76: The Light of Morning

76: The Light of Morning

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

The Light of Morning

Find a need and fill it.

~Ruth Stafford Peale

Thirty-two years ago my infant daughter quietly tiptoed into my life and then left as quickly as she came, seeing the light of only one morning. She arrived on a warm August evening and departed before the morning dew had a chance to settle on the pink roses outside my hospital window. Angela was nine hours and one minute old—but in my heart, she had lived a lifetime.

“She’s an angel,” my mother said, trying to console me.

My best friend said, “Now she’s with God.”

“She’s in a better place,” they all said.

I know everyone tried their best to make me feel better, but none of those well-meaning words worked for me. The mother in me wouldn’t accept them. I didn’t want an angel. And I didn’t want her in a better place. I wanted her here in my arms where she belonged.

I slowly began an uncharted journey down a long, painful path toward healing. Every morning I got out of bed and put one foot in front of the other, sometimes tripping over my own feet, sometimes slipping backward.

At times I walked the floors of shopping malls searching for a clue as to what had happened. Where did I think I would find the answer? In a bookstore? In a candle shop? In the children’s section of a department store? Did I think someone would emerge from the shadows and slip me a piece of paper explaining why this happened? No one ever approached me with an explanation; I never got that piece of paper. Walking helped anyway—and losing myself in the crowds.

Parks were good, too. I needed serenity and I went looking for it. I would sit for hours on the soft, green grass and run my fingers through patches of clover, looking for the good-luck ones with four leaves. Any little fragment of peace was welcomed. Then I would try to bottle up that feeling of tranquility and take it home with me, figuring I could keep it on a shelf somewhere for when I needed it.

My first-born, Maria, was seven years old at this time and my son, Christopher, four. When the new school year began, Maria entered third grade and Christopher started kindergarten. I shuddered to think of being home alone without them. So on the first day of school, I took my son by the hand and walked into his kindergarten room with him.

“Can I help you?” I asked his teacher, noticing that she was trying to do ten things at once. “Yes,” she replied without hesitation. I immediately took over the task of writing names on nametags.

I soon became a regular in the classroom—sharpening pencils, tying shoelaces, and setting up bulletin boards. I would read stories to the students at story time and found myself jumping headfirst into the book right along with the children. I loved being there. I had found a home.

It wasn’t long before the principal approached me, offering me a new position. “I’d like you to teach fifth grade,” she said, her nun’s veil shadowing the look of horror on my face.

“Teach fifth grade?” I heard my voice echo. “I—I don’t think so,” I stammered. “I’m not ready.” This would be a full-time assignment, and I wasn’t sure I could take on such an enormous responsibility at this time in my life. I was petrified. I needed time to think.

I did a lot of soul searching in the next few months. I would see the principal coming toward me from across the playground, and I would hurry in the opposite direction. I didn’t have an answer for her yet.

Finally, after much deliberation and prayer, I accepted the position of fifth grade teacher. My days were filled with lesson plans, classroom exercises, and recess duty. It wasn’t long before I knew that I had made the right decision. I loved teaching. And I loved learning. I learned something new every day from my students. I prayed daily that I had touched their lives as they had touched mine.

From time to time I would see a little girl skipping across the playground and suddenly remember a little girl who tugged at my soul one warm summer evening. My heart would skip a beat. Then I would realize how many children I had had the privilege of watching grow into beautiful, amazing adults since then. And my heart was full.

My once seven-year-old daughter is now a teacher and my kindergarten son is a psychologist. I feel an overwhelming sense of pride when I see the good things they are doing with their lives.

Leaving my teaching days behind, I visit my daughter’s classroom as a children’s author, reading one of my stories to her kinder-gartners. On my way to Room 23, I pass clumps of clover growing wild in patches of soft, green grass and realize that it’s been 32 years since I walked into my son’s kindergarten room and read to his class at story time. I feel I’ve come full circle.

On the days I want to have lunch with my son, I have to travel several freeways to get to the Big City. When I arrive at the quaint, outdoor restaurant where we are to meet, I can hardly wait to see him. Sharing a vegetarian pizza, I see that he is happy—and that makes me happy.

Traveling home, I think of the baby who quietly tiptoed into my life... leaving as quickly as she came. “She’s an angel who lives with God in a better place,” they said. Those words have come to resonate somewhere in my soul, echoing their truth.

There are still tears now and then when I think of what might have been, but there is also much joy knowing that Angela is a part of my life and always will be. I am grateful to her for coming into my life and leading me down paths that might never have been.

As a teacher and writer, I have found solace and beauty in the many students who have graced me with their presence throughout the years. These children have been my greatest teachers. And I am honored to have been a part of their lives.

And as a mother... I have found solace and beauty in the joyful wonder of my children. They are truly my greatest gifts. I feel honored to share my life with them.

My blessings continue to arrive daily in the light of every new morning. I awaken to the miracle of a brand-new day, welcoming the surprises and possibilities life has to offer me. And I am at peace.

~Lola Di Giulio De Maci

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