I ran in to my son’s junior school counselor last week. My daughter is now a student at this school and had forgotten something in her locker. The counselor asked how my son’s first week of high school was going and I said that he was more enthusiastic about school than ever before. She then said that his class was ready to leave and move on to high school; that it was time for them to go.
At the time, I simply reflected on the fact that upper grade students are often ready to move on. Students become itchy during a transition year. But the class of 2016’s readiness in our small community may have a different motivation for leaving junior high school: two classmates died that year. One by suicide and one after an illness. And, both within a few months of each other.
Moving on to high school meant no longer entering school doors daily that reminded the class of 2016 that their friends were gone. Dealing with death is never easy. Ever. But dealing with it at such a tender age, especially when it is a peer, is almost unthinkable.
While I can only speak for our experience with my son’s friend, the seventh of every month brings Facebook comments about missing Connor Albright. It is only through her son’s death that I now know his Mom and I lend the support the only way I know how: letting her know that we have not forgotten him and that we continue to pray that God eases the burden of loss.
On Connor Albright’s birthday last month, his Mom went to his gravesite early. She posted that she just couldn’t handle visiting him on the actual day. When I read her post, I was home. I cried like a baby. Not only did it break my heart that her child was gone, but that her burden was still heavy. The loved ones he left behind were still grieving. The world is a little less brighter because he is gone and their lives changed forever. I met Connor once and he left such a wonderful impression on me. I know that he entered the hearts of everyone who knew him, my son included. To love him daily during his life was a privilege, one that I know his family felt.
My son Connor is now a freshman in high school. My husband and I are looking at each other wondering if there was some sort of fast forward on our lives. Wasn’t he just starting kindergarten? Unlike some other school years, he seems to have embraced entering high school. Like many boys, he doesn’t really seem to enjoy school other than when he socializes. I sometimes wonder if he is so willing to go on to high school because of his loss.
Along with two friends, my Connor visited Connor Albright’s grave on his birthday. They shouldered the burden of grief together, the three of them, so that someone else’s grief may be lessened slightly that day. As always, we never know the reactions our actions will have. We simply hope that what we say and do impacts someone else in a positive way.
We miss you Connor Albright. But, we’re doing our best to move on without forgetting either.