But while the call this morning was not a surprise, what happened yesterday was. This little girl was running on the playground and riding on the swings just moments before she complained of a sudden and acute headache and then collapsed. Her mother showed up just as it happened, put her in the car, and drove her to the hospital. On Fridays the aftercare staff person drives several of our Berkeley kids home. He showed up at my house visibly shaken, assuming it was serious but most likely having no idea how it would end. He thought perhaps it was an allergic reaction to something she ate, and so did the ER staff when she first arrived. It was a cerebral aneurysm. She was nonresponsive when she arrived at the hospital, and it sounds like they never were able to stabilize her. She died in the OR at about 2:00 this morning.
Those are the tears. Sophie's school has only about 67 students. We all know this family; many of us are friends with them. Sophie is in the grade between this girl and her older sister. I cannot imagine the grief of this family, but I feel like that's all I can do at this point—imagine and cry.
But the questions. I've consulted my friend Gwendomama's list when children die: what to do. what to say. or not. It helps (I wish I could have handed people a list like this when I was dealing with breast cancer), but I have more questions. How do we deal with this as a school community? There are all the children, but there is especially the sister. We will probably have a grief counselor from the district there on Wednesday, the first day back at school after the weekend. The sister probably won't be there that day, but the grieving among the children and the parents will be enormous. In the meantime, room parents are calling all the families to let them know. The family understandably does not want to be contacted, but one of the teachers, a significant force in the small community and a neighbor and friend to the family, is serving as a liaison of sorts and will be involved in a memorial service at some point.
What are the best things we can do to support this family? Is going on with school events and business the right thing to do? I was going to send out an announcement for our next P.T.A.-like group meeting, but I just can't. Do we cancel upcoming events? Carry on? I know life can't stop, but for the moment, it seems stalled.
What can I do to help Sophie support her friend? What should she expect?