One of my favorite songs has always been Holly Cole's "Cry If You Want To".
The last line of the song goes like this....
Cry if you want to, I won't tell you not to
I won't try to cheer you up, I'll just be here if you
I've been singing that song today.
At the girl's school, every student in grade 3-8 takes part in a speech contest each year. That means that each student must write a speech, prepare it, and present it to their class. The top two speeches in each class go on to the finals where the winners compete against the other finalists from their grade.
Ellie already knew last year what she wanted her speech to be about.
It was going to be about her deep love and affection for her dear beloved friend, Nikki - who she left behind in BC, with a trail of tears. You can read a little bit about Ellie's friendship with Nikki here and here.
Words can't really describe how deeply Ellie feels about Nikki.
Nikki is really a part of Ellie and who she is. In all my life, I don't think anything has touched me more than seeing Ellie say goodbye to Nikki when we moved back to Winnipeg. Immediately after, Ellie followed us into our empty house and collapsed onto the floor and then into our arms sobbing as though her heart were breaking. There are pictures of Nikki up all over our house. Ellie still talks like Nikki talked and laughs at the things she said. There have been mornings when Ellie wakes up crying and tells me she has had a dream about Nikki and it's made her miss her all over again.
So when Ellie said she wanted to write her speech about Nikki, I knew it was right.
She drew graphic organizers and planning maps of how she wanted to organize her speech to include all of the things she wanted to share about Nikki. Her likes and dislikes, her favourite foods, her love of the swings, the ways she looks and talks, and all about how Kabuki Syndrome has affected her.
When she finished writing, she was so proud. It was though this speech represented so much more than a requirement for grade 3. It was a labour of love, and it honored Nikki and her role in Ellie's life. It was perfect.
Ellie painstakingly practiced her speech. She had it memorized and perfected and said it with great joy for her classmates and teacher. A few days later she was asked to say it again for her other teacher along with 2 other students - as all three were tied for top spot. Only two could be chosen to go on to the finals and a decision had to be made. Ellie rehearsed and worked on her speech again, and said it with pride a few days ago.
I knew that today was the day Ellie was going to find out which two students were going to go on to the finals from her class. In the afternoon I got an email from her dear teacher, telling me that she had just broke the hard news to Ellie that the other two students had been chosen instead of Ellie. She wanted to let me know that Ellie was terribly disappointed and had been crying. In fact, she'd been hugging and crying with Ellie but thought Ellie needed some hugs and extra love from me.
My heart sunk.
I knew how badly Ellie had wanted to present her speech in the finals. I knew how much she wanted to honor her friendship with Nikki. I knew how hard she'd worked. I knew her heart would be broken.
I drove to school early to be with Ellie and I found her waiting for me in a chair in the office. The second she saw me, she collapsed into my arms, lay her head on my shoulder and sobbed. Gigantic tears spilled from her eyes as she held on for dear life. All I could do was stand with her and hold her tight and cry with her. If you knew Ellie, you'd have cried too. When she cries heart-broken tears there is nothing sadder.
I held her there, for awhile, and we cried together. I didn't try to stop her and I didn't care.
I remember being ashamed of my tears all through my childhood.
They came easy and fast and at all the wrong times.
I hated my tears.
But now mine mixed with hers and I tried to honor them by standing in a public place, with people around and letting them fall.
We walked arm and arm to our van and I held her awhile longer in private.
She was disappointed, I knew.
But she was crying tears for more than a lost speech contest.
That speech was about far more than winning a trophy.
They were also about a hole in her heart.
Ellie's tears have been flowing on and off for the rest of the day.
At bedtime they began their silent roll down her brown cheeks, and I climbed up into her bunk bed and held her awhile longer, not saying anything but I love you.
Sometimes that's all you can say.
I'll just be here if you