unmoving tragedy

She and I shared a birthday.

March 27.

Every time birthdays came up in conversation she would remind me that ours was on the same day.

She expressed displeasure that I would be gone on maternity leave for our birthday.

Then she dropped my class.

She told me she loved me as a teacher, but just “sort of hated” Spanish class.

And there was the whole being switched to 3rd hour with none of her friends.

That bummed her out.

But she still made sure to stop and see me in the hall.

To pat my growing baby bump.

To tell me she missed me and my stories.

She had the weirdest sense of humor.

Like “laugh out loud and the goofiest stuff” sense of humor.

She never minded asking questions before thinking about them.  And then if we laughed, she laughed too.

“Mrs. Sluiter!  You’re getting HUGE!”

That is one of the last things I remember her saying to me back in March.

“Have a good baby!” she would say and then crack herself up.

Boys were a distraction she found hilarious.

Not shy, she would tell any guy he was being a dweeb.

Although she would never say “dweeb,” but she would totally laugh all hour long if she heard ME say “dweeb”.

I don’t know what to do when these things happen.

I tend to get obsessive.

Clicking every. single. link. to make sure it’s really her.

And feeling my stomach turn each time she smiles back at me through my screen.

I hold my boys’ faces in my hands…too long.  They wiggle away.

I am all to aware of the “away” part.

My heart longs to yell, “DON’T EVER GET IN A CAR WHERE ANYONE HAS BEEN DRINKING!  EVER!”

But they are too little yet to understand.

However I am painfully aware of how fast they grow up.

She was 15.

On March 27.

Kids know from very, VERY young that drinking and driving don’t mix.

They KNOW.

But just a couple weeks ago I watched, on the Today Show, as kids who KNOW got into a car with someone pretending to be drunk.

I remembering wishing I could share this with my students.

Because it was them that I thought of first.

I am so tired of tragedy.

It crawls in my heart and sits like an overweight sloth.

Unmoving.

Cumbersome.

My life is so wonderful.

I am blessed in so many ways.

And yet…

Tragedy is shredding people I care about.

And I can’t help but be affected by it.

I keep stepping into the shoes of mothers who have lost.

I want to kick off the shoes.

I want to be an unfeeling ass.

Wouldn’t that be easier than this?

Time moves so quickly for me.  My boys grow so fast.

And yet for those mothers, time has all but stopped.

She was 15.

She will always be 15.

I will miss your smile, Krysta.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. Oh I am so sorry. I agree, it is terribly hard not to step in the shoes of mothers who have lost.

  2. I am so sorry. I too fear for my children and pray for others.

  3. NotJustAnotherJennifer says

    Oh, Katie, I’m so sorry. That’s tragic. This was a beautiful tribute to her. I love how you kept it real with the line about being an unfeeling ass. It’s what makes us great women, great mothers, great writers – that empathy. But life really would be so much less heartbreaking if we were lacking in that department sometimes. Hugs.

  4. stefne koo says

    I yelled at my brother and sister today after I heard about it, I said I don’t give two shits if you think you’ll be in trouble if you call our parents or me for a ride if you or someone else is drinking, it’s a lot better than putting us through having to bury you and mourn the rest of our lives. It makes me so angry, what are these kids thinking?! They no better, this is one of those things you are always told from a young age and never stop being told, why would you ignore it, it just puzzles me Sluita Gir.

  5. Oh no! My heart is hurting for their families and for you and everyone touched by this. xo

  6. When these tragedies happen, I desperately want to know what to tell my child to prevent it from happening to her. How do we fix this? How do we stop it for our children? And I know that I can only tell her a million times about not getting into a car with a drunk driver and hope that she’ll listen to me. Hope that she realizes she isn’t invincible. None of us are.

    Sending prayers to those affected. Including you. This was a beautiful tribute. Haunting. <3

  7. That is an absolute tragedy and I got teary eyed reading this. Thinking of my kids asleep upstairs in their beds. My oldest only a few short years away from a driver’s license. A knot in my stomach. The poor parents. And you, her teacher. How do you deal with this? It’s impossible. I’m so very sorry for your loss and theirs. 🙁

  8. You did an eloquent job writing this post. I feel your sorrow. I feel your pain. I feel like I even knew Krysta a little bit through your words. Thinking and praying for you, her family, and your community during this time of sorrow. Gina

  9. I am so very sorry for your loss. Tragedy like this terrifies me, even more so now that my oldest is 12. He’s dangerously close to that age when he is out making decisions for himself and my heart just can’t handle that.

  10. Oh sweetie. Hugs to you and prayers to her family.

  11. So heartbreaking! I just can’t imagine, hope I never have to know, and pray for those who do know. You wrote a beautiful piece!

  12. That is just awful. Those last lines? Stab me right in the heart. My first husband was killed by a drunk driver. He will always be 25.

    Prayers to her family and all of you that are affected by this preventable, stupid tragedy.

    Hugs those boys close.

  13. I’m hugging my boys closer, and Krysta in my heart. I’m so sorry for your loss, Katie. Oh, how much less will our hearts break if we’re unfeeling asses. But we’re not, you’re not and that’s what makes you YOU. May she rest in peace.

