The Five or So People You Meet in Heaven

Will – Grade 7 Basketball

March 16, 2017


Dear Will,


As I’m sure you already know, your Grade 7 teacher (Mrs. Harford) has joined you on the other side and I wonder if you may have been one of the five or so people that met her in heaven? She was so lovely in so many ways and was a teacher that had begun to make a real difference in your learning of important life skills.


She had some real “mom like” qualities and was determined to teach you that amongst the obvious academics, you needed to know the importance of good organizational and strong time management skills. Stuff that I, as your mom, tried to teach you and your brothers over and over and over… A few things that Mrs. Harford had over me were 1) she wasn’t your mom, 2) she didn’t see how well you could dig in your heels, and 3) she was so lovely all of the time.


One thing you did super well was to present what you thought most important to a 12 year old boy and as I look back, YOUR grade 7 real world perspective was important. Well, most of it…


Friends and sleepovers and the importance of a bike and a pair of skis… A voice that always mattered and a warm bed… Help with homework and a ride to all those early morning practices… Age appropriate freedom like biking to school and ripping down to the park on your skateboard…Eating cookie dough and choosing your own new shoes, icecream and marshmallow science (when I wasn’t home), sitting ON Dad and a before bed tuck-in.


All these things were so important to you and though I didn’t buy in to candy before dinner and chocolate before bed you didn’t seem hungry when an apple or banana was the option, nor were you receptive to the word “no” even when “yes” was out of the question. (This is where Mrs. Harford didn’t see how well you could dig in your heels.) Grade 7 — a time when you were really coming into your own.


On Wednesday afternoon Mrs. Fisher sat beside me on the couch in front of our big living room window and as we shared tears and talked about Mrs. Harford’s battle with cancer she exclaimed mid-sentence, “look, it’s snowing? It’s Will!” The uncanny thing about this scenario is that it was +8 C and it should have been impossible for it to snow, but it did. You have taught me that nothing is impossible in heaven and so it was at that moment we agreed that you and Mrs. Harford had just met each other on the other side. Crazy? I think not. Why? Because you have taught me so much about the other side and what it’s like there. How else can one even try to explain snowflakes on a warm, sunny, spring day?


I hope that you were on your best behavior on Wednesday and that weren’t talking out of turn. Were you tidy and organized and on time? I know you may not have had matching socks or combed your hair (really, I can’t even remember a time when that actually happened down here, but you had that kind of hair!). All this aside, I do imagine that you had the biggest smile and that your bright, blue eyes and zest for fun showed her that you’d make it feel like some of the best parts of her life up there — in heaven where the skies are always blue and there is no such thing as cancer.


Love you sweet Will. Like a bus carrying the five or so people that met Mrs. Harford in heaven. Stay close to her, Will. She still had so much to teach you.






Returning to School as a Starfish

Jordan, Sam, and Will

Waiting their turn to play volleyball… Jordan, Sam, and Will

Thursday, August 18, 2011 (89 days)

Dear Willy,

Today I met with Mrs. McLaren at your school and mine, too.  She kindly bought me a latte and we shared a piece of banana bread while we talked about you and all the things that made you so special to Banded Peak.  I have decided that I’d like to return to the school for a couple of days a week and so we talked about that too.  To be there everyday would be just too difficult and as I explained to Mrs. McLaren I have some work to do on me.  I have to grow that new appendage… remember the starfish story?  When a starfish loses one of it’s “arms” it grows a new one and I was telling her that when I lost you, I lost one of my “arms” and that arm will always be with you… you, being only twelve, still needed your mom and, gosh, as your mom I still needed you too.  I don’t know what my new appendage will look like but I am on a mission to grow a fabulous one because it will be for you.  One could also call it finding my new purpose here on earth; finding a reason to live out my days until I am reunited with you.   I think she understood what I was trying to say.  We discussed that I will not work in your grade grouping as that would be torturous really.  But I think being at the school in a lower grade might be good for me.  Another bittersweet, Will… and boy oh boy, my world is filled with those.

I explained to Mrs. McLaren that sometimes my eyes will well up with tears while at work but that maybe my tears didn’t have to be a negative; that maybe the kids would see that being sad is part of being human — that even adults have tears sometimes and that it is ok.  Maybe my emotions would bring out their emotions and maybe, just maybe, bring down their “walls”; especially the kids that come to school and hide amongst the turmoil of anxiety, the ones that have tummy aches and tears and sadness and behavior issues, etc.  I told her how great it might be for them to see that they are helping me too and that it wouldn’t be just me helping them.  Life is a two way street and working together could help them and me all at the same time.  I know that there will be times when   it will be overwhelmingly sad and I will have to excuse myself and maybe leave for a few minutes, but she told me that would be ok and completely understandable.  I am so grateful for the school and the support I have there.

You have impacted so many, Will, and I will need you to help me through this.  Help me understand that it is right and good for me to go back.  Give me the strength I will need daily and the courage to show that being human has all kinds of faces; some happy and some really sad.  Sit proudly on my left shoulder where the boy angels sit everyday I am there.  I will need you there WITH me…. because that is where you should be.  And, by the way, Willy, when I grow my new “arm”, this starfish Mom of yours will still always need you.

Love you more than five arms,