I was running errands Monday when I got a tearful call from my 15-year-old daughter. One of her closest friends, Megan, had suffered a terrible tragedy–her mother had suffered a heart attack and died that morning.
Grace had just turned 49. She was healthy. She‘d felt a bit uncomfortable and short of breath over the weekend. Her husband had convinced her she should go to the doctor on Monday. But just hours before her scheduled appointment, she collapsed. She died at the hospital just a short while later.
Megan and my daughter Melanie have been friends since before kindergarten. Their circle of friends is always together. Melanie spends a lot of time at Megan’s, and Megan is at our house just as often.
Grace was an active volunteer in our public school when the kids were small. The last several years, she’s taught elementary school English as a Second Language to kids who were also often challenged with learning disabilities. She was always bigger than life–wisecracking, laughing, happy, with a little sarcasm and chutzpah thrown in. She was a huge sports fan–especially the Blackhawks and the Cubs.
My neighbors and fellow PTA moms have rallied around the family, setting up a fund at the bank for the kids, a meal schedule and more. My daughter was at their house last night, and when I picked her up, I spoke to Grace’s husband Todd. He told me “what a great neighborhood we have”–his house was full of friends who did not want to let this family grieve alone, for which he was extremely grateful.
I saw Megan Monday night, where she and perhaps forty of her friends (including my daughter) had gathered at a park in our neighborhood to be together, to cry and pray. She ran up to my car to hug me through the window, and I looked her in the eyes. I told her that she could call me whenever she wanted, that she was always welcome at our home (as she always has been) and that she should call me if she needed anything. “You’re such a mom, Mrs. Kent,” she told me. Exactly. When a child in your neighborhood loses a parent, it is the duty of the rest of us to do what we can to step in, to be as much of a mom as we can to her.
I will make meals, and donate to the fund for the family. But I will also be a neighbor, in the best sense of that word, in the way that people in my neighborhood do. We will, together, love this family. And I love knowing that I can do my part while knowing that others in my village will also step up. Together, we are called to love, and as Grace would say, damn, we’re good at that.