Grief compounds makeup work after absences

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Lilly Lim, Sports Editor

After missing one day of school from being sick, students often struggle to catch up and learn the previous day’s lessons, turn in missing assignments and make up quizzes or tests. However, when a family member passes away, students find themselves stuck trying to balance their grief with a mounting pile of make up work.

While getting ready for school on Aug. 20, 2018, junior Eyan Atad was informed that her 32-year-old uncle, David Draper, passed away from an unexpected asthma attack that led to a heart attack. Atad missed one day of school to attend the funeral service.

“It was surreal,” Atad said. “It was shock. It was just like, ‘There’s no way. That’s not true.’ … It was initial shock and then questioning after.”

On Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, junior Gabe Benitez learned that his 23-year-old brother, Anthony Perez, passed away in a fatal car accident in Tacoma, Washington.

Benitez left Stockton to attend the service in Seattle, Washington, missing a total of seven days of school and daily water polo and Powderpuff practices.

“I was pretty sad about it, but I get sad on my own time so it doesn’t get in the way of school or my personal life,” Benitez said.“Right after [I got back], I was still playing ping pong and doing all that stuff. It’s sad, but I’m not going to let that get in the way.”

Preparing for Club Photos Day on Oct. 17, 2018, junior Hannah Blue learned that her 24-year-old cousin, Dexter Blue, had lost his year-and-a-half battle with testicular cancer. Blue missed two and a half days of school, as she left to Washington for the weekend.

“It was hard to believe and we knew — because of how aggressive the cancer was — that it would happen, but to actually know that he was gone, I couldn’t believe it,” Blue said.

According to Lodi Unified School District’s Rule 5113 and California’s Education Code 48205 from the California Legislative Information website, students are only excused one day to attend a funeral service in California of an immediate family member; however, if the funeral service is out of state, the student is excused for up to three school days.

After the students told their teachers about their situations, most were understanding and gave each student time and space to grieve — but despite the amount of comfort received, each struggled with transitioning back to their school and personal lives while still grieving.

“I think I let the grief take over,” Blue said. “For a long time, it affected me. I just got into this really unmotivated, depressed state of not wanting to do anything — wanting to lie in bed and just wanting to sleep.”

Atad also struggled to deal with the passing of her former Speech and Debate classmate, junior Brandon Bockman.

She took matters into her own hands and focused her energy on her academics and kept checks on everyone in her life.
“At the shittiest time in my life, emotionally, I was able to move on and have the best GPA of my high school career,” Atad said. “I wanted to be able to do the things that [Draper and Bockman] couldn’t do.”

Although Benitez says he continued on with his life, appearing as if almost nothing had happened to him, he found himself having a difficult time easing back into his life in Stockton.

“It was pretty rough [transitioning] because in Seattle, the whole time I was out there was just sad hours for days — none of it was positive,” Benitez said. “So when I got back, seeing all the boys and everybody, it was really different.”

Both Atad and Benitez were involved in fall sports — cross country and water polo, respectively. When Atad told cross country coach Jason Johnson she would miss a week and a half of practices, he gave her the time she asked for. On the other hand, the varsity boys’ water polo coach Herb Vochatzer continued to follow his policy that many call the Triple A’s: attendance, attitude and ability.

“I told the boys at the very beginning that absences are absences,” Vochatzer said. “Everybody got treated the same. Now, some absences weigh more than others, but absences are absences.”

Once Benitez returned to water polo, he found his playing time reduced. His excused absences from attending his brother’s funeral service were deemed equal to other players’ excuses of being sick. With only two league games left, Benitez ended his season being substituted for other players.

Today, Atad stays focused on her academics and chugs through the semester. Benitez involves himself in Arab Club and Ping Pong Club while starting a band with senior Blake Supinger and juniors Michael Valdez and Isaiah Leard. Blue says she keeps herself occupied with school, clubs and volunteering.