Cindy, and planting crocuses

February 26, 2011

Cancer took another friend.

My friend and coworker, Cindy Harris, had battled brain cancer since June 2010.  When a tumor was first discovered, doctors surgically removed it and put Cindy on a long but promising plan of recovery.

In mid-January, a second tumor appeared.  It was large, aggressive, and inoperable.  When I heard the news, I was pretty certain it meant Cindy would not be around much longer.  I went quickly through the grief stages of anger and sadness and camped out at acceptance for the next couple of weeks.  My prayers for Cindy were for minimal  suffering, and that she would go before the pain became unbearable.  She was positive to the end–talking about returning to school to sub or volunteer and about planting crocuses in the spring.

Thursday night, she left her earthly body and took on her new one in heaven.  I’m glad to know she is cancer-free, whole, and rejoicing in the presence of her loving God.

Friday morning, the school had a prayer service to remember Cindy, who had taught third grade.  Just a few minutes after the prayer service ended, I had to gather my first group of students for the day: six third-graders.  I was a little teary-eyed but held myself together until I walked into Cindy’s room where her long-term sub immediately embraced me and we wept together.  The class of twenty stopped and watched two adults express emotion they had probably never seen expressed in school before.

As I walked upstairs with my group of six, I knew I would have a hard time jumping right into a regular class period, and I could see that a couple of the kids would be unable to do so, either.  So we pulled up chairs around a table and talked about Cindy for a few minutes.  I told them that she was my friend and my mom-away-from-mom.  I told them about my visits to her in hospice.  I told them that we can be sad that she is gone, but we can be happy knowing she is no longer suffering.

The kids asked questions.  How old was Ms. Harris?  What was she like when you visited her a few days ago?  And my favorite: “Now that Ms. Harris is in heaven, is she a baby?”  “I don’t know,” I responded.  “All I know is that the Bible tells us we get new bodies in heaven, so perhaps Ms. Harris could look like a baby.  I guess we’ll have to wait and find out!”

Even though we were all in shock and some of us still crying, I knew we needed to carry on with class.  “Well, I can cry and teach at the same time, and you can cry and learn at the same time.  So let’s get to work!”  And we did.

I am very aware that a school community has lost a life-giving member.  I am very aware that students and other teachers are grieving and coming out of shock.  But the reality that Cindy is actually gone has not sunk in for me yet.  I keep imagining her in the hospice room, waiting for more visitors and talking about planting crocuses.

All I know at this point is that I am exhausted, I have much yet to process, and I will be planting crocuses in the spring.



  1. Thanks for sharing this Allison. I am so sorry for your loss. I will add my prayers to yours for Cindy’s family, friends and your whole school.

    Blessings, Bob

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