Because Mari had been such a vibrant part of this school for 3 years they did a memorial/tree planting service in her honor. This is what her teacher wrote. The love she has for all of her children is special. I want to share this with all of you since most of you either could not or were not able to be at the memorial. I hope it touches your heart like it has mine.
She learned to read. She could write her numbers and letters and loved counting the touchpoints on the numbers. She loved our songs and poems and knew our routine quite well. I would often say if I was absent that Mari could run the class.
Mari loved music and responded so well. We had a little away song that we would sing to get her to put away whatever it was she needed to put away. We used it during transitions, at the store when she was playing with the giant Dora doll and it was time to go, when it was time to leave the playground, or simply clean up her pencil box. It worked like a charm whenever we needed her to be done with something.
Yes, we could modify her behavior, but, she could modify ours too. She would look at us with those sparkly blue eyes and utter those three powerful words, “Let’s go potty!” She knew she could get out doing any activity she did not want to do with that phrase. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes she did need to go potty. But, sometimes she simply needed a break from table work. We would take her to the bathroom and she would sing, and count, and recite our poems. We loved hearing her talk – even when we knew she had conned us.
Mari loved her Dora fruit snacks. Sometimes she wanted them so badly that she could say fruit snacks in one syllable. We used to buy extra fruit snacks on our Wal-Mart trips so we would never run out.
She enjoyed our community trips, especially swimming. She loved swimming so much and could not understand if some of the children were not happy in the water. The chilly water at the YMCA did not seem to bother her at all.
Mari thrived with routine and structure. Most of the time we could provide that in the classroom, but we could not control the bus. If her bus was not out on time it was hard for her. When the bus was late, Frankie, the last assistant she had before she moved, would sit with her outside and sing, “Where, oh where is Mari’s yellow bus?”
When I told my family that Mari had pass away, my eleven year old son Austin said, “Now Austin Lee has a friend to play with in Heaven.” Austin Lee was another of our very cute and very special students. He passed away on Mother’s Day [May 11, 2008]. Austin had significant physical limitations. His shoes always stayed too clean because he could not run around and get them muddy. We like to think of Autism jumping in puddles in Heaven and getting his shoes dirty. And anyone who knows Mari knows that she was Queen of the Puddles. That girl could find and jump in a puddle before her assistant had a clue she was gone. I am sure Austin and Mari are having a great time getting their shoes dirty in those puddles. And Austin was not able to eat by mouth so we like to think of him as being able to eat whatever he wants in Heaven. My guess is that Mari has introduced him to the Dora fruit snacks!!
I have pictures of both of these children on a bookcase in our classroom. I see their beautiful faces as I teach. I pray they are now watching over me as I watched over them. They both will remain in our hearts forever!