Moving on Without Forgetting

Written By: Kim - Sep• 08•12

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.


Goodbye Friend

Written By: Kim - Nov• 13•11

This weekend, we said goodbye to a good friend of my son’s. Between the viewing and the funeral, I am not sure who was more of a wreck; me or my son. We stayed at the viewing for about three hours. The teen friends who attended the viewing were simply amazing. They cried, but they consoled each other. When a new wave of teens arrived, the ones who had already been to see Connor Albright embraced them and led them through the steps. It was leadership and humanity at its best.

Connor Bingham Albright, 08/28/97 - 11/07/11

The morning of the funeral, I found myself amazingly composed. I managed not to turn in to a water faucet until they shut the lid of Connor Albright’s coffin. The complete sense of closure and goodbye overwhelmed me. I haven’t cried that hard since I buried a friend’s son in 2006 or my Mom in 2002. As a mother, this sight broke my heart.

The church’s pastors and the Air Force chaplain were amazing. They remained composed and comforted us with their words. It always amazes me that during times of mourning our clergy comfort us so. I always find the strength to continue forward. They reminded us that mourning is ok. It is part of the grieving process. They reminded us that Connor’s soul is on the other side and that it should be our goal to embrace Jesus to make sure we are reunited with him one day.

The family’s grief counselor asked all of Connor’s friends to stand. She spoke to them words of encouragement and consolation. She told them that Connor took great joy in his friendship with them and that they should never forget that. She reminded them that is was ok to continue to speak about him and talk to his family about their memories of Connor. 

She also told the teens that in the darkest hours of the night when the family awoke in grief, it comforted them tremendously to see Connor’s friends commenting on his Facebook page.

Connor’s brother said his account received over 300 friend requests when news of his death broke. He accepted them all because his family wanted to stay in touch with the kids so they would know what was going on. Social media served us well during a crisis.

The counselor then went on to read the most amazing letter from Connor’s family. They spoke to the community: the teachers, grief counselors, friends and finally, directly to Connor. As she laid her hand on Connor’s coffin and read the closing part of the letter, the family told Connor they were not mad at him. That they understood that sometimes the adolescent brain does not connect the permanency of death with actions. They told him is baby brother, to be born in January 2012, will know him just as they do. It was the second time that morning that I cried so hard my shoulders shook. None of us ever wish to write words of condolence, but the family’s eloquence and simple heartfelt message to the community and their son during their time of unimaginable sorry was just beautiful.

It was clear that the teen friends of Connor Albright needed this closure. As I was viewing the Facebook stream yesterday afternoon, the children commented that the finally thought everything would be all right. The sun will come out tomorrow and thank you Connor Albright for reminding us of that.