a peek inside the fishbowl

25 Feb, 2008

Oh, friends

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

One of Emma’s classmates passed away this morning. Emma was particulary close to her, and often helped her on the days when she was well enough to visit the classroom.

The girl was very ill. The entire school made paper cranes in her honour just about a month or two ago. She had her own set for her hospital room. The remainder were collected to make a mobile. They were arranged in huge circles and hung up in the school. They move almost imperceptively when children pass beneath them. Looking up, the effect is rather wonderous. Those paper cranes, all different shapes, sizes, colours, each folded with care and love, look like they’re about to rain down on you. But they just hover.

I’m thinking about our little friend today. And I hope that her spirit is in a better place.

17 Responses to "Oh, friends"

1 | Melissa

February 25th, 2008 at 10:53 am


oh Andrea, I”m very sorry to hear and will be sending comforting vibes to Emma and Sarah. A girl at our school passed away in a car accident a few years ago and Leanne is close to her younger sister and I’m still trying to figure out how to talk about it because the family has made a big effort to keep as many photos out as possible and talk about their older daughter as their way to keep her memory alive for them. It’s a sad thing to have to discuss with your kids for sure…

2 | Nicol

February 25th, 2008 at 11:12 am


I always get emotional whenever someone dies. Even if I do not know them. My thoughts are with you and her family today!

4 | Pendullum

February 25th, 2008 at 12:55 pm


So very very sorry for the loss…

5 | JoAnn

February 25th, 2008 at 3:42 pm


Dear Andrea & the girls,
It is very sad when we lose a friend. We need to remember that its ok to be sad, and that your friend is no longer in any pain. The sad part about dying is that it is always the people behind that hurt so much because they miss their friend so much. Please try and remember that your little friend is no longer in any pain and is in a much better place where no tears, no pain or aches exist.
Andrea – there are some excellent resources out there for parents to help explain death to young children, like: “Water bugs & dragonflies”; “Help me say good-bye”, “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” — contact me if you want more details….

6 | k

February 25th, 2008 at 6:05 pm


I’m so sorry for Emma. When I was in first grade, my best friend died of leukemia – I very distinctly remember her – her name, her dimples, her black curls, and the way her mom had me over after she died to tell me she was in a better place and wouldn’t be coming to ballet anymore.
Funny, what we remember – I hope Emma will remember her always.

7 | Miss Vicky

February 25th, 2008 at 6:29 pm


so sorry to hear it. big hugs for everyone

8 | The Veggie Vixen

February 25th, 2008 at 7:24 pm


As I read your post I began to cry. I’m sure Emma is happy that she has a mom like you to comfort her during this tough time.

9 | andrea

February 26th, 2008 at 9:40 am


Thanks everyone. It was a rough day yesterday.

I picked the girls up from school in the afternoon. The flag was at half-mast. Emma arrived first, visibly upset. She told me that some children did art projects in memory of their friend… to refocus their grief I guess. She also spent some time reading in a quiet corner. Some teachers walked around the schoolyard in a daze.

There was talk of a counsellor coming in.

Emma told me the girl died in her sleep, surrounded by family. They were singing to her as she passed.

If there’s a memorial service we’ll be attending.

10 | Julie

February 26th, 2008 at 10:09 am


I’m sorry to hear that you are going through this sadness with your girls. My thoughts are with you.

11 | mel

February 26th, 2008 at 4:30 pm


Oh, my heart goes out to you and the girls. It is so hard when someone dies. I hope that Emma’s memories of happy time spent with her friend bring a measure of comfort in the sadness.

13 | Chantal

February 27th, 2008 at 4:58 pm


Oh my, I’m so sorry for their loss.

I love the paper cranes idea. Reminds me of a story we read in Grade 7 about a girl in Hiroshima who had cancer and made 1000 of them. I still remember how to make a crane like second nature.

Very comforting.

14 | BeachMama

February 27th, 2008 at 9:35 pm


Oh how my heart breaks. I am so sorry for their loss as well as Emma’s. The cranes are a beautiful idea.

15 | Robert

February 28th, 2008 at 4:31 pm


That is very sad. Our oldest was close in the younger grades, before we moved. We watched from a distance when the news item was aired on our local channel some time ago. We are just letting our children know now.

16 | meanie

February 29th, 2008 at 9:14 pm


i think i’ll cuddle my little one to sleep tonight :(

17 | andrea

March 1st, 2008 at 8:48 am


I’ve debated whether or not to update this post. I don’t think I should reveal personal details about the little girl who passed away, yet I feel like I want to document it somehow, if only for Emma and Sarah’s sake.

The service was noon yesterday.

I picked Emma and Sarah up at school and we hurried to the church. The parking lot was full and we parked a few streets over.

It was standing room only at the church. Many children sat at the front. Overflow sent them up the aisles. I stood at the back for the duration of the service.

The service was a beautiful celebration of her life, full of song and dance and thoughtful words spoken by loving friends and family. I listened to everything with a painful lump in my throat, and struggled with tears. A stranger kindly offered me a tissue partway through the ceremony. Her eyes were like mine.

There was talk about the impact the little girl had on our lives. Her life being like a river. We threw our stones into her river – rough and sharp – and during the nine years of her life those stones were smoothed and shaped by her… and now it was time for everyone to collect their stones. All the children were invited to choose a stone from a large collection they had prepared. The ones Emma and Sarah chose fit perfectly in their palms. Worn smooth with time. Emma kept hers tucked away in her glove.

The last song that was sung was the girl’s favourite: “hey ho, away we go, donkey riding, donkey riding, hey ho away we go, riding on a donkey.” Dear god. Life why does life unfold like it does?

There was a reception afterwards, but I couldn’t face anyone. I sheparded the girls away from the crowd. Outside it was sunny and bright, the brightest it’d been all day. Fresh tears sprang up in my eyes just thinking about how sunny it was. How unfair it was that it could be so damn sunny and beautiful. And just over there, a stone’s throw away, the Ottawa river. It will probably still be there a million years from now.

Emma looked closely at my face. I looked at hers. She didn’t seem to be feeling the same sadness. Or maybe she was and was just better at hiding it. I’m still not sure what she thinks about everything. She’s the one I’m concerned about.

We walked slowly back to the car. Overhead there was a flock of mallards, the first I’ve seen this year. They were flying in circles near the road, looking rather confused and frantic. As we got closer I realized what they were after. Someone had sprinkled some seed under the trees. They finally settled down and ate. The snow was so deep in parts it looked like they sat in nests of snow.

Our friends had locked their keys in the car. The father poked around our trunk for something they could use to jimmy the window open. There was laughter and confusion about what to do. But he got it open. We drove away, and it was over.

Life had resumed once again.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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