Friday, September 26, 2014

Eighth Graders Learn About Alzheimer's From a Classmate

Picture of me and my husband on lanyard
It was the 23rd of September several days ago. Three months ago my husband had died (June 23). I choose to wear black that day and had a small picture of us on my lanyard with my Kelly substitute badge. I told the students the day marked three months since my husband had died. One student made me this thoughtful tribute that said, "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but happiness leaves memories no one can steal!"

It also was an unexpected day in sixth period with one more period to go. I was with another teacher in a fused class. (I worked with her in her class 2nd and 6th periods.) An announcement came on the intercom:
"Modified Lockdown" we heard.

As a substitute I did not know the procedure. The regular teacher covered the door window and put a sign on the bottom that said "safe". She started a discussion that included car accidents and life and death and reputations. She made the eighth graders think about eulogies and what they might want others to think about them when they die. Another announcement came on the intercom.

"Full Lockdown." We would not go on to seventh 
period but stay in 6th period for safety. 

We would have a lot of time with the students. I told the story of my crash with my late husband and how grateful I was that I had more time with him and he wasn't killed; I mentioned briefly his Alzheimer's. The students sat quietly and I looked out the window from the second story. I saw a security officer in the parking lot with the buses lined up ready to take the students home. Overhead a helicopter was circling the school. We let students who had cell phones text their parents to say they were okay and would be home late. 

Rita (not her real name) raised her hand high and wanted to tell the story of her grandmother who took care of her when she was a preschooler.  Rita was the youngest in her family and her mother worked. That grandmother was fun and loved people--her siblings and cousins and all family members.  

One day when Rita was four she was driving in the car with her grandmother and they had a crash. Her grandmother ended up in the hospital and after that crash went down hill steadily, as the granddaughter tells it. When Rita then went to elementary school, the grandmother would call any young girl "Rita", but did not recognize the real Rita, her own granddaughter who was so attached to her. Eventually the grandmother went to live in a facility, not able to walk and take care of herself.  The grandmother died when Rita was eleven and sometimes she and her mother visit the grave. She was not ashamed to cry in the classroom and the students listened attentively to her story.

That day the reality of Alzheimer's
came to 13 and 14 year olds 
from their classmate Rita. 

There had been a rumor that someone had brought a gun to the school. After the school had been searched, several security officers unlocked our door and we were able to leave about 5 PM.  Security lined the halls as the students walked out of the building to the buses. Even when I walked to my car there were security along the way—I suppose in case someone would open up and fire a weapon -- then that security could restrain him/her. Two TV channels had their vans outside the school and this incident was on the local news. 

Security lined my path to my car at the end of that  day. 
As for me, I reflected on Rita's poignant story of her grandmother, and was grateful no incident had happened at the school. After a quick supper I went on to my evening grief support group. 


  1. I wonder if the students found it comforting that the other teacher was sharing stories about life and death? Was anyone able to share the Gospel? It must have been very frightening for everyone and so sad that our government has tried to silence Christians in the schools.

  2. Actually Rita and I mentioned that her grandmother and my husband had Christian beliefs and are with our LORD and that comforts us. The other teacher also shared her faith with this topic. The students only began to think about life and death. I can't remember thinking about such topics when I was in eighth grade.

    1. Praise God that He gave you courage to share about the Lord, Carol! Seed was sown and we pray that the Lord will use your words and the situation to draw them to Him.

  3. Did you get paid extra, Carol, for having to stay later until 5 p.m.? Although the lockdown was scary, just think of what a wonderful opportunity you had to share what you did about your husband and your journey with his Alzheimer's as well as "Rita" being able to share what she did. Who knows what type of seed got planted into any of the kids in the class listening who might need the information heard that day during some tough time of their lives dealing loved ones with dementia. I am glad all were safe though!

    Something you'll remember for a very long time!


    1. I made a note on my Kelly time sheet, but I doubt we get paid extra. Our conversation with the students made the hours in the classroom interesting for everyone. We didn't have a bathroom in the classroom and couldn't let anyone out of the locked classroom.