This week I had three things happen that really upset me and made me very emotional.
A former parent from one of my school communities passed away of a heart condition leaving her husband and 2 little boys who were adopted. One of the boys has some special needs and will require some support along the way to grow, mature and enjoy success at school. Having worked with this family I know how many sacrifices they have made to support their children. Mom worked during the day, dad stayed home with the boys and then went to work in the evenings. Dad was always available if we needed him for support. These parents sought support and help from outside agencies when things became really difficult and often were met with roadblocks and unanswered questions. They never gave up they just kept fighting often sacrificing and always putting the needs of their children before their own. I can’t help but wonder how this family will cope with the lose of their mother. Where will the dad find support? Who will comfort him as he tries to manage with 2 little boys? Who will help him fight for the supports he and the boys need to be successful? How will he find the will and way to move forward?
I have had difficult conversations with parents about the needs of their children and often had to ask them to seek support with outside agencies in order to determine the exact needs, supports and interventions. Here in China the resources for parents are EXTREMELY limited. Admitting there is an issue and seeking outside support is not a cultural norm. You would think in a city of around 23 million people there would be a variety of places we could send parents. This is not the case. We have 2 agencies that we use to support children and families in this context. These agencies have psychologist, speech and language services, OT and PT. They offer assessments at a huge cost to the parents. They also have therapy and supports for children and families. Some schools are able to use these supports in their schools and others do not. A few international schools in Beijing have a special education department that is able to support students with challenges beyond what the classroom teacher can manage. We do not. This week my heart broke as I had to sit across from two families to let them know that we did not have the supports required for their child at school. These children’ needs were greater than what we could manage within our context. Keeping them and not being able to meet their needs would be unethical and not what was in their best interests.
Watching the pain and anguish of the parents who felt abandoned and helpless was difficult. We love all of the children in our care but unfortunately in our context we do not always have the supports to give them what they need. We try. We fight as long as we can but there does come a point in which we can no longer maintain the student and have to recommend other options. The problem is that options are VERY VERY limited for parents. We cannot provide answers or recommendations as there are very few available. Parents often have no option but to return to their home country to get the support they require. This requires an incredible sacrifice on the part of the parents. Marriages, friends, family, other children, careers, life-style etc. Impossible choices!
One of the bravest women I know passed away this week. Ivana Brisson was 55 and fought a courageous battle with cancer for the last 15 years. This is a woman who was on the brink of death more times than I can count. Each and every time she faced impossible odds, she donned her armour and Wonder Woman costume and fought as hard as she could! Why? Because she was a mother, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, and cousin and NEVER EVER wanted to miss a moment of her life. She loved so selflessly and put herself through incredible pain and suffering for one more event, milestone or minute with her family. She was able to see her boys grow, graduate and find their first jobs, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and spend precious minutes with her family and friends.
She inspired so many of us with her fight……there were many difficult days that I felt sad, angry or blue and I would stop and tell myself to give my head a shake. I often thought if Ivana can get through her darkest days with grace, strength and appreciation then I needed to put my big girl pants on, suck it up and move on! I often asked myself “What would Ivana do?” She would fight and keep moving forward. She never felt sorry for herself or complained. She surrounded herself with the love of her family and drew her strength from them. Her death has left me a bit untethered. Her legacy will live on through her family but the void she has left will be felt by many!
There are many silent heroes among us.
No one truly knows what goes on in another person’s life. Behind closed doors there are many many people fighting for survival. I know many others who are fighting a good fight right now whether that is supporting aging or ill parents, parenting through some difficult times, mental health, addiction, or even their own health crisis.
It really makes me appreciate and feel fortunate for all that I do have in my life.