By Brian G. Ricca, Ed.D.
As a family, we send Christmas cards every year. We use the same Excel spreadsheet used for our wedding, more than nineteen years ago. Over the years, many of the addresses have changed. and it’s easy to update. Once the addresses are updated, we use the mail merge function in Word to create labels that go on the cards, with a stamp and they’re off to our family and friends.
While more than a few have changed addresses in the years that we’ve been married, sadly several have passed away. Unfortunately, as the years of our marriage have increased, so have the number of loved ones who are no longer with us. My maternal grandmother, my uncle, My Wife’s great uncle, just to name a few.
And I can’t bring myself to delete their labels. I don’t delete their information in the spreadsheet. I don’t delete their names in the draft I review in Word. I let the full list go to the printer. I see their names and addresses, as familiar to me as my own. And while I don’t actually put their labels on one of our cards, I can’t delete them either.
I wish I knew when it would be the last year I would use their labels. Unfortunately, we don’t get that kind of foresight. I wish I knew when would be the last time I celebrated a birthday or a holiday with them. We don’t get that either. I wish I knew the final opportunity to talk to them. Nope, not even close.
I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve only had a very small handful of experiences with someone close to me as they were dying. Given that it’s a small sample size, please take what I share with a grain of salt. The lessons I took away were consistent, and they were all about family. Not one person said, “I wish I had spent more time in the office” or “I wish I would have worked harder.” Every sentiment I heard was about spending more time with loved ones or regretting choices that took them away from their family.
We’re on the verge of the winter holiday break in East Greenwich Public Schools, and candidly we have stumbled toward this final day. We’ve suffered heart-breaking losses and families we know will be celebrating with one less person at their table this year than they expected. We’re feeling the age of our high school building, while we prepare for a Master Plan that will breathe new life into our elementary schools AND will address some of the inadequacies at EGHS.
I feel the sadness. I feel the frustrations. I feel the worry.
Please know we’ve got this. We’ve already applied for emergency funding from RIDE to repair the heating system at the high school. We will meet the February 15 RIDE deadline for submitting our Stage II for the Master Plan. By doing so, we ensure that we remain eligible for the additional 20 percent reimbursement from the state and bring our total from 35 percent to 55 percent. Our facilities team will remain vigilant to the needs of all our buildings, including the high school, to make sure we do everything in our power to keep them open for teaching and learning.
And, we will patiently meet the needs of our students and adults who are in pain and missing those who have passed away. Whether that is this week, next week, next month or in six months. Grief is not predictable and we will be here when those waves of emotion rise and fall. We will extend empathy, compassion and love to those who are grieving.
We’ll never delete their labels, their memories are safe with us.
Brian G. Ricca, Ed.D., is the superintendent of East Greenwich Public Schools.