One day at the Regional Support Centre, a student having a rough morning was peppering his communication with more than the usual amount of colourful language. After several gentle reminders, the teaching assistant who was working with him, put this note on his report:
Junior can’t seem to stop the damn swearing.
That was Terry. She brought so much laughter to our classroom. She loved to laugh.
I’m sitting by the fire this Halloween morning thinking of Terry. Her name is written in my daybook today because it is her birthday. But this year, I will mark her birthday with a heavy heart because Terry died on October 14.
I knew Terry through work, so, it’s interesting that the word that comes to mind when I think of her is love.
Our classroom welcomed students with challenges in their lives that made it difficult for them to manage their emotions and therefore, their behavior. Sometimes, our students had burned all their bridges and were on their last chance for being in school. These were often angry children who lashed out from their pain. Most of the time they didn’t know what they needed or what they wanted. But they quickly learned that what they would get from Terry, also known as Captain Marshmallow, was love.
In my memory, I see those kids, mostly boys, leaned up against her, listening to her read. I see them giggling with her. I see them doing all sorts of things to have an excuse to be near her when they were hurting. I see them letting her wrap them up in a hug when they wouldn’t let anyone else touch them.
Terry gave them love. When they were obnoxious and rude and had all sorts of sharp edges jutting out everywhere, Captain Marshmallow just pushed on in and loved them up however she could.
I had a great conversation once with an adult who had been an at-risk youth. She told me that while she didn’t remember names, she remembered many faces of the helping adults who had been part of her tumultuous teen years. She remembered how that felt. Kids may not remember what we say, or what we do, but they will remember how we make them feel. (Maya Angelou)
And so, I think of all those former RSC students out there, living their lives. If they saw a picture of Terry today, they might not even remember how they knew her, but I think they would feel a rush of warmth and comfort. Like coming in from the cold to a warm fire and the aroma of baking bread. All those hearts carry the ‘Mark of the Marshmallow’!
And not just the kids, Terry. Thank you for everything. Peace to you, my friend.