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Honoring our losses

As you can imagine, we've talked a lot about grief this year. After we came back from the February break, the children honored me with the most amazing cards, gifts, and hugs. Somehow, I made it through the bulk of the day without crying... through discussions, questions, and explanations at morning meeting. I have no idea how I held it together when little Birdie handed me these amazing paper flowers with the saddest eyes I've ever seen.

But after LE was dismissed in the afternoon, and the letters and cards came from Upper El at the end of the day, I couldn't stop the tears.

There are many more cards, gifts, and letters not pictured here. They are all so precious to me.

My daughter made our family friendship bracelets in honor of Bambina, and of course, when I wore them to school, the children noticed them right away. They loved them. I realized the bracelets were a perfect way to let the children honor Bambina and create a keepsake for themselves at the same time. Making them has been so healing!

Around this time, we were also informed that the time was imminent when our magnificent treasure Magnolia tree would be cut down as part of the road project in front of the school. We knew it was coming, but not when. Officials gave us a warning that it would be happening that weekend, which was sad, but also had the benefit of allowing us the time to prepare the children, and giving us all a chance to say goodbye. Perhaps even more importantly, it meant we wouldn't have to be there when it happened. I was thankful.

So... we took pictures.

We hugged her and each other.

We wrote letters to her.

Note the addition of Bambina in this one...

And this one...

...and another...

After spending the afternoon writing cards to the tree, I figured we would embrace the sad emotions, and just let ourselves feel them rather than pretend they weren't happening. I put up pictures of Bambina on the TV in the classroom, and we all "oohed" and "awwwww"ed and "boo-hoo"ed until the day was almost over.

And then... with fifteen minutes until dismissal, with the children in the process of doing their end-of-day- cleanup and jobs, the work crews arrived, suddenly, and began cutting her down.... right in front of the children. In all my years as a teacher, I've never felt such anger and complete powerlessness. It was nearly impossible for me to protect the children. Some wanted to watch. Others could not even bear the sound, much less the sight of what was happening. And it was time to go home...

When we came back... the campus felt so empty and sad.

After some time and a good deal of reflection, I've decided that, as painful as it was for the children to witness, I know they will never forget the experience, and I know it will shape who they are for the better. I know that all the children who witnessed this tree slaughter will forever be fierce protectors of the trees. How perfect is it that this year, their schoolwide production was "The Lorax"?!?

As a way to honor both the tree and our sweet Bambina, our group art auction project this year was a dream-catcher made from a piece of our dear Magnolia and Friendship Bracelets made by each child... one with their own name, and one in honor of Bambina. It turned out beautifully, and I couldn't be more proud of these children and our wonderful community.

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