He quietly came into my first hour each day, still shrugging off sleep at 7:30am.

‘Morning, Mrs. Sluiter.

He took his place against the wall in the back.  Chatting with his neighbors.

Slowly waking up his contagious smile.

After lunch he always breezed into my room again…this time to chat with his friends before hurrying to his fifth hour.

You have me again this hour, Mrs. Sluiter.  Or at least you wish you did, don’t you?  Miss me yet?

He ran track.

He had lots of friends.

He was nice to everyone.

I wonder…

did he love to run when he was a toddler?

did his mother have to chase him in stores and through the yard?

did he have that easy smile when he was young or did he hide behind his mother’s legs?

did his mom count his fingers and toes and gaze into his eyes when he was born?

did she tousle his hair as she tucked him in at night?

did he like to hear the same book over and over every night before bed?

did he have chubby toddler hands and elbows when he was small?

did he make his mom presents in school?

did he always make friends so easily?

did he always work so hard?

did he tell his family he loved them often?  What about that day?

did his mom tell him to be careful when he went to the pool knowing he couldn’t swim and worrying about him?

did he hug his friends?  his family?

did he know who loved him?


he should be taking driver’s ed and worrying about pimples.

he should be keeping in shape for another season of track.

he should be thinking about his junior year.

he should be with his friends enjoying a free summer.

he should be.  but he’s not.

I better have you for Spanish 2, Mrs. Sluiter.  Or I might just switch to French.  Just kidding!

On the last day of school he walked out of the room with everyone else.

It was first hour so they all had five more “lasts” to go.  Mine wasn’t all that special.

But he waved.

Have a great summer, Mrs. Sluiter!

“You guys have a super summer too!  Come back safe to me in the fall!”

my heart is so full of sadness.

he was someone’s friend, cousin, nephew…but all I can think about is how he was someone’s son.

someone’s little boy.

someone’s joy.

he was a newborn swaddled and smelling fresh.

he was a curious toddler

he was a big boy starting school.

he was an awkward middle schooler.

he was a well-liked, athletic, friendly high school student.

the list shouldn’t have to stop there.

it just shouldn’t.

my heart and prayers go out to all who knew him…but mostly?

I am thinking and praying for his family.

Specifically his mother.

she shouldn’t have to bear this.

this shouldn’t be how life is.

mothers outliving sons.

mothers with empty arms.

it just shouldn’t be.


my heart and prayers go to V’s family and friends.

i will miss his face…and his smile.

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.


  1. Oh Kate: that is so horrible. I’m so sorry. I’m going to hug my kid extra hard when she returns to me tomorrow.

  2. I’m so sorry… for you and for your student’s family and friends.

  3. It shouldn’t be how life is. And ever since I became a mother, I feel these losses. Deeply. Even when I didn’t know the person involved. Because I know how broken I would be if it were my child. And I cry for those mothers. So, so sad! I’m sorry, Katie!

  4. I can’t stop the tears. I don’t even know this kid, but he was someone’s baby. Just like my babies. This is so horribly sad. So sad.

  5. TheNextMartha says

    Just so sad. Extra hugs for kids and virtual one for you.

  6. I was there when a boy his age drowned in a lake at senior skip day. It was horrifying.

    Now, as a parent, it’s even more horrifying. If that’s even possible.

    Beyond sad. Thoughts to you and his family..

  7. This is incredibly sad. I am sorry for his family and friends and all of the people he touched (including you). I hear these stories, and while they’ve always been tragic, as a parent I find them unfathomable 🙁

  8. My daughter is in the 9th grade. Four months ago, a boy in her homeroom whom she was also friends with, died in a car accident on his way to school. Having to explain, Why? to my daughter was impossible.

    I am so sorry for your loss. Children leaving this world is inexplicable.

  9. How tragic. God bless that young man and his family.

  10. My heart is so saddened by this, Katie. I know you must feel emptiness. And I, too, thought of his Mom and her now empty arms. It doesn’t matter how old they are, a Mom still holds her children in her arms. And she shouldn’t ever have to let go. Not like this.

  11. I’m sorry! That’s so sad. As teachers, we experience such awesomeness and sadness. I remember when I taught preschool and one of the 3 yo mom had passed away. It broke my heart. Prayers for you, your students and his family!

  12. Wow, talk about spinning you in to perspective. Losing a student impacts…but a son, I can’t even imagine or dare to. My prayers go out for you and V’s family. A lovely post to express such mind spinning emotions. I am truly sorry.

  13. Katie, I am so sorry for your loss. Now that I am a mom, stories like this just break my heart. My baby son is swaddled, sleeping in my arms as I attempt to type this. I’m going to close the laptop now and hold him extra tight. My prayers are with you and the boy’s family.

  14. oh, Katie… I can’t–or won’t? imagine it. The loss. The unbearable wrongness of it.

    I’ll ask my angel to keep an eye out for him.

  15. Heather M says

    Oh Kate I am so sorry. My heart aches for you and V’s family. It is never easy when you lose someone you care about. And its even harder when you are left wanting to know why and left to wonder how they would have spent the next ten years. It is never fair when someone loses someone when they are young. They had there whole lives ahead of them and now the mothers and father and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and friends are all left with emptyness in their hearts and in their arms. As a mother my heart goes out to V’s mom. My thoughts and prayers are with you and V’s family!!

  16. Katie…..I have no words.

    But the way you wrote this, with so many references to your rough day the other day?

    Really puts in all into perspective for all mothers. We have tough days, we have days we want to throw in the towel. But in the end, we just WANT our kids here and safe. And I am all teary that he isn’t for this mom.

  17. That is so awful. I saved my younger sister from drowning once…20 years later, it’s still vivid and terrifying.

    Hugs to you, and my thoughts to the family.

    We should never have to bury our own children.

