FINDING HUMOR IN GRIEF:
This is a very sad and very funny true story of how Dr. Ruth learned to push past the grief of losing her husband of 45 years. It’s also her spiritual journey to draw closer to God, while finding the “new normal” for daily living.
I thought it impossible to survive without him because there were too many tasks, decisions, plans that he alone managed. As I shared with close friends my struggle to accomplish left-brain tasks previously foreign to me, they laughed heartily.
I saw that grief had a funny side. Each segment of my book tells a different aspect of my journey to successfully function without Waverly. I reveal my intimate thoughts and actions in a stream-of-conscience writing style, rather than to tell my story in chronological order. Most experiences are highly amusing, but for times when I found no humor, I created a chapter called “Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This.” Writing this book was cathartic for me, but I also wanted to connect with readers who are mourning like I am. Humor is excellent medicine for the ailing mind, body and soul.
I apologized to a dear friend for naively thinking that grieving over the loss of her husband was something that diminished in time. I foolishly likened her grief to a wound that looked awfully painful at first, but got better each day until only a tiny scar remained. I now know that these distinct scars will never disappear, and that coping with grief is the only way to find a measure of happiness again. It’s called a “new normal.”
I’ve learned that grief is like a roller coaster, where the ride never ends, and the goal is to find the courage to let go your grip of the safety bar and raise your arms high in the air, as you “free fall” with confidence that you’ll land safely, in your right mind.
Chapter Six – “Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This!”
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
The day before what would have been my forty-fifth wedding anniversary was the second most tear-filled day since Waverly died. I woke up that morning, kneeling for my usual prayer thanking God for another day, and promising to be productive and patient. But before I could utter a word, I started sobbing and shouting, “So what’s next? What happens now? What is it that you want me to do alone that I couldn’t do with Waverly, God What do you want of me? WHAT?!!”
I know we’re not supposed to talk to God like that, but the “one day-one blessing at a time” thing wasn’t working for me. Wasn’t I able to fulfill my divine purpose in life while standing next to Waverly? I went from my parents’ home to my husband’s home, so God must have known that I wasn’t meant to be alone! What was He thinking?
I didn’t thank Him for my daily abundance of blessings, and I didn’t pray for anyone else that day. I must have shown the minimum respect by saying “Amen,” but cried getting dressed and walking Lucky. I cried because I couldn’t find the Staples coupon for the ink cartridge I needed, and then because I couldn’t find one sneaker. I made it a point to keep busy with a number of tasks, but wiped away the steady stream of tears while doing them all. I got angry with myself because I made my eyes puffy, and then I cried about that.
By late evening, I felt terrible about the way I had behaved all day. God could have sent me a stern message, borrowing a line in the movie, Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ ta ME?” I owed Him a more gracious prayer that night, and I knew I had better pray for someone besides my sorry self! Tomorrow would be better.
I knelt down and bowed my head, thanking God especially for this day that tested my faith, understanding and patience. I thanked Him for the profusion of love from my family and friends, and for allowing me almost forty-five years with my true love. I thanked God for taking Waverly so quickly and painlessly, without his lingering or experiencing discomfort or losing his dignity. We can’t choose our exit from this life, but if we could, we’d opt for a quick and painless transition like my Waverly encountered.
I promised to try to follow His spiritual path by faith, since I couldn’t see the plan right then. Patience was never my strength, and I confessed to God that I regretted ever having lost patience with my husband. I began wailing again!
A soft voice inside of me caused me to make another promise to God: “Since I can’t change anything I did or said before Waverly died, I WILL go forward consciously TRYING to exercise daily patience with everyone around me.” I drew comfort from the thought of replacing that guilt with a commitment to change something unflattering about myself. Before rising, I asked God to help me keep my patience pledge. I heard HIM say in response, “Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This.”“Amen. Amen.”
Based on true events, this book is a charter school principal’s struggle against a powerful group of affluent racists, determined to negatively impact the lives of minority children, parents and teachers. When the principal thwarted their bully tactics, they enlisted help from her superiors to end her career.
This book appeals to educators who face the challenges of teaching a rigorous curriculum to children with differing abilities and needs. They must deal with parents, supervisors, and the larger community; but theynever expect to witness preferential treatment being given to select colleagues or families, due to the unfair influence of powerful people. The author calls these shameless people “hoodless” because of their blatant displays of discrimination without worry of hiding their faces.
This book appeals to new and aspiring administrators wanting to know what it’s really like to be a principal. In no graduate course can they teach how to make split-second decisions, sometimes in the face of corruption within and outside of the school system. To the author and the protagonist in the story, core values and integrity must never be compromised, even at the cost of losing a position.
This book appeals to parents who always need to look out for their children’s education, no matter how good the school system purports to be. Sometimes, we think that once we’ve moved into a good neighborhood, or put our kids into charter schools, we can trust that our children will be taken care of. Not true!
CHAPTER ONE – A Loathsome Letter
I had been Principal of Pine Woods Charter Elementary School a few months when my boss, Area Superintendent, Larry Leonard rushed into my office and closed the door. Larry was an ordinary looking man, a little older and taller than I, with thinning hair that was shades of gray, and unsuccessfully covered his balding dome. He had terrible- looking teeth when he grinned, and he grinned often because he had a wonderful sense of humor. We jokingly compared his thick New England accent to my pronounced New York accent among so many Southern drawls.
Larry appreciated my thirty-eight years of experience in education, trading “war stories” on some of his visits to my school, and earning the respect of all one hundred, fifty staff members who paid extra attention whenever he was in the building. He was someone whom folks genuinely wanted to please, because he spoke to everyone and gave quick feedback when he observed teachers in classrooms.
But today, he was official, bringing his subordinate a complicated problem that needed urgent attention. He passed me a letter and then sat quietly while I read it. The format was an email from one of my parents to Larry Leonard and a dozen other parents connected to Pine Woods Charter Elementary School:
To the Concerned Citizens for a Better Shady Brook Community,
Since the arrival of Dr. Grace Middleton, Pine Woods Charter Elementary School has been on a slippery slope to destruction. All that we worked so hard to achieve when we became a charter school is getting away because she knows nothing about us, nor how we do things here.
Our children are no longer being grouped properly into classes, and we want to see a blueprint of next year’s schedule to prove that she knows how to do that correctly. Classes are overcrowded, which we all know is not conducive to learning. Our By-Laws protect us from high numbers, but she’s disregarding that by allowing too many students to enroll. Teachers are teaching to the state test instead of what our kids need and the noise level in the halls and the cafeteria is out of control! Staff stopped enforcing the discipline or uniform policies that are part of our charter.
We’ve had a huge exodus of teachers since Middleton arrived and we hear more are planning to leave. Her credentials and communication skills are questionable. She’s not professional! Please meet Wednesday night at my home at 7:00 p.m. so we can send a message to Middleton and take back our school before it’s too late. Y’all know my house. Glad that we’re coming together to save our kids!