I have been driving to and from my daughter’s elementary school for the past 5 years. The school isn’t in a walking distance, so I never happened to walk to the school.
All these years, twice a day, I received a grand salute and a toothless grin from the crossing guard, Ivan. Ivan, a septuagenarian, enjoyed his job a great deal and I heard that he had been a crossing guard most of his life. He was posted at the exit and did his most and the best in keeping the children and families safer at the cross walk.
He never forgot or missed flashing that lovable smile and the hearty salute to every passerby –even if they were in a car or strangers to him.
I didn’t even know his name until two weeks ago. I referred him to my daughter as “thatha” for grandpa in my mother tongue. My daughter found out his name from her friend and told me. Rain or shine, Ivan was always there with stop sign in one hand and an umbrella in the other. When his hands were full he raised the stop sign and gave that grand salute.
For the past few days, I didn’t see Ivan at the cross walk. Instead, everyday there was a new person helping people cross the road. Initially I didn’t pay much attention to Ivan’s absence. When he continued to be absent, I thought maybe he was on a vacation or unwell. Almost 3 weeks passed by and I started to feel his absence. At one point my normal missing feeling turned into a concern. I asked my daughter but she had no information to share with me.
I couldn’t wait anymore. I grew anxious and wanted to ask someone about Ivan. One day, I went to the school early and parked my car and walked to the lady posted in Ivan’s place. Upon talking to her I found that Ivan passed away a week ago due to some illness. She also told me that Ivan had no family or relatives and he shared an apartment with another crossing guard. Last month he developed some congestion which grew into some serious health condition. No medicines would work and one fine morning he didn’t see the sun. While I was listening to her, my heart tightened and a strange feeling churned in my stomach and I couldn’t stand there for another moment. I thanked the lady and walked to my car and picked up my daughter. Tears trickled down my cheeks and I felt as though I lost my own Thatha. I had to explain to my daughter why I was sad and crying.
My daughter said, “We have to pray for him for helping everybody cross the street.”
Absolutely. Ivan, I miss you so much forever remembering your pure smile, your hearty salute, and care for the children and families. My prayers are with you every minute and forever. Thanks for everything you did for us, Ivan.
Ivan was a real soldier who spent his whole life protecting our children from dangers and accidents. Indeed, service was joy for him. Now, it’s my turn to salute him every day, twice a day, imagining him standing in the same place flashing that lovable toothless grin.