A Student with a Special Heart | By: Barbara J. Robinson | | Category: Short Story - Family Issues Bookmark and Share

A Student with a Special Heart

A Student with a Special Heart
by Barbara Jane Russell Robinson
At the end of the 98-99-school term, Michael Clark, one of my seventh graders, said to
me, "I will be going into the hospital next week for heart surgery. I want to go into the
hospital and get it over with, so I can get well and be back in school when school starts
next year."
Michael was not afraid. He had been through heart surgery before, when he was in the
lower grades, and he thought his heart would be repaired. Meanwhile, Michael was on a
list awaiting a heart from a donor. Michael left school that year thinking he would have
me for a teacher the following year. I left thinking I would have Michael in my classroom
the next year. Both of us were wrong. Michael was a brave young man who loved
basketball and baseball. He played baseball on a team. Michael was the type of student
who could have used his heart condition as an excuse to get out of a lot of things at
school, like PE, but he never did. He always wanted to play and participate, just like the
other students, and he did.
Michael was small for his age. I remember having him in my class right after he came
from his PE class. He was in my seventh hour class, the last class of the day. I remember
being concerned about him and having him sit right by my air conditioner because he
would come into my class drained, hot, sweaty, and out of breath. He was a wonderful
student and a great kid. He had a way of melting your heart. I once told him, "Michael, if
it is too much for you, (meaning PE), I am sure you could be excused." He explained to
me that he didn't want to be excused. He wanted to be right out there playing and
participating with the rest of the kids, and he did until the end.
Michael had his surgery as planned, and he became so weak that when he attended
church, all he could do was rest on the church pew. He had to go back into the hospital,
and he spent the remainder of his days hooked to machines. Finally, he lost his battle, but
he remained brave right up until the end. His mom told me he had a picture of my
classroom and his friends and classmates, I had sent him, taped to his bed where he could
look at it. She told me how happy he was when he received it and knew we were
thinking of him.
I will never forget how sad I was when I heard the news, when school started back that
year, that Michael was still in the hospital and not doing well. Michael hung on until
December. The motor in my van had gone out, and I had to walk to work in the cold that
December morning. I stopped off at a small donut shop and bought a donut for a fellow
teacher. The donuts were forgotten when I got to school and heard that a morning faculty
meeting had been called. What was going on? We never had morning faculty meetings! I
walked into the teacher's lounge and heard one teacher say, "That little Clark boy died last
night." My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. It was hard news to swallow and
somehow I had just held on to hopes and prayers and believed in my heart that a miracle
would happen and someday I would see Michael back in my classroom, but that never
I went to that faculty meeting like a zombie in shock. I sat frozen and listened. I attended
Michael's wake, and it was so hard to look at that little guy so still, who had been so
active the last time I had seen him. Michael was the third student I had lost since I began
my teaching career. It only seemed to get harder and harder. His classmates took it hard. I
was there for them. A teacher brought two girls to my room and asked me to please talk
with them and to see if I could help them because she had not known Michael. I had
known Michael very well, and I knew the two girls too. They were both in tears. I called
the girls my two Kristys. Michael's best friend, Jason, took it hard as well. The girls and I
hugged each other and cried over Michael together. We comforted one another, telling
each other that now Michael was no longer in pain, and he was in a better place, watching
over us. Then the two girls wrote poems about Michael. Writing seemed to help them
express their loss. They found comfort in writing poems about Michael. I typed and
submitted their poems to the local newspaper where they were published in memory of
Michael Douglas Clark who will always be within our hearts. His body, a temporary tent,
may be gone, but his spirit will always be with us.
I will never forget the shock I felt the morning I heard of his death. Yet, I knew it might
happen, but I had just not let myself believe that it ever would. I prayed for Michael and
at one time, it seemed he was getting stronger and doing better, and I believed he would
make it, but God had His own plans for Michael. When I look back upon that experience,
I can only thank God for the opportunity of having Michael as a student one short year of
his life, because I had the joy and pleasure of teaching Michael during the last school year
