One of the things I feared with intensity when Joe was diagnosed with cancer was the possibility of having to send our unborn son to school without his Dad by our side. Those fears started even before we knew that our child was to be a boy and his name was to be Domani. It seemed like a ridiculous place to land, but as I was holding Joe's hand in his hospital room just after his emergency surgery, I remember that fear being what crept in. As he slept, I whispered to him that he couldn't leave me. That he had to be here for our child's birth, for this kid's first birthday, for the first day of kindergarten. I stopped there because at that point we hadn't even heard a diagnosis yet and, if I was being honest, I couldn't see past the next five minutes, let alone the next 5 years.
We had just found out two days before that I was pregnant. I hadn't even been to an appointment with my midwife yet to confirm it. And, already, I felt it all unraveling. How would I ever be enough for this kid? Our happily every after would not be what I expected and I was worried about how our child (let alone me) would ever make it through.
Joe was there for Domani's birth. He was there for his first birthday. But just two months later, only a few weeks before Christmas, he died. He died in the bedroom of our home where, if you look just out the window, you see the entrance to what is now our son's elementary school.
When we decided to buy this home in Jamesburg it was the proximity to the school (and to the lovely local businesses in town) that won us over. Now, after being here for 11 years, this place we call home means so much more to the two of us left behind after Joe's passing. It's the neighbors who have been there for us in immeasurable ways. It's the convenient and challenging running routes I have come to know as I trained to run 5ks and then half marathons and then, eventually, the Boston Marathon. It's the education I see my son receiving in that school which 4 years ago seemed so daunting a life stage.
There have now been 4 first days of school for Domani at the elementary school across the street from where Joe and I decided to plant our roots in 2008. Joe hasn't been physically here for any of them, but he has been here with us in many ways. I have begun to realize that what I feared so desperately in 2010 is not so scary now that Domani and I are doing it. Domani is surrounded by people who are interested in him and provide him with an education that includes learning in Spanish, after care that is both fun and educational, and a whole school community that shows its care daily. He impresses me more and more each day with the ways that he is growing and learning, with his ease of making friends, and with his excitement for everything around him.
I have also found my own place as I've become more and more active in his education. As Domani made friends, so did I, and Jamesburg became more than the place we live, but our community. That doesn't happen everywhere and I am thankful it happened here for Domani and me.
So, at the beginning of last year, I decided to act on that and I put my name in to serve a one-year term on our local School Board. That year was a defining experience for me. I saw in a clear way the impact that decisions of the Board have on the young people in our schools and our community at large. When my term was over at the end of 2018 and the Board was officially downsized to seven members I remained open to serving again at some point in the future.
As I attended Board meetings this year and spoke with friends and neighbors, it became clear to me that the time to throw my hat in the ring has come sooner than I thought. I decided to run this year because I feel it is an important time for my voice to be included. As a single mom of a 3rd grader in the district, I know both the importance of a strong education for the children in our community and the stress of making ends meet as a homeowner.
I am excited to take this next step and know that even though he isn't here physically, Joe is cheering me on.