The early Monday morning rush in the Health Office was over. I escaped to the faculty lounge and grabbed a cup of coffee. Mug in hand, I returned to my office and found 3rd grader Sandy on the couch. She sat with knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped around her legs, head bent over as light brown hair covered her face. I heard quiet sniffling from under the curtain of hair as I came through the door.
Putting my coffee on my desk, I sat down next to her. “Sandy, do you want to tell me why you are crying?” It was a couple of minutes before she raised her head for me to see red-rimmed blue eyes, full of tears and pain. “I need to go home right now, Nurse Flemr—right now.” I patted her shoulder and asked, “Can you tell me why you need to go home?” She whimpered, “I need to go home because I have a bad tummy ache.”
The usual questions for such occasions about eating breakfast, going to the bathroom, along with taking her temperature revealed nothing out of the ordinary. I asked, “You know, Sandy, I am not sure what is causing your tummy ache. Do you have any idea?”
Sandy looked up and replied, “Nurse, you see . . . I don’t think this tummy ache is the kind that causes a fever. I think it is the kind of tummy ache because my cat Buffy died on Saturday.”
After I swallowed hard and told her how sorry I was, I confirmed she was probably right about the cause of her tummy ache. Sandy and I talked a while about Buffy. She told me her parents got Buffy before she was born, but Buffy had been her kitty for eight years. She giggled as she told me about the tricks Buffy had done and how she slept with her every night. Sandy eventually returned to class having told me her tummy was getting better.
Oh, why is this simple story significant to me? Because I need, and perhaps you do too, the occasional reminder that our emotional pain often “comes out” in so many different bodily aches. May we each find courage to acknowledge and speak of the pain.
Thank you, Sandy.