of his life. I still have material Michael wrote in my class, which I saved, and it is still
near, and dear to my heart. I will always treasure it as a special memory, in loving
memory of a special student who had a special heart. His mother, Wanda Clark, wrote me
a letter thanking me for making her son write. She said because I made him write, she
has his writings and has made a scrapbook as a keepsake. She has writings Michael
wrote the last year of his life. He left his mother something to remember him by, his
written words and thoughts on paper, a powerful memory.
May God bless Michael in heaven and his family on earth. Thank you God for having
allowed me to get to know them through Michael and for having Michael for the one,
short year you loaned him to me. He made a difference in my life and many others during
that one short year. Now, his temporary assignment on earth is over, and he has gone
home, but he remains in our hearts, and his spirit will always be with us. Michael lost his
young life because he was not able to receive a heart in time. After Michael lost his battle,
I found out, according to the organ-procurement agency, an agency that matches donor
and recipient organs in the state, about twelve people die daily while they wait for
transplants. This is in Louisiana alone! Michael's parents felt that though Michael lost his
own life, he did what he needed to do for other people who have to await heart
transplants. Michael was a brave thirteen year old, and his fellow classmates wrote out
their hearts and souls to express their love for him with the power of the pen and the
written word upon his death. May God bless all of those young people as well as Michael
and his family. Michael's death was not in vain. He brought those kids closer together
that year, and he may have saved who knows how many other people's lives by bringing
attention to the fact that more organ donors were needed and how to request a donor
form. Michael left my classroom and told me to have a good summer. His last words
were about how he could hardly wait to get his operation over and return and be with his
friends in school next year. "Goodbye, I'll see you next year," but he left my classroom for
the last time that day.
Writing by Michael Douglas Clark:
In Loving Memory of a Student with a Special Heart who has gone Home!
Note: These were five-minute timed writings Michael wrote in my 7’th grade LA
Why Schools Have Rules
by Michael Clark
Schools have rules to keep us safe. They have rules so we can learn. The rules are to
keep us from getting hurt, and so we can learn to deal with people we do not know.
Mardi Gras
by Michael Clark
One day my mom said, “Get up. We are going to the Mardi Gras Fair. We will get to
stand by the road and floats will come by and throw us candy and cups.”
So, I got dressed, and we drove to town. Then, the floats started coming. The people on
the floats threw us cups, beads, and candy, but I saw some people fighting for beads and
candy, and sometimes cups.
One man threw me a cup filled with candy and beads, but a boy came up to me and
grabbed the cup from me. I gave it to him, because I didn’t want to get hurt. Then, the
man stepped off from the float and handed me another one. I said, “Thank you.”
He said, “You would have done the same thing for me.”
Christmas Time
by Michael Clark
I can’t wait until Christmas. We get to go to my grandma’s house in Alabama. It takes
us about three hours to get there, but when we finally get there, it is fun. We watch
television for a little while. Then, the next day, we get up and swim for about thirty
minutes. Then, we all go back inside by the Christmas tree. We give out all the presents.
Everyone starts opening them. Then, it’s back to driving home, back to Louisiana. When
I get back home, I show all of my friends all the things that I got, and I get to see all of the
things that my friends got. After Christmas is all over, I go back to school. Last year, the
teacher gave us candy and said, “Merry Christmas!”
NOTE: Michael wrote and left his little pieces of history behind, providing powerful
keepsakes to bring back wonderful memories of Michael. Michael was a student who had
a very special heart. I wish to thank his mother, Wanda Clark, for her written permission
in letters to publish her son’s writings. It was his mother’s wish that this story be shared
to help organ donors, as a way for Michael to continue helping!

Barbara J. Robinson is an award-winning author/educator, a member of the Florida Writers Association (FWA), a member of the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project (SLWP), and a member of American Chrisitian Romance Writers (ACRW). Her Southern memoir of creative nonfiction took home a trophy in October of 2002 when it won a Royal Palm Award at the FWA Convention and Author Expo in Orlando, Florida. Her site is http://pages.prodigy.net/bud25, and her book, MAGNOLIA: A WILTING FLOWER may be found at your favorite online bookstore by searching books, Barbara J. Robinson, Magnolia. Reviews may be read at www.amazon.com and www.bn.com.
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