Beware of Mid-October

For the past few years, this time of the year gets me a little jumpy. I get a little more reflective, too. This year especially makes me think of two major events in my life that happened at this time - one from ten years ago, and the other from five.

It's not pre-Halloween jitters or anything (though yes, I do despise the holiday). It's just that past history has taught me to tread on this third weekend of October very lightly, because stuff in the past has taken place that's very much outside my comfort zone.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I was enjoying a nice quiet Saturday at Martin Luther College. I was nearing the end of my Practicum - a four-week student teaching warm-up before I did the real thing in Wisoconsin - and was starting to get excited for a new congregation, school, supervising teacher, and location. (One can only handle rural Minnesota for so long.)

Not only was I excited about that, I was anticipating something I'd never seen in my lifetime - a Detroit Tigers team in the World Series. They were on the cusp, up 3 games to 0 against the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS and playing at home with Jeremy Bonderman on the mound. FOX was going to air the game, which meant I could watch it.

Near the end of the game, I got a phone call. It was from my Practicum supervisor - a Kindergarten teacher in the Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop school district. We had a great relationship and she taught me a lot. But what she had to say wasn't good news.

She was calling to tell me that one of our kindergartners had been playing on her playset at home when the playset had crashed down. The resulting injuries she sustained in the accident were too severe, and she had died. That day.

This call stupefied me. After all, I had just seen the girl the day before. She had made some comment with her friend that I just so happened to notice as I walked by her table. And now she was gone.

I proceeded to contact other fellow teachers that I knew in order to get their expertise on such a terrible situation, but they all had the same thing to say: they had never had to experience one of their own students die during the school year.

So how did I deal with the grief? Well, that night at least, I watched the Tigers game. Oakland led early, but Magglio Ordonez hit a walk-off 3-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to send the Tigers to the World Series.

I was elated, but that knowledge of what I was going to have to face on Monday never left my mind. It did sour the happiness a bit.

It's been ten years since that Kindergartner died. She should be a sophomore in high school, but she's not. Instead, I have her funeral service folder in my scrapbook. And whenever I see Ordonez' home run, I think of her.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I'm not going to mention the full details of this day. They're too painful.

However, I will say that this day really set me on a new path - a better one. Before this day, I was pretty cocky and I needed a good dose of humility. Well, maybe not a dose. Apparently God felt I needed to be fully immersed in humility.

Was it an awful experience? You bet. Did it improve my life in the long run? You bet. Do I still cringe at the mental scars whenever October 15 rolls around? You bet.

The kick in the pants I received allowed me to take a step back and see how I needed to change. Outward circumstances meant it was a lot more harsh than maybe it should have been. But it didn't change the fact that it was needed.

It made me see how my life needed to be, and how I could make myself improve instead of trying to put the blame on others. At the same time, I try my hardest to open the lines of communication instead of being closed off.

And as the years have progressed, I have matured. I build on the past, learn from the mistakes, and make sure to do lots and lots of prayer. Setbacks abound, but my hope is that they seem smaller and smaller in personal impact on my life.

Sorry for being so vague - like I said, there's still some mental scars.

I don't hide under the covers when this weekend rolls around, even though sometimes I wish I could. Eventually I realize that it's a pretty stupid thing to do, and perhaps I should just move forward and enjoy the present.

But when I go to bed in the end, I breathe a little sigh of relief and thank God that I made it through. The rest of the year seems so much more conquerable now that this weekend is over.


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