More than 10 years ago while working in the school district I met this woman, Helen, through a phone call to the school she was working at. Immediately she was welcoming; making me feel at ease with my questions. Knowledgeable in her answers and occasionally throwing in a “sweetie” or “honey” to her reply. I liked her.
When my son started middle school in 1996 I got to meet her in person and was amazed at the kindness and ease she was with all the people around her. I admired the confidence she had. She welcomed me as if we had been friends forever, not just the few phone calls we had exchanged.
Then my daughter started middle school in 1998 so I had more chances to visit with this nice woman. I always liked how she treated me, like I was really special, not just another parent. I was always amazed, that when I got the occasion to come into the school’s office there was always a small gathering of people around Helen’s desk. Laughing with a sound that made you want to know what was so funny. A good laugh, one that could be heard around the building.
Then in 2004 I saw there was a job opening at the middle school where my kids had gone, where this wonderful woman held court. Hesitant at first before the interview started she made me feel calm. Did I really want to work in a middle school? Am I good enough to do the Focus Room with middle schoolers? Am I tall enough? She calmed me. I rocked the interview, feeling I could do this! I want to do this. Finally saying yes to the opportunity.
I loved working in the middle school. The staff welcomed me with open arms.
While at the school I observed that some of the more “forgotten” children would be sitting with Helen. She had taken them under her wing. They may be kids from broken homes, rough backgrounds or just ignored for a myriad of reasons.
I enjoyed the conversations she and I had during my 3 years in the building, finding out that she and I shared many of the same qualities.
I learned in June 2007 that she had cancer. I knew she would battle this with her strength of character, laughter, her faith in the Lord and strong will. I was glad that some of my workday would enable me to be in the office to help her and her co-worker during this time. But – that was not to be; I was transferred to another school in the 3rd week of school. I checked in often and had my network of friends that kept me posted on how she was doing. I hated leaving knowing she was ill, I felt I needed to be there for her and others; as Helen battled cancer and the staff battled their demon. I felt I was letting them down. Especially Helen. ( I am sorry Helen)
Even though she was getting weak she was able to make it to work a couple of hours a day.
As the summer was drawing to a close I made a visit (Aug. 11th) to the office. Yeah both the office staff was there and we all got to visit. I told her how special she was and how I missed working with her. On Friday evening I got a call from Helen’s co-worker; LeAnn asking me if I could come in on Monday the 18th and put labels on schedules before registration the next day No problem – I would love to. She told me that Helen had fallen Monday night (11th) hurt her back and ribs and hadn’t been in.
On Monday – I came in putting labels on schedules, answering the phone or anything else I could do. One of the calls I answered was Helen’s husband; he stated that Helen wasn’t going to be in, as she wasn’t feeling well. I asked if it was for the day and sadly he said “No, not ever”. I was stunned, I asked if he wanted to speak with our Vice Principal, “Yes” The Principal took the call and then told us that Helen wasn’t doing well.
I was able to visit Helen with a friend Monday afternoon. She was tired, not the woman I knew. A small part of her was trying to come out when she saw me. She grabbed my hand; I held onto it hoping to give something back. Leaned in to kiss her on her forehead. She whispered how nice it was to see me. I told her I loved her and how special she is. A few more comments we each made and then I made myself say good-bye.
On Wednesday the 20th, about 5:30, she left us. Went to join the angels she adored so much. At peace and pain free. Rest well dear lady, you will be missed, but never ever will you be forgotten. You have left a wonderful legacy of peace, acceptance, joy, love, family, friends, and your love of God.
I love you and will miss you.