The flags flew at half mast at my school this week. First thing on Wednesday morning we heard that one of our Grade 7 girls who suffered from cyclic neutropenia, died shortly after being admitted to hospital when her blood count dropped. We were all affected by this and I can’t imagine how her parents must feel. Our Grade 7s were summoned to an assembly before lessons began and sobbed when the news was broken to them. Our school counsellor as well as a grief counsellor were there to help them through the trauma.
At our school we have what we call Hoofies – the entire school is divided into family groups consisting of a Grade 7 as leader and then a child from each grade down to Grade 1. They meed regularly and the idea is that the older children mentor the younger ones and the younger ones always have a big brother or sister in the school to turn to if they need to. This minimises bullying and builds a camaraderie and culture of caring throughout the school. The Grade 1s adore their Hoofie leaders. One of mine was in the late Grade 7s group and was devastated to hear of her passing. Her Hoofie family was called to the counsellors office at break and she just couldn’t stop crying when the news was broken. I spent some time holding her and letting her cry. “It’s not fair,” she said “Sarah was too young to die. I loved her so much. I will never forget her.”
There were other girls in my class who knew her and they all shared their feelings in a care circle. Discussing it and crying together helped the mourning process. I told the girls that Sarah would not want them to be sad forever and that we should continue our day and dedicate it to her. They agreed and soon we were back into lessons, though in a more sombre mood than usual.
Being a new teacher to the school, I did not know Sarah personally. But having heard from my girls, the other teachers who taught her, had her for sport or choir, it appears that she was a caring, friendly girl a popular with all who came into contact with her. She will surely be missed. Most of our Grade 7s went to her Memorial Service. A friend of mine who knew the family went to and told me that it was beautiful and inspiring. Rest in Peace Sarah – My school will always remember you.