By Janet Archibeque
At the tender age of 14, I fell in love. He was kind and thoughtful. For a love-starved kid, that was all that was needed for me to think that this young man was “the one.” He taught me to play the guitar and we spent several nights singing and laughing.
However, the “relationship” was doomed from the start, not only because he was eight years older than me, but because he was graduating and moving to another state for his first assignment. Due to my naivete, I didn’t realize that his caring and thoughtful ways were indicative of the nice person that he was — rather than a budding romance.
The day came that this incredible guy graduated and left. I spent hours hoping for the impossible. Listening for the sound of his car driving up our street. Waiting for him to walk through the door. The inevitable emptiness drove me to heaving sobs.
I felt as though all of the happiness and light in my life were gone forever. I didn’t know if I could bear the pain. My mom and I weren’t close and I felt that she wouldn’t take my feelings seriously. There seemed to be nobody to turn to for help.
Luckily, each student in my ninth grade Communications Arts class was required to write something in a daily journal to get us in the practice of writing. We had the option of allowing our teachers to read what we wrote or not. Ms Leebens was my teacher and cheerleading sponsor, and I felt comfortable allowing her to read my journal. Mostly, I wrote about the petty squabbles in our cheerleading squad. But with this turn in my life, I must have written my new feelings in my journal.
One day after school Ms Leebens sat down with me so we could talk. Just the fact that someone would care made the tears flow. She let me talk and cry; lending an understanding ear, sleeve, and heart. Ms Leebens broke through the loneliness and isolation that I had felt, and treated me like the budding adult that I believed myself to be.
The next day she gave me a wonderful card. It was filled with several handwritten pages of her favorite poems on love, and the pain that we all go through as we grow and experience the world around us. She helped me realize that the pain I felt was something that so many people, even the greatest poets, had felt — and survived.
To this day, at age 40, I still have the poems and treasure them for the loving gesture they were. Ms Leebens was there when I needed a gentle voice to tell me that I would be OK. She cared enough to reach out to a student. She showed a gentle respect and empathy for the feelings of a heartbroken 14-year-old. I have lost track of Ms Leebens, but I will never forget her kindness.