The "I Can't" Funeral

The "I Can't" Funeral

Author: Phillip B. Childs

Donna's fourth-grade classroom looked like many others I had seen in the past. Students sat in five rows of six desks. The teacher's desk was in the front and faced the students. The bulletin board featured student work. In most respects it appeared to be a typically traditional elementary classroom. Yet, something seemed different that day I entered it for the first time. There seemed to be an undercurrent of excitement.

Donna was a veteran small-town Michigan schoolteacher only two years away from retirement. In addition, she was a volunteer participant in a countywide development project I had organized and facilitated. The training focused on language arts ideas that would empower students to feel good about them and take charge of their lives. Donna's job was to attend training sessions and implement the concepts presented. My job was to make classroom visitations and encourage implementation.

I took an empty seat in the back and watched. All the students were working on a task, filling a sheet of notebook paper with thoughts and ideas.

The ten-year-old student closest to me was filling her page with "I Can'ts."

"I can't kick the soccer ball pass second base."
"I can't do long division with more than three numbers."
"I can't get Debbie to like me."

Her page was half full and she showed no signs of letting up. She worked on with determination and persistence.

I walked down the row glancing at students' papers. Everyone was writing sentences, describing things they couldn't do.

"I can't do ten pushups."
"I can't hit over the left-field fence."
"I can't eat only one cookie."

By this time, the activity engaged my curiosity, so I decided to check with the teacher to see what was going on. As I approached her, I noticed that she too was busy writing. I felt it best not to interrupt.

"I can't get John's mother to come in for a teacher conference."
"I can't get my daughter to put gas in the car."
"I can't get Alan to use words instead of fists."

Thwarted in my efforts to determine why students and teacher were dwelling on the negative instead of the positive "I Can't" statements, I returned to my seat and continued my observations. Students wrote for ten minutes. Most filled their page. Some started another.

"Finish the one you're on and don't start a new one," were the instructions Donna used to signal the end of the activity. Students were then instructed to fold their papers in half and bring them to the front. When students reached the desk, they placed their "I Can't" statements into an empty shoe box.

When all of the student papers were collected, Donna added hers. She put the lid on the box, tucked it under her arm and headed out the door and down the hall. Students followed the teacher. I followed the students.

Halfway down the hall the procession stopped. Donna entered the custodian's room, rummaged around and came out with a shovel. Shovel in one hand, shoebox in the other, Donna marched the students out of the school to the farthest corner of the playground. There they began to dig.

They were going to bury their "I Cant's!" The digging took over ten minutes because most of the fourth graders wanted a turn. When the hole approached three-foot deep, the digging ended. The box of "I Cant's" was placed at the bottom of the hole and quickly covered with dirt.

Thirty-one 10- and 11-year-olds stood around the freshly dug gravesite. Each had at least one page full of "I Cant's" in the shoebox, three-feet under. So did their teacher.

At this point Donna announced, "Boys and girls, please join hands and bow your heads." The students complied. They quickly formed a circle around the grave, creating a bond with their hands. They lowered their heads and waited. Donna delivered the eulogy.

"Friends, we gather today to honor the memory of
"I Can't."
While he was with us on earth, he touched the lives of everyone, some more than others. His names, unfortunately, has been spoken in every public building - schools, city halls, and state capitols and yes, even The White House.

We have provided "I Can't" with a final resting place and headstone that contains his epitaph.

He is survived by his brothers and sisters....
 "I can, 'I will' and "I'm going to Right Away.'
They are not as well known as their famous relative and are certainly not as strong and powerful yet. Perhaps someday, with your help, they will make and even bigger mark on the world. May 'I Can't' rest in peace and may everyone present pick up their lives and move forward in his absence. Amen."

As I listened to the eulogy I realized that these students would never forget this day. The activity was symbolic, a metaphor for life. It was a right-brain experience that would stick in the unconscious and conscious mind forever.

Writing "I Can'ts," burying them and hearing the eulogy. That was a major effort on the part of this teacher. And she wasn't done yet. At the conclusion of the eulogy she turned the students around, marched them back into the classroom and held a wake.

They celebrated the passing of "I Can't" with cookies, popcorn and fruit juices. Donna cut out a tombstone from butcher paper. She wrote the words "I Can't" at the top and put RIP in the middle the date was added at the bottom, "3/28/80."

