The moment between innocence and knowing

On a different note, I  come back to the blog.  In the last few days, it’s hit me how a moment can change a life. How precious life is also has come to me. It sounds cliche, but sometimes it just whacks you on the head.

It’s not me, personally. Everything is fine. We prepare for the holidays, have over-shopped, making sure things are comfortable for us and our friends who are coming to join us. Yeah! It’s others. The end of the year often brings sadness for some reason. Winter, shutting down, things coming to an end.

On the playground the other day, I was on duty with several other teachers. It had just rained, and the pavement was slick and wet. Kids had been inside for the first reason and were so excited to be outside again. Basketball games, soccer games, attempting to climb wet play equipment, hula hoops, trains created from plastic boxes, skiing down a small slope, jump rope, tag games. The usual chaos.

There was a basketball collision, and two kids went down holding their head. My colleague, friend rushed to their aide and took them to the nurse. In a few minutes, one then the other came out smiling and resumed their play. She came out too and pointing to one of the kids, asked if I had heard about him and his family. I knew his mother was in critical condition, battling cancer. “She died this morning,” my colleague and friend said. “And he doesn’t know.”

He wore a red sweatshirt and a huge smile. He zipped around the basketball court, a flash of color in the gray day. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I had never seen him not smiling. He is 8, a typical 3rd grader. Happy to be outside. “And his Dad after recess is coming to pick him up and tell him,” my friend said.

I continued to watch his game and held back my tears. All I could think was that at that moment, he still believed he had a mother who was alive and fighting. I and my other colleagues were in charge of blowing the whistle to signal the end of recess, and I didn’t want it to end.

And then, his dad appeared on the playground, holding his little sister, a 5-year old. He looked fairly put together, holding it together, and he and his sister just watched him play. They were smiling, both of them. His son’s teacher, the counselor came up and gave him a hug. They continued to watch and smile. It was getting harder to hold back tears. 5 minutes left of recess. Keep playing, I thought. The moment has not come yet. We don’t need to blow the whistle. It hasn’t happened. And, then it was time. We couldn’t wait any longer. The whistle blew, and the boy walked over to his father and hugged him. I walked away with my class, trying to hold it together.

Life is so short. My Buddhist teachings always come back to me in times like that. It’s this moment that counts because the next moment, everything might be different. I saw that on the playground yesterday. I was reminded of it again this morning as I turned on Facebook and saw that a friend’s mother has passed away. Enjoy each moment.


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