>Tonight after school we gathered to remember a friend. “We” means teachers, other staff, parents, and students who wished to honor the memory of Mrs. S., a kindergarten teacher who died suddenly last spring. We planted a tree outside her former classroom and put in a garden along the playground that we now call “Mrs. S.’s Kinder-Garden”. But the best way for me to honor her memory is to reach into my heart and tell you about her.
The kids called her Mrs. S. I called her C.
C. was teaching in her dream job. I remember when she got the job: full day kindergarten, a fabulous school, not far from home. How she beamed! She kept saying, “It’s exactly what I wanted!” And it was a perfect fit for her. She had large classes — too large, really, for kindergarten — but she handled them with ease, the experience of years and the knowledge and understanding of the children’s ages. We teased her that she looked like a mother duck with a looong line of ducklings behind her when she walked them down the halls.
Students, parents, and teachers adored her. She called me one night and asked, “What’s this ‘Terrific Teachers’ thing on TV? Why are they coming to see me?” Well, C., it’s like this. You ARE a terrific teacher, and parents from your class want to be sure that you know it.
I still have trouble putting her in past tense. Yes, she was a terrific teacher, and a terrific person as well. When my father died, she was one of the first to hug me. She didn’t say a word until she knew I was ready. C. could always make the lunchroom feel light-hearted, even on a tough day. She was the reason I came to the lounge to eat lunch instead of working through lunch eating at my desk.
I dressed in Green Bay Packer garb today because C. wouldn’t miss a chance to wear her green and gold. Through thick and thin she backed the Pack. We commiserated when they lost and celebrated together when they won.
C. was one of the most understanding and caring people I’ve ever known. She knew when (and how!) to cheer someone up, and when to let them vent their troubles.
Her death came suddenly. She was on a field trip with her students on a Monday morning and went home that afternoon not feeling well. By Wednesday she had been hospitalized, and on Friday morning we were told that she was not expected to live. Still giving even in death, she donated her organs for transplant.
I miss her every time I walk into the school building. There’s a hole where her smile and laughter used to be. But she’d be upset with me for being sad; she’d want me to go on and enjoy teaching, enjoy the Packer games, enjoy her tree, enjoy the garden, and enjoy life.
It’s fitting that she will be remembered through a flower garden and a tree. Like her influence, these will live on. Like her, they’ll make me smile. And they’ll remind me how precious life is.