The paper tombstone hung in Donna's classroom for the remainder of the year. On those rare occasions when a student forgot and said, "I Can't," Donna simply pointed to the RIP sign. The student then remembered that "I Can't" was dead and chose to rephrase the statement.

I wasn't one of Donna's students. She was one of mine. Yet that day I learned an enduring lesson from her.

Now, years later, whenever I hear the phrase,
"I Can't," I see images of that fourth-grade funeral.

Like the students, I remember that "I Can't" is dead.

Bible Quote:- “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” - Philippians 4:13 


Sir John Strange; Here lies an honest lawyer, And that is Strange. -- Tombstone in England

I was somebody. Who, is no business Of yours.
-- Vermont

As the flowers are all made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew, So this old world is made brighter by the lives Of folks like you. -- Bonnie Parker (Bonnie and Clyde)

Here lies Lester Moore; Four slugs from a .44; No Les No More. -- Tombstone Arizona

John Brown is filling his last cavity.
-- Dentist's Tombstone

I told you that I was sick! -- Georgia Cemetary, USA

Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake; Stepped on the gas instead of the brake. -- Pennsylvania Tombstone, USA

Remember man, as you walk by, As you are now, so once was I, As I am now, so shall you be, Remember this and follow me. -- Tombstone in England

To follow you I'll not consent, Until I know which way you went. -- Written on the tombstone in reply to one above

The children of Israel wanted bread, And the Lord sent them manna, Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife, And the Devil sent him Anna. -- England Tombstone

Under the sod and under the trees, Lies the body of Jonathan Pease. He is not here, there's only the pod; Pease shelled out and went to God.
-- Massachusetts Tombstone

Gone away, Owin' more than he could pay. -- England

Alien tears will fill for him; Pity's long-broken ern. For his mourners will be outcast men, And outcasts always mourn. -- Oscar Wilde's Tombstone

Here is a complete list of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion tombstones, and in some cases, which Imagineer they reference to.

RIP GOOD FRIEND GORDON now you've crossed the river jordan

RIP in memorium uncle myall HERE YOU'LL REST FOR QUITE A WHILE (Chuck Myall - Art Director)

REST IN PEACE COUSIN HUET we all know you didn't do it

HERE RESTS WATHEL R. BENDER he rode to glory on a fender (Wathel Rodgers - illusionist, mechanical genius)

HERE LIES GOOD OLD FRED a great big rock fell on his head

AT PEACEFUL REST LIES BROTHER CLAUDE planted here beneath this sod (Claude Coates - Art Director, Master of Paint Effects and Lighting)

RIP MR. SEWELL the victim of a dirty duel
(Ted(?) Sewell - Engineer/Draughtsman(?))

IN MEMORY OF OUR PATRIARCH dear departed grandpa marc (Marc Davis illustrator, idea man, funniest Imagineer)

REQUIESCAT FRANCIS XAVIER no time off for good behavior RIP (Xavier Atencio - scriptwriter, and lyricist, Grim Grinning Ghosts

DEAR DEPARTED BROTHER DAVE he chased a bear into a cave

MASTER GRACEY LAID TO REST no mourning please at his request (Yale Gracey - illusionist)

HERE LIES A MAN NAMED MARTIN the lights went out on this old spartan (Bill Martin - Art Director)

Disneyland Haunted Mansion
Pet Cemetery

FREDDIE the Bat 1847 <upside down> We'll Miss You

OLD FLYBAIT He Croaked August 9 1869

She was a poor little Pig but she bought the Farm 1849


Beloved Lilac Long on Curiosity... Short on Common Scents  m1847

There is a cat surrounded by little mouse grave markers.

One that says "Fi Fi"

Those below are found on the red brick wall:-

In Memory My Rat Whom I Loved Now He Resides in the Realms Up Above

Here lies Long Legged Jeb Got tangled up in his very own web

October 10 1867

<snake>(long snakey grave marker)
Here lies my snake who's fatal mistake was frightening the gardener who carried a rake

July 11 1864

Over on the wall near the railroad:-

Theo Later
U.R. Gone
Ray N. Carnation
Dustin T. Dust
Lev Itation
G.I. Miss You
I Trudy Departed
Rust in Peece
I.L. Beback
M.T. Tomb

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Today's TOPIC        Are you SENSIBLE & CLEVER?......


Daily QuoteDaily Quote:-   "Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave  acts." ~Aristotle




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 Richard Bejah :0)

"If we all did the things we are capable of doing,  we would literally astound ourselves." ~ Thomas A. Edison  





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