January 31, 2022

Even in the darkest of days, it cannot always be night


Photo credit: The Van Gogh Gallery

This weekend was tough. There isn't any way to sugar coat it. Saturday morning I said goodbye to a student. He passed away back on January 18th but his visitation and funeral were held on the 29th. Even though he was a high school student I was still use to seeing Christian every morning coming through my office because he was a VICC student which meant their buses arrived early enough that they had to be admitted through the middle school doors. You see the middle and high school buildings were all on the same campus.


When I initially heard the news that he had passed on January 19th, it was from a parent who called but I had not connected the dots because she didn't say his last name. My Guidance Counselor told me shortly afterwards whom it was and I had to take a seat because I was in shock.

So since then when our VICC students arrive I'll look at the school entrance doors still looking for him in his trademark black hoodie sweat outfit. From the 19th until last Friday I knew that he was gone but it still was somewhat I guess denial in a weird way. Yet the day of his funeral it hit me like a ton of bricks that I was going to say farewell to one of my students. I made to sure to dress in his favorite colors to honor him, Red and Black.

As I was making my way to the church before 11am I could feel the tears running down my face. I'm wiping them away because I'm worried about my vision and ruining my makeup. I start to become angry because I'm realizing that a parent is burying her child. Something that I feel is any parents worst nightmare. 

Christian should still be here with his goofy self. Making other people laugh and smile.

I arrived at the church that I THOUGHT the funeral was taking place but I should have known better when I didn't see any cars and it was on a dead end street. I arrived around 10:30am because I wanted to be there early for the Visitation. Well now 10:45am is rolling around and still no other vehicles. I bring back up the email with the address and realize that the address I am currently parked at is NOT the right one. Both churches have the same name and I didn't double check the address. Yet thankfully the correct church is less than 10 minutes away.

I arrived at the church and wait for around 10 minutes. I see other coworkers have arrived as well. We go in around 5 minutes to 11am. As we arrive in the main area of the church I see Christian's casket at the front of the church. He is decked out in a red hoodie and looks like he is sleeping. His mother is being comforted in a pew off to the left side of the church. His older brothers and younger sister are in pews on the right side of the church. Some of his younger sibling's teachers have arrived to support her. 

She periodically goes up to the casket to stare at her brother. Somewhat in disbelief that he is laying there. I remember back when he was in middle school there was as situation in which he missed riding the school bus one afternoon. His mom had to come and pick him up. As soon as she opened the door his younger sister ran right into his arms and he hugged her so tight. It was the happiest I had ever seen him. His eyes just lit up when he saw her. I was in such awe of their bond. Right then and there I knew that he would do anything for his sister.

Now she is constantly going up to the casket and then sitting back down in a pew trying to process what is going on. I eventually make my way up to the casket and just pause. I'm looking at his face. I'm thinking about how this is the last time I will see him. He will not go to Prom. He will not graduate high school. He will not go to College. He will not get married. He will not have children of his own or get to meet his future nieces (one of his brother's is expecting twins). All of these thoughts are rushing through my mind. I say a prayer and then make my way to the back of the church. I don't sit in a pew because I feel that if I sit down I might not get back up.

So I stand in the back along with other staff yet I keep my eyes on Christian. I watch as some of his classmates come through to pay their respects, more present and former staff members have shown up as well. I am seeing how his death is effecting the people who knew him. It's simply heartbreaking.I decide with some other staff to leave before the funeral starts at 12pm. I'm outside with them and we are just making small talk before we part ways.

I go home and I crash....I mean I am just knocked out because of all the tension that I felt was stored up in my body from the events has finally come to the surface and it just takes me out. I wake up that evening and still feel my spirits are a bit low so I decided I need to get out of the house and just drive. I make my way out by the STL Galleria and think what is there to get into. I remember that there is a Van Gogh Exhibit going on nearby and I make it my destination.

I walk in and purchase a ticket. I'm informed about the do's and don'ts and then I'm allowed to walk into the exhibition. When I tell you I was not prepared for what I seeing and experiencing. It was definitely worth the price of admission. The first section of the exhibit gave an introduction to Vincent and his brother Theo. Then you go into a 2nd room and there is a visual display that goes from wall to floor, then you walk into a huge area that is nothing but moving art on all 4 walls, the floor and 3 huge columns. You can stand, sit on the floor or on the benches provided to enjoy the experience. My favorite piece of Vincent Van Gogh is Starry Night. I have always been fascinated by his representation of what stars look like to him.

I was enjoying myself so much with the pictures and lil videos that I was taking I decided to make a longer video of both. 

Vincent was a fascinating person. After reading the screens at the exhibit that gave a bit more of glimpse into his life it was interesting to see that he didn't initially fall into painting. He tried his hand at being a preacher, being an arts dealer, and other jobs before eventually being a painter. He didn't really see the fruit of his endeavors unfortunately. The accolades for him didn't come until after he had passed. He didn't see the worth of himself during his own lifetime. Yet when you look now close to 140 years later, you can see that his works have captured so much. His legacy is his life story and his art work.

It made me think of Christian in a way. He might not be here any longer in the flesh, but he has left his friends and families memories that they will carry to remember him. His legacy is in the connections and relationships he forged. His candle will continue to burn bright long after he is gone. He will be missed.

After note: If you have not experienced the Beyond Van Gogh Exhibit you have until March 30th to enjoy it here in Saint Louis, MO.

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