My heart hurts tonight.
Most of you know that I was a special ed teacher
in my "former life," before I became a stay-at-home mom.
Since seeing the movie Son-Rise as a high school student,
I combined my love for children with my complete and utter fascination
with autism and special needs.
Like all teachers, there were a couple of children
who deeply touched my heart and have always remained with me
in my memory.
The first, Jamie, was my first little-student love.
All of about three years old when I met him,
Jamie was classically autistic and, in retrospect,
As a young teacher (actually, I was only 18 when I started working with Jamie)
what I saw in him was his absolute adorableness.
His tousled hair with the big cowlick in the front of his forehead,
his dancing eyes and his tippy-toe, dancing walk sang to my heart.
I would sing him songs and work with him on signs and play skills and motor skills.
He would put up with me rather patiently and every now and again
he would give a good bite to keep me on track. ;-)
I would take Jamie out to the park
and on play dates.
Jamie even spent a couple of nights in my dorm
when his mom was giving birth to one of his brothers.
I will never forget my friends loving on him
because they loved me.
I loved him dearly and I know he loved me too.
One of my dearest accomplishments was teaching him to give a kiss.
I will never, ever forget doing that and the reaction of his mom.
I kept up with his parents for years and years.
A few years ago, his father contacted me after receiving my annual Christmas card.
He told me that Jamie had died suddenly of a lung embolism
at the tender age of 16.
I was so saddened.
I sent them copies of some photos I had of Jamie
and I still think of him every year.
The other student that was my student-love
was a little boy named Terry.
Oh my gosh, this child was nothing short of perfection to me.
A slender child with a short little afro, dancing dark brown eyes
and the widest, most joyful smile I had ever laid eyes on.
Terry came to us with some mild delays.
I am not even sure, in retrospect,
why he was even IN the program.
I think it was because it was a United Way school and he qualified
as an at-risk student and a child living in poverty and negative circumstances.
Most certainly, Terry was a child at risk of being another statistic.
His mother was poor, young and uneducated.
Being a poor black child from the projects of Nashville was not a good beginning.
The United Way school was just the ticket for a kid like Terry
because it gave him exposure and opportunities to learn.
And learn he did.
You have never seen a kid take off like Terry did.
He was the perfect example of a child's brain being like a sponge.
If you told him something, showed him something, sang him something
JUST ONCE, he had it.
It was just phenomenal to watch.
Within a year, Terry no longer qualified for our program.
However, I had developed a personal closeness and relationship with him.
He would come spend the night at my house.
Rob and I (we were dating then) would take him to the mall
and watch his eyes grow wide as saucers with delight
as he took in the sights, sounds, smells and activities.
Many nights Rob and I would talk about Terry.
I hated the circumstances he was in.
I hated that he wasn't being taught and stimulated at home.
I hated that his mother gave him medication to calm him down
that instead drugged him out and made his dancing dark eyes go blank
and his smiling mouth go slack.
How I wished he were mine,
that I could adopt him or steal him away.
The potential in this child was limitless
and I feared that it would never be met.
I last saw Terry in 1993 but I have thought of him often.
I have had great hope that he would be able to rise above the circumstances of his life
and be successful.
I really believed it could happen.
Tonight, I tried to find him.
He would be sixteen and I figured I might be able to flush him out
I was so curious as to what he would look like
and what his interests were.
Instead, I was heartbroken to discover that two years ago
At the tender and very young age of 14,
Terry sustained a fatal gunshot wound in his own home.
Jamie, at 16.
Terry, at 14.
The two students I loved the most,
I have outlived.
Tonight, my heart is broken.