170. Talking About Death with the Young
Part One – Farolito
This past Fall we taught in three elementary schools in Española. As we entered our Friday school, the sonorous Hawaiian voice of Israel Kamakwiwo’ole singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow echoed through the halls of the entire school. We walked into our first classroom to see a dozen Kindergarten students and their teacher dressed in pink tops. We were greeted with teary eyes. One of their classmates had died.
The story behind the loss of this child itself was very sad. She had been missing for four days before her body was discovered in the Rio Grande. The circumstances of her death were unclear. The police were investigating. Hard to fathom tragedies like this were not new to this community, but to lose a sweet little five-year-old girl to neglect and abuse sent waves of grief and dismay through the entire city.
We felt close to it because we had just started working with her classroom. It is impossible not to have a special affection for the children of Española Valley. On that Friday, the principal asked, on a moment’s notice, if we could sing a song for her school memorial ceremony. What song, what sentiment, what words can bring relief to a traumatized community, especially when mourning the inexplicable death of an innocent five-year-old?