  18. Sadness.

    And love to those who deserve and need it.

    But much, much sadness.

  19. So sorry for his family and friends, many of whom are having their first experience of loss. Sorry for you as well. Many people don’t realize how deeply most teachers care for their students.

  20. It shouldn’t, no. I’m so sad for his family, his mother, and for you. He clearly touched your life in some way. I’m so sorry.

    Such a beautiful tribute. Love ya xoxo

  21. What a jolting-me-awake-and-straight-into-severe-gratitude for my chidren’s health and safety in this moment right here right now. Thank you for that. I am so sorry for the loss of this boy, but what a poignant mother’s eye view of who loved him you wrote.

  22. Oh Katie, I can’t stop the tears. My heart is breaking. This is so sad and certainly no mother should have to deal with. Many thoughts, prayers and hugs to everyone involved.

  23. I am so sorry for you and V’s loved ones left behind. We shouldn’t ever have to bury our children.

  24. Kim at Let Me Start By Saying says

    When I first saw your words, the next breath I took I could smell my son’s skin and hair and little boy sweat though he was sleeping in his room. That connectIon. I simply can’t imagine what V’s family is dealing with. I am so sorry for your loss, and am sending some peace your way.please share it with his family, your community.

  25. so sad. it’s never easy, no matter how old you are. whether they are your age, younger, older. praying for his family and mama.

  26. I think of all the ways we as mothers try so hard to keep our babies safe (and they are always our babies no matter how old they get) and to see this just breaks my heart. That poor mama. That poor family. My thoughts and prayers are with all of them tonight.

  27. Prayers to you and his family.

  28. This is very sad. I’m sorry for you, his family, all the students. Everyone. This isn’t how life should go.

  29. I just get sick to my stomach with the intensity of this.

    Just sick.

    I am so sorry.

  30. I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine the incredible loss his mother feels. Sending out healing vibes for her tonight

  31. my heart is aching & my eyes are filled with tears for you, his friends, family, all who love him, and most especially his parents… just over 10 years ago we lost my 16yo cousin when his truck crashed into a tree… 2weeks after receiving his driver’s license … a parent shouldn’t have to bury a child. it’s just not right. I know it’s possible to put the pieces that are left back together, but it will never be the same, one important piece will always be missing, and that piece will always be remembered. I’ll be keeping all who knew & love him in my thoughts & prayers Katie … I’m so sorry for the loss all will be feeling. I understand the pain & grief. sending love & hugs your way.

  32. I am so sorry. For you, for your students, for his family. So, so sorry.

  33. Praying for you, Kate. And for his family.

  34. Oh I’m so sorry for this family, oh Katie, my heart is broken for you and for his family.

    Sending love and hugs to you and his family.

    Oh the tears. I just can’t imagine.

  35. My heart goes out to you and all who had the honor of knowing him.

  36. So incredibly sad. My thoughts are with you and his family.

  37. I’m really sorry Kate, for you, for his friends and of course his family.:( This was a beautiful tribute to his memory.

  38. This is heartbreaking. I can’t imagine. Just a week or two ago, a 16-yr-old boy in my hometown was killed on a school trip. Such a waste.

  39. I understand. This is your loss too. Our thoughts are with his friends and family and the important people in his life that care about him. So sorry.

  40. Oh, this is just so heartbreaking, Katie. A mother’s grief is so hard to carry. I pray for his family that they know so many have their arms wrapped around them.

  41. Your beautiful words.
    Raw, honest and painful.
    Straight from your heart Katie, you touched his life, one of his Earth Angels.
    Now he smiles down on you – one of your Angels in Heaven.

  42. The weight of his loss is unbearable.

    I am so, so sorry. Prayers for all who love him, and yes, especially his mom.

  43. After I reply to this, I’m going to maul my son with hugs and kisses. Ugh, my prayers are with him and his family and to all the people that cared for him.

  44. So well-written and intense that I’m nauseous. Thoughts and prayers to everyone who is touched by this horrible loss.

  45. so so so sad. This brings back many memories. Of a boy gone too soon. Out on his lunch break with his girlfriend, icy roads, never to return to that school. my brother, a son, a soul taken too soon in an accident.

  46. I was so shocked and saddened when I read your tweet yesterday. I’m so, so sorry, Katie!

  47. I’m so sorry, Katie. And I send hugs to his family. How sad for them.
    How hard it must be to know these children for brief periods of their lives, and see one go unfinished. Hugs to you.

  48. My heart is with his parents, family, friends and teachers. I’m sorry for your loss, Katie.

  49. purseblogger says

    This breaks my heart. I feel so awful for his mom and family. My prayers are with them.

  50. Oh, how devastating. What a lovely memory & tribute you wrote in his honor. Prayers going out for his mom and other family & friends. For you too.

  51. i always think about my own babies when I hear of someone losing theirs, no matter what the age. The sadness is unimaginable. I am crying for this young man and his family’s loss. I am so sorry you are all going through this.

  52. Oh Kate, I’m so sorry. You are right… children shouldn’t go before parents. I can’t even imagine it. It makes me hug my children tighter and reminds me to tell them evey day how much I love them.
    {{Hugs to you}} xx

  53. I am sad beyond words for him. For his family.

    And also for you.

    Because I know how much teachers like you love their students. Love.

    Over the years, I have lost several students.

    I feel your pain. Deeply.

    But I have not felt the pain of his mother.

    That? Is unspeakable.

    So I hope for peace to come to all of you.
    And strength. And survival. And love.

    I’m so very sorry, Kate.

  54. By the way, this was an absolutely beautiful tribute.

    I hope his family reads it.

    They should see what you saw in him.

  55. (((((((((())))))))) I lost a former student this fall who was a 3rd grader. He died in a car accident with his mom, it’s hard.