Fiona learned to love school from an early age. She started preschool at age 2 ½, at Mother’s Day Out co-op. We wanted her to learn to be around other children, learn to succeed in a school environment, gain confidence and learn social skills. Mother’s Day Out was the perfect place for her; caring, fun and lots of parent involvement. She went there for two years with wonderful teacher Ms. Karen. Fiona was very quiet at school her first year. She was quiet at home as well. I remember driving her to preschool and she wouldn’t say a word the whole way there, despite my questions and encouragement. But she liked school and didn’t fuss about going. She loved the routine, predictability, learning, friendships, fun and games, positive attention, and tasks to be completed. She loved to play school at home with Poppy as her student; I think she would have been a good teacher someday. We were blessed that she had such caring, skilled and dedicated teachers every single year of her short life.
Fiona met her first best friend, Anna, at preschool, and they maintained a close friendship over the years. Anna and Fiona loved to play dolls, dress up, make believe, swim and have sleepovers. They were both sensitive, bright and loved all things girly. They had plans to attend college together one day, and to visit Paris, France when they were older. Now Anna has had to learn to let go of her friend and their dreams, and to find new ones. I am thankful Anna had such a kind family who also loved Fiona and hosted numerous sleepovers, play dates, eating out at restaurants, going to paint pottery, and including Fiona in Anna’s birthday party every year. They were so patient and sensitive to Fiona’s fear of dogs and her once-in-a-while bouts of shyness.
In her second year of preschool at Mother’s Day out, Fiona came out of her shell. She was much more talkative, confident, and social. Her silly, playful nature that she saved for family finally emerged at school. Fiona became friends with a sweet girl named Lauren that year. Fiona and Lauren were also in preschool the following year at the YMCA, and Fiona would often ask to have play dates with Lauren, even for years after. Lauren and Fiona were in Girl Scouts together the last several years; they enjoyed seeing each other again in that setting as they didn’t attend the same grade school.
Her third year of preschool, we decided to send Fiona to the YMCA preschool so she could be more physically active and have the opportunity to swim every week. Fiona transitioned well and enjoyed preschool at the Y with her awesome teacher Ms. Shannon. Fiona learned how to swim well at the YMCA and this was something she enjoyed throughout her life. She met her dear friend Avalon in her class that year, and they were close friends ever since, attending grade school together, Girl Scouts, yoga classes, art classes, and numerous play dates. Fiona got an award for attendance at the YMCA preschool; she was the only child in her class who didn’t miss a single day of school! She was a healthy child and did not get sick very often, and she was always excited to go to school. She was very proud of that award. She walked out proudly at her preschool graduation ceremony, in a bright red cap and gown, to received that award and her certificate. It was the first and only graduation ceremony of her life.
So much time, effort and care invested, raising Fiona to be prepared for life the best we knew how. Now that she’s gone I feel a sense of futility on the one hand; why all that effort for her life to just end so young, from a common illness? It just is so unbelievable and so hard to understand. I will never know why she didn’t get to live her life while I am still here, marking off another year. I’ve been given 46 years, and she only 9. I guess I need to come to a point where I see each day as a gift, to be thankful for each day of life, and to live my time here for her sake, for the years she doesn’t get to live. I am not there yet; life without her feels so empty. But I do feel blessed that Fiona’s short life was so full; of learning, friends, activities and fun. She had a life she enjoyed in which she gave and received love, and lived fully as children do so well.