The Death of a Teacher

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the phone rings, the school principal calling.

she tells me Izzy’s teacher has died.

my insides crumple like wilted flowers

i choke up and cry ugly tears, wiping snot on my shirt

and all i can think is how i will tell my precious girl, my sweet pirate girl, this news.

her teacher who loved animals, the color pink, and Fluffy Fresh donuts.

Birth is a beginning

And death a destination

And life is a journey,

A sacred pilgrimage-

To life everlasting.

Izzy cries and clings and asks questions, some we’re unprepared for.

we muddle through as best we can. we make an Izzy sandwich on the sofa–

cuddling and snuggling her, letting her sob as we tell her it’s okay to be sad.

i feel like a child myself again, grasping for answers, fear of the unknown.

we tell her mrs. utterback will be free from pain

and she’ll have a cozy bed in the sky from which she can watch and hear us.

we tell her she can talk to mrs. utterback anytime she wants, and draw her pictures.

so she does:


a pink giraffe for her teacher who loved pink---from Izzy







Stream Of Consciousness w/ Fadra Nally

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  • Casey

    Oh, Erin. 

    This post is absolutely beautiful. I thank you for sharing this with the world. My heart goes out to your daughter as she navigates this new terrain. I know you will offer all the support that she needs and more. Will there be an opportunity for the children to commemorate at the school? It may be in hand, but it might be a good thing for them to do. 

    Izzy’s drawing is achingly poignant, it is clear that she adored her teacher. 

    Best wishes, 


    • Erin margolin


      THere’s actually a celebration tomorrow at the school in honor of her teacher’s birthday. Everyone is going to wear pink (it was her favorite color), the kids all get to let balloons go, and after that they get to have donuts from her favorite local donut shop. It’s for the students, faculty, families, and all alumni, too. We are going to m ail some of Izzy’s drawings to Mrs. Utterback’s husband, too.


  • BigMama Cass

    Oh, my goodness, that is devastating.  I cannot even imagine.  My thoughts are with you.  Poor Izzy :(

    • Erin margolin

      Thanks, Cass. I’m just glad this happened now in order to prepare her for bigger events that may hit closer to home later. Although I’m sure it’s never easy….so glad you stopped by!

  • Jo Miller

    You did exactly the right thing for your beautiful Izzy and for Mrs. Utterback.

    • Erin margolin


      I hope you are right. I’m in new territory here as a parent…Thank you so much for stopping by to read.

  • Jana A (@jana0926)

    I love how you and Izzy are stepping into this unknown territory together. It’s clear from her picture and her reaction that she will continue to have a connection to her teacher, likely for the rest of her life. ((hugs))

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you. There’s a special program at school tomorrow in her teacher’s honor (it would have been her 57th birthday). All the kids get to let a balloon go, everyone will wear pink (her favorite color), and then everyone gets donuts from a local place that her teacher loved. I think it’s a nice way to honor her and celebrate her….but I am bringing Kleenex.

  • Anonymous

    Erin, my girls miss their Grandpa all the time. And say prayers for him – and about him – and are very focused on what he’s doing in Heaven and hoping that he’s having a good time. So sorry to hear about Izzy’s loss .. and tell her to keep drawing pictures. I’m sure Mrs. Utterback loves them!

    • Erin margolin


      I have no doubt it’s been really difficult for all of you since Ron’s passing. Death is a curious thing and I’m relieved in a way that this was their first real exposure to it, so that when the next thing happens (and it may be one that hits closer to home), they may be better prepared. Or are we ever really prepared?

      p.s. she is still drawing pictures and we are going to mail some to Mrs. Utterback’s husband.
      There is a special celebration at school tomorrow where we’ll all let balloons go, wear pink, and then have Fluffy Fresh donuts (those were her favorite). They also put a bunch of those pink plastic flamingoes outside all around the school in her honor. Pretty sweet and very cute and helps to make a sad event not so horrible.


  • IASoupMama

    Oh, goodness — what a sad, sad thing to happen.  My kids would be devastated, too.  I am sorry for your loss.  Many, many hugs…

    • Erin margolin


      Thanks for the hugs and for reading. I have to say this is probably good preparation for a bigger event that might hit closer to home at some point. I don’t know if you can ever really prepare your kids for something, but….this has been their first real experience with the death of someone they really knew…

  • Lina Dickinson

    Oh, that is so sad.  I am so sorry.  I cam over here to say hello because I hear you are from KC!  Hope we can connect more (and on happier occasions!)  xo Lina

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I always enjoy getting to know other local bloggers—there’s a group of us on Facebook (I confess i haven’t checked it out lately to see what’s going on), are you on it? Find me, let’s be FB friends! I am Erin Best Margolin.

  • JDaniel4smom

    Wow! That is so hard! I love your idea of sending her pictures!

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you! There is a celebration at the school tomorrow in honor of what would have been her teacher’s 57th birthday…complete with balloons, donuts, and everyone wearing pink. Each of the kids will get to let a balloon go. I’m bringing Kleenex. ;-)

  • Anonymous

    I’m so sorry. Big hugs to you all. So incredibly hard.

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you so much. Those hugs are needed AND appreciated!

  • Sarahberen

    Beautifully crafted! You really capture the emotions of the heartbreak you feel for your loss and for Izzy’s. Tragic.

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you so much for your kind words and I can’t tell you how much it means to me to “see” you hear and that you left me a comment. I’m incredibly grateful for your support, and for our new friendship! Please let me know how tonight goes—

  • angelshrout

    I am so sorry for you all. Death is never anything we are prepared to discuss with our children. I am glad she has you to lean on and to help cuddle her. Sending love and prayers to you all. 

    • Erin margolin

      Thank you, Angel.

