Jack was three years old and my friend Melissa called me and said,
"You need to go sign up Jack for this free preschool down the street."
"Free preschool?" "Yep. Free."
So I called the number she gave me and the next day I was sitting
at a small round table across from a vivacious no nonsense type of teacher
who had one mission...to teach children about Jesus.
Her red hair and quick smile belied her personality.
Fun and firm always getting things done.
Teacher Virda. For 30 years she had run a free preschool at her church
with the help of other church members and moms like myself.
Each year the school, sometimes upwards of 50 children,
would take field trips and play in the sand and
ride tricycles and do crafts with glitter and learn to play nice and sing songs about Jesus in a Christmas concert. Jack flung himself off the risers his first Christmas concert due to his overextension of arms during singing "My God is so Big."
Each year, we parents volunteered and subbed and helped on playground duty
and spread out graham crackers and juice on small round tables and prepped crafts.
I cut out a whole lot of sandpaper letters. And Teacher Virda oversaw it all.
With her group of friends from her church, she led us and loved our kids and
admonished us a little on parent help out night if we talked too much when we
were cutting out sandpaper letters.
When Will started preschool he had a nervous breakdown, sobbing.
She firmly told me, "Go, Mom, he'll be fine." And of course, he was.
She did home visits with the children in her class. First with Jack and then with Will.
You would have thought the president was coming to our house. Rooms were clean.
Brownies were made and the excitement was palpable as she was introduced to their stuffed animals and brought to see their dinosaur bed spreads.
My boys knew they were something because Teacher Virda came to their house.
And we parents knew we were loved, too. When I told Teacher Virda I would be taking Will to a different school because I had to go back to work and started crying, she hugged me and cried a little with me.
She and her husband, Bill, encouraged Scott and I in our ministry, knowing how hard it is to start something from scratch. Bill had lost his job and started his own company 30 years earlier. The preschool had been birthed out of those hard times.
They told us about how faithful Jesus had been to them.
This past September we heard that Teacher Virda had cancer.
Which seemed crazy because I would have figured that cancer would have been a little afraid to take on Teacher Virda. I had once seen her back down a train conductor who doubted whether or not an entire train of children had been paid for.
So these past months we have been praying for Virda and against stupid cancer because
of all people that we need to stick around, we need the ones who love our kids and cry with us and tell us how faithful Jesus is.
I e-mailed her and told her we were praying heavy as my mother-in-law would say.
We got care updates on line and cheered when the chemo was working and booed when
it seemed to be zapping her off all of her signature energy.
When my book came out I sent it to her along with a thank you for all of her encouragement for my writing over the years and she took time in the midst of her battle to write me back.
She said she was proud of me. And that I was special.
And to please squeeze my boys on her behalf.
And I sat in the midst of her words, like a small child, basking in the glow of her approval.
She ended her e-mail by saying, "May God bless us all on this journey Home."
Yesterday, Teacher Virda rounded the corner on her journey Home and met Jesus face to face.
All those years of loving little ones and telling them about Him and now she is with him.
And I for one, can not stop crying.
Because there is only one Teacher Virda and we will surely miss her. Yes, we will.
When Scott told Jack and Will the news, Will said,
"But Dad, she was my best teacher."
Quite a few of us, still on our journey, feel a little bit like we've been hit by a truck.
But of course, we will soldier on. Doing things the way Teacher Virda taught us to.
Playing nice and singing songs about Jesus. Being kind to each other and loving little people. She set a pretty good example to follow.
And I for one am thankful that I met Teacher Virda on this journey Home.