Sunday, April 22, 2012

Butterflies, Dried Flowers, and Candles


The Memorial on May 18, 2011
On June 16, 2011, Friday, Archbishop Ryan High School had its transition Mass for the Freshman becoming Sophomores when school would resume in September.  I appreciated being invited to attend with Gi and the girls.  It was nearly a month since Tim was killed; nearly a month since the funeral?

Was it really a month?

I didn't know where the time went.

Where did it go? 


Grief alters the perception of time, I was told.  I had no idea.  Time moved so much faster.  It was if Einstein and Hawking found that quantifying short cut to bridge the continuum.

After the Mass, Alaina and Charlotte came outside with me.  I was speaking to Tom Emore, Tim's English teacher.  We were talking about how I was coping and how the kids in Tim's class were managing, as well as how Gi and the girls were managing.  Alaina began to giggle and Charlotte gave a shriek of joy as they chased two little yellow-cream colored butterflies. Butterflies are supposed to be a sign that the departed are near in spirit. 

Tom said to me that despite Tim's dream of being a writer, artist, and film director; he felt Tim would be an investigator or scientist.  Tom noted that Tim would think in many different directions of how something - anything- was related.  Tim, at times, seemed light years ahead of his class-mates.  He understood how things worked.  I marveled how well this teacher took the time to know my son as his student - and it wasn't just my son that Tom knew, he knew everyone of his students.  He interacted with them.  There were some afternoons Tim and a few other students hung out in Mr. Emore’s classroom.  They played with the newly acquired Smart Board, finding out its secrets, breaking the boundaries where the student becomes the teacher as Tim and the other kids taught how to use the technology.

Oh how I hoped that Tim was near.  How much I hoped that he felt our presence and came home with us.  How much I hoped the same thing during the previous four weeks since he was killed.  Nearly everyday since Timmy during those four weeks I had gone to the gates at Ryan Drive (North) and marveled how the memorial grew.  It started that Tuesday night on May 17 with the vigil.  At first candles in paper cups, a few rosaries, posters, cards then the American Flag. 

Some days I stood for an hour – sometimes longer, leaning against the pole that held the School one 15 MPH lights and sign.  There were times a kid would walk past the memorial during the month since Tim's death.  Of the times I witnessed every kid that walked by blessed him or her-self in the form of the Cross.  There were a few that walked and stopped out of reverence.  Not once was there any disrespect.


I knew in the distance some of the kids from the school stood off to the side.  Perhaps respect, maybe hesitation out of fear of upsetting me.  Some nearly inaudible whispers "That's Timmy's dad." 


The memorial assembled mostly by the students was made up from fresh and dried flowers, a yellow shirt from the Freshman color games, candles, an American Flag, a lawn figure of a little boy in a police uniform and the weather worn and tattered remnants of photo tri-fold and Funeral cards held down to the sidewalk by melted wax.  Home made signs with Tim's name and messages of love - a few sporting Spider-Man either hand drawn or stickers were between the bars of the iron fence at the front of the school.  In the distance the fence to the athletic field were Tim's initials, TC, in red and black tape; the girls from the Ryan Softball Team dedicated the remainder of their season to Tim – each team uniform of the softball team sported TC as well.  One thing that stood out the most to me was a solitary candle with a rose on the opposite side of the gate.  What it said to me was Tim was special to someone.


On some of the days I visited the memorial, I picked up broken glass.  The heat from the candles shattered the jars they were contained.  I wanted to keep it neat and respectful and I knew I wasn’t the only one keeping that in mind.  One day a woman stopped with her own candle.  It resembled a light house.  She carefully picked up the shards of glass and deposited into a plastic bag.  She looked at me and said “I just hope that no one is kicking the candles and breaking the glass.  This poor young man.  Can you imagine the pain his family must be going through.”


I only explained it was the heat from the candles that shattered the glass.  One of the girls that was in a class with Timmy came up and said “Hello, Mister Connors.”  She gave me a daughterly hug.  “My mom is over there,” she said nodding her head to the parking lot.  “She wanted me to come over and make sure you’re okay.”


I smiled.  “Yes sweetness, I am.  Tell your mom thank you.”


Before leaving the school after the Mass, as the kids were looking forward to days at the beach, vacation spots with their families, or a taste of the working life, we were presented with a box that contained everything from the memorial except the policeman lawn figure.  I figured it meant something to someone…it wasn’t mine to object.  I had to realize I was sharing grief wither I wanted to or not.  He was my son, but he was someone to other people as well.