      You’re right. We’re never prepared to talk about death, but in a way I’m relieved we’re getting through this first time together. We appreciate your love and prayers.

  • Vidya Sury

    So sorry about your loss, it is so devastating. Love you and Izzy.You are both champs for the way you’re taking it. Hugs!

    • Erin margolin


      Sorry for the late reply. It’s been a rough last week or so. Thank you for your kind words and thoughts!

  • Ally

    That just breaks my heart. I’m so sorry your Izzy has to go through this. My heart goes out to all of you.

    • Erin margolin


      Thanks so much. She’s doing better, but we’re still talking about it a lot…I guess it’s a good thing in a way, to open up this dialogue…

  • Bocafrau

    That’s so horribly sad. I feel for Izzy and the rest of the children. Sending hugs.

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you for the hugs and for stopping by!

  • The JackB

    So sorry to hear that. It is always hard. My kids and I have spent a lot of time talking about death and all that surrounds it. It is a challenging discussion, but no way to get around it.

    • Erin margolin


      You’re right. This was really our first experience talking about death and so in that regard it’a a good thing. Although we weren’t prepared…and I’m worried we haven’t said all the right things…sigh.

      • The JackB

        The good news is that you almost always feel like you could have done or said it better. ;) I have been there more than once, oy.

  • Juliecgardner

    Oh, Erin. I was sixteen when my Algebra 2 teacher died suddenly a few weeks into the school year; he’d been my math tutor for two years and was finally my actual teacher. My parents were teachers at the same school so he was a friend.

    It was simply awful. And yet.

    I was sixteen.

    I can’t imagine how Izzy must feel at her age; how you as her parents feel. My heart goes out to everyone in this time of loss and shock and adjustment. 

    Your girl is so very lucky to have you.

    • Erin margolin


      I imagine it’s easier dealing with death when you’re young like Izzy.  Because even though she understands a lot, I’m not sure what she’ll remember in a few years. I’m lucky that we haven’t had any other death experiences to explain to them. This was their first brush with it, so perhaps it’s good in a way….

  • Kate Sluiter

    oh erin.

    death is so hard.  especially someone you see every day and is such a big part of your life.  and even more especially when you are so young and unexposed to the sorrow in this world.

    my heart is with you.

    • Erin margolin

      Thank you, sweet Katie. Death is hard. FOrtunately I think for her, this phase will pass quickly…she was such an asset to the school and the community, though. She was a treasure. Sigh.

  • jessica

    Oh so difficult. My daughter’s teacher passed away soon after Hadley did when she was in 5th grade. It was AWFUL. I tried to comfort her the best I could but I could barely comfort myself. I know your daughter is much younger but what comforted mine the most was DOING. Her teacher passed away of breast cancer so her school started a team for the cancer walk at the end of that year and she has been walking in it with her 5th grade classmates ever since.

    • Erin margolin


      Thank you. Yes, we are working on some ideas and going to try and set up a meeting with the other parents and the school. We did name that day (the day we let the balloons go) Mrs. Utterback Day. It’s official with the city and the district, the mayor signed a proclomation, so it was pretty cool!

  • TLanceB

    I am so terribly sorry for Izzy’s loss. My eharts aches for her. Hugs, thoughts and prayers my family to yours.

    also, your words were beautiful

    • Erin margolin


      thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words and thoughts. Greatly appreciated. We have a celebration at her school tomorrow, on what would have been her teacher’s 57th birthday. I’m bringing Kleenex.

  • Jackie

    Oh my… that is so sad and such a difficult situation to deal with. My thoughts are with you and your daughter.

    • Erin margolin


      Thanks, dollface. You are such a sweetheart. I’m sorry I’m so behind on replies. It’s been a crappy few weeks….

  • Weinberg Jennifer

    Erin, I’m so sorry. Explaining death to a child is incredibly hard. Big hugs to you both.

    • Erin margolin


      Please excuse my tardy reply first…and second, HOW ARE YOU FEELING????


  • Elaine A.

    I’m so sorry that this happened, for so many reasons.  But you are wonderful parents to be there for her and help her understand the best you know how.  And the best she can. xo

    • Erin margolin


      Thanks, roomie. I hope we’re doing the right thing. It’s so hard to know what to say. We weren’t prepared for this at all….

  • Pamela

    So sad. Poor Izzy. I love her drawing. Hugs! ~ p

    • Erin margolin

      Thanks, Pamelot–she loves to draw and express herself that way, so we mailed a batch of her artwork (of her teacher) to Mr. Utterback along with a card from all of us….

      Congrats on your books and all the news—I need to catch up over at your place w/ everything going on!

      sorry for the late reply!

  • FadraN

    I saw a photo on your Facebook page and wasn’t sure of the circumstances. I’m so glad you wrote about it. It’s so tragic, not only for the teacher and her family, but for all of the kids. Stability in their lives is so important at that age and losing such an important figure has got to be tough. And watching your little ones dealing with such “adult” topics is even harder. On the plus side, kids are really resilient and I hope she is dealing with everything okay.

    • Erin margolin


      Thanks. She is doing much better and you’re right about kids being resilient. We’ve been talking about it all daily and she still has lots of thoughts and questions. We’re working through it and overall I think she’s handled it better than I’d anticipated.


  • Anita

    Oh, that’s deep. I think you handled it well. Can’t say I’ve ever been in that situation; although a boy at my daughter’s high school was killed. I’m glad he wasn’t in  any of  her classes,which I know is selfish of me to say.  However difficult and strange these things are us, we’ll get over it. The family of this teacher and the boy who died won’t. I’m so sorry.

    • Erin margolin


      You’re so right. Ugh. Why do these things have to be so hard? Thanks for reading and weighing in. xoxo