  14. So sorry, Katie, so sorry. I’ll be praying for all involved. 🙁

  15. I don’t even know what to say except that I am so very sorry and am thinking of you and her family.

  16. My heart hurts for you, Katie . . . so very much. She sounds like quite the individual. What a waste 🙁

  17. Heartbreaking. So many prayers. xo

  18. So tragic, Katie. I’m so very sorry.

  19. I’ve been where you are right now…the teacher stepping into the shoes of a mother of one of my lost students.

    I would do anything. Any. Single. Thing. Or all of them. All the things. To not actually be that mother.

    And yet I’m sure Krysta’s mother would have too.

    So.

    We are left with our sadness, our words, our sense of disbelief even in the face of the knowledge that it can happen. It does.

    I’m so sorry. For them. For you.
    For all of us.

    There is nothing scarier than loving this much.

  20. oh, so sorry to hear, Kate. so, so sorry.

  21. Kate, I am so sorry to hear of this. The unfortunate part is that I know exactly how you must feel right now. In January, my sister, who just turned 17 was killed in a car accident. She was not drinking, but she was driving at a high rate of speed and was not wearing her seat belt. I don’t know how many time’s I’ve gone over it my head, the last conversation I had with her or the advice I would give her. As teenagers we all did stupid things. It’s not until we are much older (and wiser) that we can look back and think how stupid we were. If only we could hold up a sign that says “I HAVE THE ANSWERS THAT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE” AND that these kids would listen, the world would be a much better place. I wish everyday that these kids we know and love would stop being teenagers for one second and listen to what we have to say. Even though the rules are engraved in your brain about not drinking and driving, not getting in a car with someone who has been drinking, or wearing your seatbelt, they do it anyways. We can only hope that the students in your school will learn from this very very tragic mistake and really listen when we say not to get in a car when someone has been drinking. Because of Krysta and my sister, these teenagers might actually stop and think about what they are doing now. We can only hope. Again, I am so sorry to hear that another bright future has been lost….

    • Sorry, I meant to write KATIE, not Kate 🙂

    • Mollie, I want you to know that I’ve lost a sibling in a car crash, as well. He was just 17. And it was a January. His accident was due to an icy bridge, but still – could he have been more careful? Maybe. Could the minivan who hit him have been going slower? possibly. I can’t live in that ‘what if’ though – because I lost my brother.
      It’s been 18 years now. He’s been gone longer than he was alive. And there are days that it gets easier, days when I’m buckled to my knees.
      I just want you to know I’m thinking of you and I’m sorry for the loss of your sister.
      -mommakiss

  22. The loss of a student weighs so heavily on a teacher’s soul. I think many people forget the heartache we endure on a daily basis–listening to tales of parent’s walking out, hearing how they went hungry, or dealing with the grief when a life is lost. I am so sorry for this terrible and senseless tragedy. She was lucky to have had a teacher like you.

  23. I am so sorry. I haven’t lost a student from my teaching days. I did have someone I taught swimming to die of a congential decease. That was heartbreaking and I had taught her long. I couldn’t imagine loosing a student that I had day in and out for a year or semester.

  24. My heart goes out to you and the families involved. Because as much as I’d sometimes also like to be an unfeeling ass, it’s impossible in situations like these. I only know her through your beautiful writing and I’ve shed tears. I can only imagine how hard this is for you.

  25. I’m so sorry to hear about this-just heart breaking.

  26. i saw this on the news.
    My heart broke before I even knew that this impacted you.
    Such a tragedy.
    Big hugs to you and to all who were touched by this tragedy.

  27. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Our hearts and prayers are with you and your community.

  28. So sorry for your loss…sounds like the two of you really had a connection. Just know that you made each other smile – and keep telling her story, it might help another teen along the way.

  29. This just breaks my heart. Sending my prayers to you, her family and everyone that is connected with this tragedy.

  30. This brought tears. I’m so very sorry for this loss, to you, her family and friends.

  31. I am so sorry, Katie. They are young and invincible and they don’t get that one tiny mistake can have deadly consequences. I feel for her family and friends, and for you. Makes you want to never send your kids out in the world. Ever.

  32. This is heartbreaking. Just completely heartbreaking. xo

  33. Oh so unbelievably heartbreaking. Thanks for sharing a bit of her memory with us Katie. My heart aches for her family and everyone who loves her.

  34. Oh this made me so so sad. 🙁 A parent should never have to bury a child. EVER!

  35. It’s so hard to be a part of so many young lives – and to be witness to some of them ending too soon. This is a wonderful remembrance of Krysta. Thank you for sharing it.

  36. Katie, friend, I knew you were a great teacher – and can only imagine that love you have for your ‘kids.’ And, your kids.
    That love, so fierce, you never ever want to let them out of your sight. Ever. At 3, at 13, at 33?! I swear, I don’t know how I’m going to manage.
    I’m sorry for your loss, and for her family.
    15.
    Incredibly too young.

  37. Oh my goodness. HOw sad. I have chills all over my body after reading your heart wrenching post.

  38. Very powerful post. Sorry you lost your former student, a family a daughter and the community the future. So sad..Hope people read this and remember the next time someone has a drink….

  39. I don’t know you, never knew your student, yet I know all too well this pain. I’m a school counselor for a 7-12 building in a rural district in Ohio. In the span of 6 years we have lost 3 students, 2 parents, and one faculty member to car accidents. I pray often for a year without a tragic phone call. There are no answers for the “why” questions that my students searching eyes ask. No reasons for this pain. We just hold each other and push through. Many hugs from my corner of the heart-shaped state to you.

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  1. […] weird.  It started with a drunk driving accident that ended up claiming the life of two students (one whom I had in class) from the school where I […]