Grief Journal: 270 Squares of Love

The ripples from my son’s death still reverberate. It didn’t affect just us; so many people knew and loved him, including his classmates and friends. 

In addition to ongoing grief counseling, his school wanted to find a way to honor Charlie’s memory. They suggested a “Creativity Day,” where 5th graders could participate in a variety of stations designed to spark innovation and creativity—LEGOs, drawing, reading, and more—all the things my son loved best about school. It was a wonderful way to honor him (I posted about it before, including the cool buttons that his beloved teacher and close friends made for all of the kids to wear), and I think it helped many of his classmates put a bit of closure on his loss. 

As part of that event, the kids had the opportunity to color and decorate a square. Most chose some version of a heart. Kids who knew him well chose to illustrate something he really liked, or an interest they shared. The talented team at the school compiled all of those squares into a single image, lovingly placing each square into a rainbow mosaic titled “Let Your True Colors Shine.” 

(True Colors was one of the songs we played at the funeral, and part of the eulogy his fourth grade teacher delivered. My son was nothing if not uniquely himself, and that song reflects the idea that it’s okay to let your true self—your true colors—shine, because it makes this world is a better place when we have all of the colors around us.) 

The staff invited my husband and me to the school so they could present this beautiful artwork:


It was a bittersweet moment. I have to confess, I was both looking forward to it and dreading it. I was so grateful for the artwork, but it’s still really hard to be in that building; I avoid driving past it on school days, when the kids might be out at recess, because it’s just too damn sad. 

The teachers and staff were wonderful as always, sharing cute stories about our son. Because of the timing, our youngest daughter was with us. She sat quietly, listening to all they had to say. After, she said, “Charlie was pretty cool, right?”  I think it’s a good memory that will help our shy, change-averse child when it’s her turn in another year to go to the Intermediate Center; she knows that the teachers loved her brother and that he had fun there. 

But I’m not going to lie, I cried. In fact, it was four days ago, and I haven’t really stopped crying. 

I hung the picture on our wall once I got home. I spent time looking at each of the beautiful 270 squares, hand drawn by the best bunch of 5th graders on the planet, guided by our amazing and caring school district staff. I wonder how we ever got so lucky as to live here, in this community, surrounded by such love and support. 

And as always, I wish I didn’t have to know just how amazing our town is.

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