I had failed to mention last post what was to start the day after Andrew's birthday and the copious grief that tagged along with it: a new job as a paraeducator for a special needs child in second grade at Ogden Avenue Elementary School in Lagrange, IL, just five minutes away from my home. Up until then, I have been unemployed for the past year or so. Last year was dedicated to taking care of Andrew until he died and the seemingly never ending grief that came with the death. As most of you know, I started classes fall of 2011 right before Andrew relapsed. at Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL to get my teaching certification for elementary education in hopes to become a elementary or middle school teacher, I am debating whether to get my secondary ed certification at this moment. Financially, I desperately needed a job to support the family, but after applying, starting in October, to what seemed like hundreds of jobs in the education field I got no responses. It wasn't until Thanksgiving, I got a call while I was in Florida at my parents from a school in Elmhurst. I always have my phone next to me, but that week, I decided to put it on silent far away from me, to grieve and rest surrounded by my family and extended family. Well, I got a voicemail saying they wanted to interview me, but I tried to get back to them, but after a week of emailing, I found out the position was filled.
I have always spoken of God's sovereignty and His good and perfect will, even in the midst of befuddling circumstances, like my son's death. Somethings make more sense then others. Well, looking back in retrospect, God knew I was not ready to start a job that time. As I have mentioned, the grief was exponentially worse right after Thanksgiving, during the holidays and after. Yes, a new job could have helped in me staying busy and keeping my mind off things for a moment or two, but as I look back, I was not ready. And I truly believe that me starting the new job right after Andrew's birthday was not a coincidence as well.
My first day at Ogden was the morning of February 6th and it was gray, gloomy and overcast, but after I parked my car and started walking toward the school, the sky opened up a bit and cast a ray of sunshine on the sidewalk before me. All I could picture was Andrew smiling at me a few yards in front of me and beckoning me to come with his hand as if he were saying, "Dad, it's going to be okay." He had the biggest grin on his face and a full head of hair. Why do I mention the full head of hair? Some of my saddest images are when I remember Andrew in his hairless chemo head. This time, he had his full head of hair and whole and healthy body, jumping up and down saying, "Come on Dad!"
I know it was God's hand on me getting this job, because after a bit of contemplation, I thought how unlikely it was for me to get a job in the middle of the school year with absolutely no experience. I was told after I got hired, how well I interviewed and how convinced they thought I was right for the job. I am grateful they saw my life experiences and how it has shaped me into the man I am today and how it would potentially positively translate into this new position. I got to tell you my family and friends, there was no transitional period for me. After shadowing the substitute for a the student I will refer to as "S", for one day, I was thrusted into taking care of S and making sure he got the care and love he needed to learn and grow. I am in a second grade classroom with S and work in the classroom and at times outside the class when S needs one on one attention. I am so grateful for working with the second grade teacher, Vanessa. She has been a joy to work with and has given me responsibilities in help teaching and helping the other students in the class. I have told Vanessa by the time I student teach, I will be so better off to do so, because of all the experience I am getting immersed in a classroom setting. I know I will have to take all the courses to become certified, but there is nothing like being in a clinical setting learning your craft. I am the only male paraeducator and one of a handful of men at Ogden. The other female para's have embraced me and I am grateful for their friendship. I quickly have become known as Mr. Park and the teacher who generously gives out fist bumps to all the kids. Most know I connect with young kids well and it is quite evident at Ogden, according to many staff who say I have a "reputation"among the staff and children. I have a new found respect for educators and the incredible hard job they have in being a educator and steward over these young and naive minds. I don't want to hear the rhetoric of how teachers are overpaid! They are not! Especially the teachers who took a voluntary pay cut to make sure the kids in District 102 were taken care of. Most know that my "love language" is affirmation (those interested on what the love languages are, press HERE) and I have gotten it in spades from the staff, the children and my wonderful leader, Principal Waldo. They have affirmed that I will make a great teacher and I was born to do this.
So, yes, I am doing better. I still cry everyday, but not as severe. However, grief is not linear and there have been days where grief has crept like an unwelcome tornado The job keeps me busy and I am dedicating this job in honor of my son. I hope God and Andrew are proud of me. I know things may be tough right now, but I know spring is coming, metaphorically and literally. Here is a song by
Steven Curtis Chapman, a very Godly man, who lost a child in a very tragic car accident, who wrote a very real and raw album about his grief after this seemingly senseless loss. The song comes at the end of the album and it is entitled: SPRING IS COMING...Please listen and read the lyrics and their powerful and simple word:
Jennifer is crazy busy with her studies in hopes to become a pediatric icu nurse in honor of Andrew. Emily has been busy with school and made the varsity softball team and Bry remains to be the most amazing and caring child I have ever met. Please continue to pray for us as we navigate through this difficult season of our lives. Please pray for mercies in our finances, health mentally and physically. And I pray for those of you who are going through your own difficult seasons of life. I leave you with a verse I have known for sometime now, but makes more sense as I endure pain and trials and come out of it a better man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.