I have worked in a public school setting for the past 15 years. In college, I worked for a grant where we tutored kids in Math in before, during, or after school programs. When I first moved to L-town, America, I decided I really wasn't ready to have my own classroom, so I worked as a paraprofessional in a Title I school. I started teaching the next year, and I've been in my own classroom for the last 11 years. In all this time, I have attended funerals for other teachers, teachers' parents, students' parents, and even a couple of students' siblings.
This Wednesday, I have to attend the funeral of a former student of mine.
Jaden was a little Fireball when I had her in 3rd grade. She always said what was on her mind with little to no filter. She made me laugh, and she made me pull my hair out. Her family was absolutely one of my favorite families to work with at that school. I had her big brother a couple of years before her, then her big sister the year before her. I can still picture exactly where Jaden sat in my classroom. And even when she and I were at odds with each other, she always had a hug and a smile for me. I moved away from that school the school year after I had Jaden, so I didn't get to have any more of her siblings, and I've always been sad about that. There was a whole crop of them coming up after her, too! :)
A couple of years after I had Jaden in class, she was diagnosed with cancer. She has always been a Fireball, though, so I knew if anybody could kick cancer in the butt, it would be this girl. And she did. I saw her a while back at a restaurant, and she told me all about how she had been cancer free for a couple of years at that point. She added me on Facebook, and even though teachers aren't supposed to have students on their Facebook friends list, I added her back anyway.
It probably wasn't even a month later that she found out her cancer had returned.
The little Fireball was still determined that she was going to kick cancer's butt. She fought so hard, and even went back into remission. But it came back with a vengeance. She went out swinging, though, her mom says. I have absolutely no doubts about that.
Jaden, if Heaven has the Internet and you happen to see this post, please know that I loved you. I love all my students, in fact. I never wanted to attend a student's funeral, but I will be there, celebrating you. You kicked butt, girl, and I believe you won the war. Cancer has no more power over your body. There will be nobody on this planet that could ever replace you, but what a blessing it was to have you here. Sweet girl, you changed hearts while you were here. You made everyone so proud. Great will be your reward in Heaven for all the people you've turned to Christ with your steadfast belief in Him. You always knew your reward at the end of this would be Heaven, but really, you are Heaven's reward. Thank you for being here, Jaden, and for reminding me to love on the people I'm with right now while I can, including (and most importantly) the Fireballs. :)
To Jaden's family, if you ever happen to see this, thank you for sharing your girl with me a few years ago. Thank you for sharing her with the world. You did something big by letting her story be known. You changed hearts too. You've always been one of the most loving families I've ever had the pleasure of working with, and I know your family love will get you through the darkest of this.
Cancer sucks, y'all.