Thursday, January 30, 2014

School Bus

Katie and neighbors waiting for the kindergarten bus
I got caught behind a school bus on my way home from the grocery store yesterday. I followed it down our winding, tree-lined road. Did you know that I drove an elementary school bus for a year, a lifetime ago? I did. But that's another story.

At the first stop, a young girl got out. She might have been any age between 9 and 12 years. Someone stood a few feet ahead of her at the side of the road, then turned, and the two of them embraced. Mother and daughter? So it appeared:  the coming-home-from-school routine...oh, how I miss that!
Next stop:  a small girl, perhaps 6 or 7 years old, with dark boots worn over jeans, long, wavy, hair and petite glasses was greeted by a mom at the end of a driveway. They smiled and spoke to each other...and I was undone.
David and Katie, ready to walk to the bus stop with me
Never again:  those hard words. No matter that she would not be riding that bus now. No matter that she would be in college, at 18 - nearly 19 - years old. Those days of walking my children to and from the bus stop - a ritual which I loved - are gone. The days of blowing kisses to my children through the window, waving until the bus drove out of sight - are finished. They were never properly completed, in Katie's life. The last year of school she finished was the 6th grade.

Sobs rose from my core as I drove the rest of the way home. I thanked God for giving me the gift of my children, for the privilege of experiencing that bus stop routine with them. I asked Him to give her back to me. I don't mean today...but I long to be with her again.

When people think we are "over it," they are mistaken. We learn to live with our loss, but we are never more than a school bus stop away from a fresh upwelling of grief.


Kim Andersen said...

Motherhood is heartbreaking enough with its daily, weekly, yearly small losses as our kids grow up - I am so sorry for your added grief - having those incremental losses and departures all rolled into one big body slam of a moment in time - I wish I could give you a big hug right now

Maggie May said...

Karen I find that your loss of Katie grows even more poignant and painful for me as Lola is now 11, will be 12 in Feb, and is in 6th grade. I love that picture of her and her brother, her beautiful light, it is so obvious how loved and safe she was and felt. I am so sorry for the burden of missing her that you have to carry every second. I wish life was not like this, so random and unfair. Thankful that we have at least the option to love so deeply, even if the price it comes with seems at times unbearable.

Anonymous said...

"we are never more than a school bus stop away from a fresh upwelling of grief."

Tears. Deep breath. So well said.

Much love,

Robin Gaphni said...

What a beautiful, heartfelt post Karen. Yes, we are never more than a school bus stop away from that grief that catches at the back of our throat, completely unexpected. And I think it will always be so. Thank you.

Sheri S. said...

Precisely, as always. Love to you.

Mary Potts said...

Karen, I totally understand that pain that's just below the surface. As you so beautifully said, "it's never more than a school bus stop away". Yes, and gulp.

Hugs to you.

Elizabeth said...

I am grateful that you share these raw and honest moments with us and I am heartbroken for you, for your loss -- for our loss of that beautiful girl, your Katie.

ChiTown Girl said...

Love the pictures of Katie!

I never stop being in awe of your strength, Karen. I think I'd still be in bed, with the covers pulled over my head.

I would love to hear some stories about your days as a school bus driver =)


M said...


Jenna said...

In every interaction between two people, there are two perspectives experienced. Through your writing, you have so beautifully described this experience of meeting your kids off the bus from your own view point. But you know what? Katie too experienced this daily interaction too. And when I look at the photos you shared, I can see what Katie's perception of this daily ritual: pure, unadulterated delight. Delight at life, delight at being with her friends, delight at greeting the mom she so loved and adored. Katies eyes share her story , and what I see in them is so much beauty, hope and mischief, but again most of all delight- in life and in being who she was. Although her life was far too short, as her mother you gave her the wonderful, daily experience of knowing she was loved, that she mattered, that life is a delightful experience. You can see in the photos how happy she was, how greatly she delighted in her life with her family, how deeply she loved.

Busy Bee Suz said...

This brought me to tears. I can only imagine the day to day routines that you miss so much.
I can't tell you how often I think of you and Katie while I'm doing the mundane daily tasks with my girls. What a gift motherhood is…
School bus driver? Please share. I couldn't do it for a minute. Oh, and it makes my heart full knowing of those kids getting off the bus and having someone to greet them.

Karla said...

Hugs to you. You are always so eloquent with your descriptions.

Ann said...

I've been reading your blog for a few years now. My 15 year old son died on January 5th of this year from the consequences of being born with a congenital muscular dystrophy. The last few weeks, I've thought of reaching out to you because you've been where I am now. Based on what you write, I think we have similar values and beliefs, so I feel like we'd connect. I'm new to this journey of grief that comes from losing a child. Reading what you wrote here helps. It helps me to know that I will never forget my son and that while I will learn to live without his presence in my life, I will still cry when I think of him ... for the rest of my life. And, that's okay. Thank you for continuing to share your journey.

Karen Gerstenberger said...

Ann, thank you for your comment here. I've been in Mexico and am just now reading your blog. I'll be in touch very soon.

AnnDeO said...

Karen, such tender thoughts. And although this does not compare with the loss of your darling Katie, I achingly miss those moments with my young boys... watching them struggle as young adults with things that happened when they were children makes me want to go back and soothe those youthful innocent souls. Thanks for always being honest.