Then we had to break the news to my daughter and her two close friends. I highly recommend this approach. The kids didn't really seem to absorb it, which I think is for the best. I helped the school compile a quick mailing list to announce the news and to coordinate backup child care for the kids. It wasn't much, but I at least felt useful.
That's me 2nd from left, Maija on the right
Today when I woke up, the news hit me and I hoped it was a bad dream. As it turns out, this is the new normal, and I will have to learn to accept it.
Maija was such a shining light, and she truly, truly loved my child as well as all of those in her care. I never saw her in a bad mood. She was such an amazing, inspiring teacher. My daughter gave her the best possible foundation of education, leadership, and compassion. I broke down in the car yesterday as I recalled Lu's little voice from the back seat, repeating what she'd learned at school that day. "Mommy, some people have brown skin like Miss Maija, and some people have tan skin like me. But we are all the same in our hearts. And we're all special."
When a new girl arrived at the daycare, Lu at first had a difficult time adjusting. She complained to Miss Maija that she was no longer the only Smart Start princess. Maija's response was so perfect. She told Lu that now she was the queen, and she had to be an ambassador to the new princess, and show her the rules. This was absolutely the best way to approach the situation with my princess-obsessed daughter. All this on the fly with other children competing for her attention. When Maija called me to relay the story, my eyes flooded with tears to have found such a compassionate woman and role model to teach my child.
One more story about the amazing legacy Maija has left. This Christmas, I made a few canvas bags with a photo from Lucy and her friend Max's photo printed on them. Lu was helping me to wrap them. I got out the wrapping paper and started to cut when Lu said to me, "Mommy, these bags are empty. Miss Maija and Miss T need supplies for the school so that the kids can do art. We need to fill the bags with glue sticks, paper, stickers scissors, and glitter." I was so proud of Lu and of everything her school had taught her. We stopped wrapping to drive to the store and pick up the supplies, and her teachers loved the gift.
This morning, I realized that I actually had to function today. I signed up to volunteer at Boys and Girls Club, to show them how to use some GoldieBlox toys I purchased for them through a grant from the Mitchell Institute. I am going today because I know that Maija would have wanted me to be strong for those kids.
Lu's current school had their big fundraiser on Saturday, for which I coordinated the silent auction. I had several emails to follow up to make sure everyone got their items, on top of an already busy week including a conference. So I made a rare choice. I decided to ask for help.
This morning, I emailed 2 parents to explain about Maija's passing, and asked if they might be able to do the auction follow up. They both accepted without hesitation.
Then I rushed downstairs to get Lu out the door for school. I searched frantically for my water bottle, knowing I was already late to drop her off. I couldn't locate my usual plastic squeeze bottle, but what I found instead was even better.
My eyes landed upon a gift bag. A local friend and mindfulness speaker Kate had gifted me a lovely glass water bottle inside last week when she came to speak at my company. It was aptly labeled full circle.
How perfect a circle this is, I thought. My daycare provider friend asked me for help yesterday dealing with the loss of her friend and business partner, and I dropped everything to help. This morning, I was helped twice, by my parent friends and by Kate, who allowed me to stay hydrated today. It helped me so much to cope with my sadness by helping out my daycare provider. It feels good to help.
So please, don't hesitate to ask for help. What you need is right in front of you.