Recently at school, my older children participated in the Terry Fox Run to raise funds for cancer. The kids brought money to school, and ran as many laps around the field as they could muster, to honour of Terry’s battle with cancer and support his legacy mission. They wore stickers on their t-shirts upon which they wrote names of the people they were running for.
This annual event in schools across Canada is an early lesson for elementary school kids about strength, sacrifice and vision. Terry Fox’s poignant story of courage and tenacity is beautiful and moving. Since his heroic effort, many other movements of running for a cause have gained popularity.
Thanks to some pretty awesome kids, this simple act of running in remembrance took on a special new meaning for my family a year and a half ago when our fifth son Samuel was stillborn.
Our family was immersed in shock and devastation. Each of our children were going through their own unique grieving processes. They were confused. They were sad. They returned to school after about a week, tentative and nervous. We hoped that seeing their friends and returning to their routines would help them heal. Their teachers were kind and sensitive to their feelings and the entire school community showed incredible love in their outreach to us.
But the kids’ friends? They were, in a word, amazing.
At lunch, a group of the boys’ friends from grades 1 and 3 took both of my sons aside and told them to come out to the field by the trees. They had a surprise for them. For Samuel, they said. They told the boys that they wanted to have a funeral for Samuel. They welcomed them into a circle by the evergreens and joined hands. My oldest boy’s best friend Jonas led the kids in the Lord’s Prayer. Then they sang a hymn they had learned at hymn sing. This was their idea alone. At the time, these kids were just 6 and 8 years old. They did all of this to honour my boys’ baby brother.
Next they suggested that they collect pine cones just like they had collected coins for the Terry Fox Run, and run laps around the school field to honour Samuel. And that is just what they did.
They ran to support my kids. They ran to acknowledge that their friends had lost their brother. They ran everyday at lunch for one full week.
They ran for Samuel.
Hearing from the boys at supper that evening what their friends did for them at school, was possibly one of the most touching things that happened in those initial terrible, awful weeks after Samuel died. This beautiful act of kindness and acknowledgement offered spontaneously by six and eight year old children, helped my children heal. The light returned to their eyes a little bit. Their friends didn’t offer to fix it or change it or explain it. They simply stood beside my kids, gave witness to their loss, prayed with them, and honoured their brother.
Could Terry Fox ever have imagined that his legacy could have extended so far beyond cancer awareness?
This year I remember this beautiful moment with such gratitude. Those children showed levels of compassion and strength and faith which many adults struggle to find. They supported my boys that day. But what they will never know, is that they didn’t just support my children. They supported a whole family.
You kids are amazing. I will forever thank you all.