Realizing that I’m Wilbur
by Holly Varni
April 13, 2015

Saying goodbye is never easy. It’s an emotional, heart-tugging experience that leaves you feeling somewhat lost. Almost as if an empty space opens up inside you, and you can physically feel the absence of the people you’re leaving.

We meet, get to know, and then leave people as we go on our journey, some having had a greater impression than others. We may return to visit, but it’s never quite the same. Time can’t be frozen or repeated. Life keeps moving, pushing us to that next step.

Goodbyes mean change. Pay attention to those farewells and take a moment to feel them deeply, because they are significant. They mark the end of a chapter. Just like in novels, you have to turn the page to find out what happens next.

I’m moving away, and I have grappled with how to close this chapter of my life in saying goodbye to those who have impacted me daily. What came to mind was the children’s novel, Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White. Of all the silly things to think about, I finally figured out why. It’s because I’m Wilbur.

Wilbur is the little pig that is saved by the farmer’s daughter, and grows up in the barnyard along with all the other animals. In his greatest time of need, the most unusual and unexpected friend comes into his life, Charlotte, the spider. Charlotte not only helps him adapt to his surroundings, but survive. She offers him her talents, time, and most importantly, her friendship.

Over the past twelve years, the professor and I have raised three boys. One was diagnosed with Autism which brought me down a path I could have never anticipated. I was a clueless Wilbur.

Finding help for our son marked a turning point in my life, things were never again the same. The result was that the most extraordinary people came into my life as friends, teachers and therapists. They shared their hearts and poured their souls into our son. Much like Wilbur, I relied on them for their wisdom, patience and life teachings.

As time went on, and we progressed from one teacher to another, there was one person that remained a constant, working twice a week with our son for the last ten years. She poured her talents and teaching into transforming his life.

But the lines were so often blurred when it came to who was helping who. She was a tiny warrior that stood by my side, giving me the strength to keep going. She witnessed the tears and frustration, comforted the pain, and celebrated every small triumph.

As Wilbur grew to love and depend on Charlotte, I did that same with my Charlotte. I wanted her to save the day, much like Wilbur. With every struggle, I would ask, “What do we do now?” And what was wonderful, was that she always had an answer.

So now, I am dragging my feet, feeling a little lost. I understand the panic Wilbur felt when Charlotte was no longer going to be there. That lump in my throat, or tears that I hold back as I count down the days until it is our last together. There is no sufficient thank you that can be said to someone who held your hand in the darkest and loneliest times.

The only response that seems appropriate is what Charlotte said at their departure. Wilbur was crying, afraid of how his life was going to be different without her in it. He didn’t know how to express how much she meant to him and always would.

Charlotte soothes the sting of loss by saying the best thing anyone could, “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

To my Charlotte, I love you, Ms. Geana. There are countless times that you have saved me. Your friendship in itself has been a tremendous thing.

Thank you for giving our son a life he never would have had otherwise, and for always being there.

How lucky we are that there are Charlotte’s in this world, willing to be a light of love, hope, and friendship to all the Wilbur’s.