GRIEF AND GRATITUDE
At this time of deep sadness over the loss of McKayla, parents in the community share a bond. This loss is unimaginable to all of us. Grieving heightens our appreciation for all the blessings in our lives. There is family, comfort, abundance. It is human nature to focus on what is gone, how insecure our lives might feel, how precarious the path ahead may seem. Yet, with this, emerges opportunity to consider our lives’ abundance. Our families are precious. Our communities provide connection and support. Our friends surround us.
Nothing prepares us for the death of a loved one, and certainly the loss of a child is the most unacceptable loss of all. It undermines the law of nature: we expect to bury our parents, not our children. The community has been shocked and saddened by the loss of this beloved middle school child. Parents, teachers, caregivers all struggle to make sense of the loss, while wrestling with their children’s grief. We cannot shield out child from the loss, denying her pain, as that is doing her a serious injustice. If we teach children to suppress their feelings, we are communicating that what they are experiencing is not normal or acceptable, and that death is something to fear. Our child is reassured when instead we let him know that death is a part of the cycle of life, that we can face it together and that nothing is tons honestly, directly, providing facts that our child can understand is important. Sharing our own feelings of disbelief, anger, and sadness is helpful in modeling the normalcy on grief reaction.
A death in the family, or close community, requires children to access their learned coping mechanisms. It is normal for us to feel uncomfortable, albeit unequipped, to address the range of emotions. That said, our active participation and support of our children are integral pieces of the healing process, providing a safe emotional environment in which our children can tap into healthy inner resources and adapt new coping skills to incorporate the loss.
At times such as this, we are faced with many questions to make sense of the death of a child, struggling with the uncertainty of life. Perhaps we can utilize this fragile period to set intentions and to embrace gratitude. As we look around, most of us take what we have for granted, forgetting to notice the small, yet important parts of our respective lives, overlooking the ‘random acts of kindness.’ Gratitude can expand our horizons, stretch our awareness, and urge us to be more intentional in how we live our respective lives and how we respond to the caring touch of a friend, the smile of a stranger, the call from another parent to share news, the first spring bird song, the tender hug from our child, the wagging tail of our dog as he greets us at the door… what typically seems trivial can elevate us when we pay attention, live in the moment, and have gratitude for the gift of life, love, and family.
It is unfortunate that when the death of someone in our community reduces us to tears, anxiety, and hopelessness for a brief period, we soon resume our usual routines. We can easily miss the opportunity to consider small lifestyle changes that translate into large rewards. More time playing with our children, meaningful conversations with our spouse / partner / friend, long walks, tender moments with family can transform our respective lives. Having gratitude for what we have, how we live, for family and friends, for community and connection, embraces the spirit of intention. We can wish for more, for changes that we believe will improve the quality of our life, however this is different from intention. Try visualizing what you want to crease in your life. It is then that you can choose whether you are willing to assume responsibility for that, clearing the obstacles in the way to reaching that vision. Being intentional about how we live each day, staying in the moment, having gratitude for our abundance can bring a quality to our respective journeys we never imagined. The love of family and friends, being of service to others, sharing our gratitude, creates a community in which we can all enjoy connection, acceptance, and caring. Each of us is in control of our choices and making change whether we greet a stranger in the market with a smile, a warm greeting, is a choice. The simple gesture can make a difference in someone’s day.
Please join me in a few moments of silence for McKayla, in honoring her life, in sharing her family’s deep sadness, and in having gratitude for what we hold dear to us ….
Sobbing friends mourn Mont Vernon teen
By NANCY BEAN FOSTER
Union Leader Correspondent
Sunday, Mar. 25, 2007
MILFORD – The pews at St. Patrick's Catholic Church on Amherst Street were filled to capacity as classmates, neighbors and friends joined the family of McKayla Geisinger to bid the seventh-grader from Mont Vernon goodbye.
For the more than 200 people who attended McKayla's funeral yesterday morning, the loss of the talented young musician and athlete was acutely felt; weeping students clung to each other and parents sought fruitlessly for a way to console their sobbing children.
McKayla died last week while attending an environmental camp with her classmates from Amherst Middle School at Pinkham Notch in the White Mountains. The 13-year-old collapsed after returning to the lodge from a two-mile snowshoe hike, and died at the Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin. The cause of death has not yet been determined but the chief state medical examiner said that preliminary results point to natural causes.
At the end of the funeral Mass, McKayla's father, Greg Geisinger, a favorite soccer coach in the community, addressed the crowd, offering solace to others despite his own obvious grief.
"We have no regrets of our time with McKayla," he said, describing his last moments with his daughter before sending her off to camp.
"We all hugged about eight times and said we loved each other," he said, "and my last vision of her was her getting into the car and driving away."
Geisinger said that McKayla would have been saddened to see her friends in tears, but also would have been surprised by the outpouring of love her family has received from the community.
"I'm speaking for McKayla when I say that 'I'm so happy that I meant so much to so many people,'" he said.
With McKayla's older sister Amanda beside him, struggling under the weight of her own grief, Geisinger reached out to the children in the audience.
"We're really concerned about any kids that might be suffering over this which really breaks our hearts," he said. "Some of these kids witnessed something that no kid should ever have to witness, and we would so like to help them."
Geisinger said that he and his wife, Maureen, welcomed visits from McKayla's classmates and friends and encouraged kids who needed to talk to them to do so.
"If talking with us will help them," he said, "we want them to know that we're here."
For everyone else, Geisinger said, the message of McKayla's death was most important.
"Take an opportunity to let people know that you appreciate them," he said.