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Life is short. Ask … anyone.


Yesterday our community,

and our family personally, felt the horrific loss of Sharron Cantrell, the principal of Spring Hill Elementary School, Case’s school. It was a shock to everyone.

FullSizeRenderI know that there are many, many people who feel the loss in a greater and more personal way than me, Case, or the rest of our family. Maybe they are more qualified to write about the impact she has had on them and the contribution she has made to her family, our school, and our community.

But I know this for certain. She will be greatly missed. She will be missed by a child who would yell “Cantrell!” when he’d run toward her office. And by a child who loved the picture of her dressed up as the Cat in the Hat in his yearbook. “Cantrell,” he’d say “she’s the Cat in the Hat!” And when we’d see an actual Cat in the Hat statue at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, he would snicker to himself and say, “Cantrell, Cantrell, ha, ha, ha, Cat in the Hat….”

How do I explain a loss like this to a child who doesn’t understand death? I tell him she is in heaven and he says, “Okay, Mommy. Why?” Oh, were it that simple to accept. Or to explain to him.

Case has attended SHES since 2010 when he was three years old. He started there for two years of inclusive preschool and then even though we weren’t zoned for SHES, Mrs. Cantrell signed off on an out-of-zone request since the staff there knew his unique circumstances so well by then.

IMG_1873She met our family when we were still in the throes of learning about life being short. When we learned that Case’s prognosis was maybe ten more years of life. But not ten years of happy-go-lucky. Ten years of watching your son lose everything he knows and can do and then be ushered to an early grave.

She bought into my plan to save Case’s life from the first IEP meeting. Preserve as much as we could while he was declining until we get him into the clinical trial. And so we did. And four years later, he is doing far better than we ever thought possible.

The realization that she won’t be around to see all that he’ll become is heartbreaking.

Over the last five years, we’ve sat together in about twenty-five hours of IEP meetings. While we may not have always agreed, she was always kind, empathetic, and respectful. And she loved Case and cared about his future. Some private discussions with her involved great emotion, discussions of our faith, and a greater understanding of her passion for teaching and guiding children.

I’ve seen some capitalize on tragedies such as this one, Sandy Hook, and others as an opportunity to pronounce the evils of guns or something else.

But sadly, bad things happen more often than we like to admit. And even more sadly, they will continue to happen. Children die. People do terrible things. The world is full of heartache and loss at every turn. I shouldn’t have to watch my friends’ children slip away and die, but I do. And pray every night there is a way to stop it. But eventually, we will all die.

While that reality doesn’t excuse us from acting responsibly (wearing seatbelts, eating healthy, etc.), it also shouldn’t shroud us in the illusion that we can ultimately control our own lives. Rarely will any of us go to bed knowing that tomorrow we will die. Tomorrow we will be diagnosed with cancer. Tomorrow we will be in a car accident. Tomorrow that any of this will happen to our loved one. Our child. Our child’s principal.

A singular day five years ago taught me that we are never promised tomorrow. For me. For you. For Case. For Sharron. For anyone.

The only assurance I have is in knowing who holds my future. Who knows my future. Who knew Sharron’s future and who will now seek to comfort her friends and family.

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
We will miss Sharron, “Cantrell,” “Cat in the Hat,” every day that we walk into school. Every day we look at the yearbook. Every day I see Case look for her, not understanding that she’s not coming back.

Last modified: December 31, 2017

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