This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.
One of the saddest days of my life was the day my (now) step-sons had to be told their mother had passed away.
The oldest of the two boys was entering third grade. The youngest was entering kindergarten. I will never forget his just turned five year-old innocence looking at me, without a full of understanding of the news he had just heard, and repeating the words, "my mommy died."
About to be ninth and fifth graders, these boys have grown, thrived, and learned from their heartbreak.
Now a family of seven, we have become the stable rocks in each others lives. The Big Guy and I strive to teach our five children to never take life for granted, that each day is special. We have all learned that you really do need to stop and smell the roses, that the littlest things in life are just as important as their larger counterparts.
Living in a suburban neighborhood, where kids outnumber adults 2 to 1, my house is a haven for children. Most days I am pulling my hair out because fifteen teen and tween boys are in my yard, playing basketball, playing air hockey, riding bikes, and giving me mini heart attacks thanks to their skateboarding tricks.
The neighborhood kids love me. I hand out water bottles like candy. I bake cookies for them to share. I make sure the kids who are less fortunate- who have no one at home to watch out for them because of certain circumstances- are off the street and safe, if only for a few hours. I feed dinner to kids I know won't otherwise eat a meal until 9 at night. I load bikes and skateboards into my car and drive kids home when the sun begins to set, just so I know they got home safe and sound.
A few months back, a little boy I had never seen before began showing up at our house. He was a very sweet and polite little boy. He was in a class with one of my fourth graders and loved hanging out because as he always says, "air hockey table!"
One afternoon, he was riding his bike up and down our street with a bunch of the boys when his shoelace wrapped around his pedal. He fell and hurt his knee pretty bad. It began to swell and bruise immediately. After I got a bag of frozen peas to use as an ice pack, I had him call his mother from my phone so she could come pick him up. He hung up the phone and said she couldn't get him for an hour or two, that if he needed to get home sooner, he needed to ride his bike home or have someone drop him off.
I wasn't happy with that response. I know nothing about the anatomy of a knee, but I knew something wasn't right with his. I called the woman back and explained that he was badly injured and maybe needed to have it seen by a doctor sooner than later. I was rudely told to either drop him off at his house or he'd have to deal with it until she could pick him up.
I was so taken aback by her statement and attitude. My motherly instincts kicked in. I couldn't watch the poor kid suffer, so I picked his 10 year-old body up off the driveway, got him into my car, and brought him home. The boy could not put any weight on his leg so I carried him to his front door and watched as he unlocked the front door and went inside. I knew he was home alone, as was usually the case. I left him, feeling horrible but knowing it wasn't my place to walk into his house to do anymore than I had already done. I explained to him how I wanted him to prop his leg and told him to keep the frozen peas on his knee until his mother arrived home.
I drove back home with an aching heart. I never wanted my children to ever have to be alone and hurt like that poor child was.
As people spent Monday celebrating Memorial Day, a tragedy occurred in our quiet neighborhood. Reports began leaking Monday afternoon that a homicide had taken place. After putting on the local news and reading reports on the local newspaper website, I recognized the street name.
Reports of the homicide were heartbreaking. A woman had killed her two year-old daughter and tried to kill herself and her ten year-old son. The boy was drugged but awoke to find his mother unconscious beside him and no sign of his little sister. Severely dizzy and by police accounts, "out of it," the ten year-old managed to notice the bathroom door was locked. Breaking into the bathroom, the innocent, sweet, ten year-old boy found his sister submerged in the bathtub.
Calling 9-1-1, police found the boy trying to perform CPR on his sister, who was already dead.
This story has taken our community by storm. Yesterday when my fourth grade boys got home from school, I asked them if anyone had talked to their classes or if any boys had been absent. No one had talked to them and one little boy was absent. I thought nothing of the absence, believing that if the school had not sent counselors into the classroom, the little sweet boy who loved playing air hockey at my house was safe and sound.
And then this afternoon happened.
Waiting outside for the boys as they walked home from the bus stop, I noticed both had their heads down, neither talking. When they got into our driveway, they told me the horrifically sad news. The ten year-old boy, the brave and amazing brother who tried desperately to save his sister, was the same little boy who loved playing at our house; the same little boy I had to bring home the day his mother failed to give two shits about his injured knee.
Words cannot express how sad I am.
I may be a mother to five children but I feel like a motherly figure to all the neighborhood kids who spend any amount of time at my house. I am sad that my boys have to face another tragedy at such a young age. I am sad that such a sweet and loving child had to find and ultimately lose his little sister.
The police commissioner called the little boy, "the bravest person he knows" while breaking down in tears during his news conference. I hope that ten year-old boy one day realizes just how brave he was...is...will forever be. I hope he knows that our air hockey table will be waiting for him whenever he is ready to once again smile. I hope he knows that no matter what, he is loved by those of us in the community who are lucky enough to know him.
One day, the pain and sadness will lessen. One day, the tragic burden he now bears on his tiny shoulders will lighten. One day, he will again be, okay.
Until then, a community is grieving with this child and his other mother.
Hug your babies tight. Enjoy the little things in life. You never know if tomorrow will be too late.
To follow the story or read the media reports, click here.