends, relatives and even strangers.
“Although my daughter’s death was not surrounded in the horror of that Friday in Newtown, it was indeed a tsunami to the heart and soul of my family,” Broocks recalls. “Meri-Spencer, 5, was killed while crossing a neighborhood street by a distracted young driver. I was one of two teachers in a combined junior kindergarten-kindergarten classroom where she was a student.
“While it has been 25 years since her death, I still remain grateful for the many acts of kindness and selflessness that friends, family and strangers poured into our family,” writes Broocks, director of admissions at Charlotte Christian School in Charlotte, N.C. “I would love to affirm, to those who wonder what they can do when tragedy strikes, that no caring action is too small or insignificant to the hurting.”
These are some of the actions that Broocks says she continues to be grateful for, in her own words:
• “Every card sent to us was appreciated. Some cards shared prayers and others shared special memories of play dates and interactions with our daughter. Cards which arrived many months past her death provided unique comfort, acknowledging that our grieving was indeed a long process.”
• “I was grateful for those friends who had faith in God’s provision and plans and shared Scriptures of promise and comfort. However, I found equal comfort in a missionary friend who said our daughter’s accident had ‘taken his faith and put it in a blender.’ Knowing that someone else was struggling as hard as I was to find faith in the moment was a genesis to learning that God was big enough to handle my range of emotions.”
• “For me, making the smallest decisions seemed insurmountable, most especially trying to get dressed in the mornings to face my daughter’s friends as I returned to teach in her class. A dear friend reorganized my closet, providing simple ways to order my choices. She added similar structural touches to my kitchen, again simplifying the basic activities of home life.”
• “My husband’s hardest days were Saturdays, a time when he and his ‘little buddy’ used to tackle yard projects. For several months a friend from our church showed up each Saturday morning with coffee, breakfast and the time to work side by side with his hurting friend.”
• “Several families made sure our other daughter, 9 at the time of her sister’s death, had times away from our home, enjoying recreational activities designed to mitigate the heaviness at home.”
• “A dear family stepped forward as we faced our first holiday, Thanksgiving, without Meri-Spencer. They volunteered to be and to do whatever we needed in facing our new emptiness. They helped us plan and joined us on a trip out of town, avoiding the sting of former traditions and in those days helping us create the foundations of new memories for our family. Even now our girls (we had another daughter a year later) treasure our mobile Thanksgivings, a time dedicated to exploring new settings.”
Broocks now has two grown daughters, both of whom work in education, and says she will always be thankful for the kindness of others during those tough times.
“I am so grateful for those people who shared their time, their talents and their tears with our family,” she says. “I will always see myself as Meri-Spencer’s mother and feel blessed for friends who continue to acknowledge her memory and her place in both our heart and theirs.”
A recent study cites a rise in injuries among children playing on inflatable bounce houses. Safety guidelines should be implemented to help prevent fractures, sprains and other injuries, the researchers say.
Betsy Flagler, a journalist based in Davidson, N.C., is a mother and preschool teacher. If you have tips or questions, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Parent to Parent at 704-236-9510.