Sarah Stultz: Building a lasting memorial at Lakeview

Published 9:01 pm Monday, August 14, 2017

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from the principal of Lakeview Elementary School.

It had been several months since I had spoken with him or seen him since my daughter, Sophie, passed away over a year ago now.

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The principal, Nick Sofio, told me that the teachers and the Lakeview Elementary School Organization wanted to do something in memory of Sophie at the elementary school and wanted to see what we thought of a memorial garden in front of the school. The teachers and some of Sophie’s classmates would gather at the school, along with my family, to put the garden together.

I was thrilled to hear about the idea and touched that they wanted to do something permanent at the school to remember Sophie.

As a parent who has lost a child, I think one of my biggest fears is that people will forget our beautiful daughter. Years down the road, will people remember her contagious laugh and her friendly demeanor? Will they remember her love of reading and her budding talent in art?

I quickly agreed to the proposal and received a followup message from one of the leaders of the LESO group a week or two later.

On Monday afternoon, we gathered at the school and with all of the people in attendance, assembled the little garden. The students — several of them classmates of Sophie’s — did a lot of the work, while I mostly watched from the sidelines. It was great to see some of the children from Sophie’s class and all of the familiar faces of children and parents — though I have to admit it was challenging for me to see how the children had grown since I had seen them last. Several times while they were planting the garden, I caught my mind slipping away, thinking about what Sophie would look like a year older from when I saw her last. She would have surely been a few inches taller, as those children were, and would have experienced another year of knowledge and maturity.

Before too long, the garden was complete, including several perennials, a bench for the students to sit on and a hydrangea tree in the middle. A sign labeled Sophie’s Garden — “Forever Our Friend” was placed behind the bench.

The LESO leaders also had pink balloons ready for a release, which I thought was especially thoughtful.

I am grateful for the kindness that these school leaders, teachers, parents and children showed our family by remembering our daughter through this garden.

I continue to be in awe at the kind acts that many community members have shown and continue to show our family.

I hope that I someday can repay this kindness.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.