Did you read Katherine Sokolowski’s Slice of Life post this past Tuesday? She crafted a poem that was a tribute to a dear family-friend, Vel, who passed away. Crafting the poem was a way for Katherine to practice what she preached, by writing beside her students during independent writing time. The poem she wrote was a beautiful way capture memories of Vel. Reading the words and phrases Katherine wrote allowed me to understand who this marvelous woman was that touched her life.
I was moved by Katherine’s writing and left this comment on her blog:
This is a beautiful tribute to a special woman. Vel sounds amazing. May her memory be a blessing to you.
I love the form of this tribute poem. I would love to try this. (I can see it becoming a template for a way to pay tribute to someone… almost like George Ella Lyon’s poem pays homage to where each of us is really from.)
I walked away from Katherine’s poem thinking that this format was one I should try using my grandmother, for whom my daughter is named after, so I can put into words how special she was to me. Writing a tribute poem about my grandmother, like Katherine did for Vel, will allow my daughter to have something in writing that helps her understand why her namesake was so special to me.
Furthermore, I think Katherine’s poem can serve as a mentor to students who are coping with the loss (recent or past) of a loved one. The structure of the poem she crafted lends itself to helping students conjure up words, images, objects, and stories they want to remember about a given person. (And, when taken a step further, the poem students craft can be the gateway to other pieces of writing about their special person.) Katherine’s poem is something I would bookmark and print out if I were still in the classroom. I would have it in my conferring binder, ready and waiting, when a student needs to shift away from what they’re supposed to be working on in workshop on a given day to attend to the feelings they’re trying to deal with. (I know this notion might not be popular if you’re trying to get through a unit of study, but attending to a student’s emotional needs first will allow them to focus on academics soon thereafter.)
So, thank you for the inspiration, Katherine. Here is the tribute poem I crafted about my grandmother, which I will pass on to my daughter, as a result of your writing.
To My Grandma (aka: Ebubbey)
The short gray hair that was always in place.
The way you moved when you walked.
The lipstick, always pink.
The honest comments you responded with,
The love you always communicated,
There was no question how much you cared for your family.
Your tasty, tender brisket.
The way would make sure everyone ate enough at meals.
The strict diet you kept to keep your Diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart condition in-check.
Riding the trolley around the Village.
Exploring your jewelry drawer.
The cooking mishaps.
And how you’d tear-up when we said good-bye.
The love patshes,
Multiple hugs and kisses,
The way you’d wave from the apartment terrace
Your gaze fixed on us as we drove away,
Wishing we could stay just awhile longer.
I miss you, Grandma. I will always love you.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.