Laying the Planaria (and Churchill) to Rest

In the pouring rain on Friday, October 16, a group of sophomores gathered to mourn the planaria they had been taking care of in their ninth grade Biology Honors class, which had been disposed of due to the quarantine. The rain wet the ground outside of Churchill, a place that they hadn’t been properly since the quarantine started in March.


Sapna throws herself down in front of the grave, dramatically reenacting her mourning. Offscreen, Ananya Pradhan, 10, stares bewildered at her antics.

Jaiden Radoczy, Bear Hub Staff

The gathering started with an invitation through email, sent to the students and to their two teachers, Mr. Hilarczyk and Ms. Murray. Even with the infrequent Zoom calls, many of the students had already seen their teachers for the last time, given that they couldn’t attend the funeral.

Standing on the outside of the building, students would point at the windows, proclaiming “That’s Mrs. Crupi’s room!” or mentioning where their English class was, many desperate to get looks inside the school we never really got to say goodbye to.

Biology Honors teachers Mr. Hilarczyk and Ms. Murray visitvisiting the gravesite the Monday after the funeral.
[Alt text: The teachers are taking a selfie with the camera pointed towards the ground, showing off the pink bouquet lying over the grave.]

The funeral, socially distanced, began with Sapna Stanley, 10, pulling out a trowel. She had organized this event due to how hard the news of the planaria’s passing had hit her. She began to dig a hole, big enough for the box that she had brought. Other students trickled over to the field, one girl bringing flowers, others bringing funeral music or just their solemn presence. Everyone received a post it note, meant for the names we had joyfully given our planaria, ranging from “Vlastomil” to “Lil’Fernie.” Each name was placed into the box, and one by one we gave our eulogies, commemorating the little creatures we had spent time with. The flowers were placed on the grave, and an egg was cracked, a final symbolic feeding for the planaria. Through this whole event, Churchill loomed in the distance, a visual representation of the loose ends left to us by the pandemic.

Sapna told me her thoughts on the matter, saying: “We didn’t get to say bye to any of our teachers, whether it be from eighth grade, ninth grade, whatever. We didn’t get to say bye to them. We didn’t get to hang out, like, in the Last Blast, or just live out the last few months that we were supposed to be there. I feel like a lot of good stuff could have come from staying there.” She told me this as we walked outside, gathering dandelions to place on the gravesite, which had gained a pumpkin since I was last there.

We sat outside the school, discussing the things we wished we had done before we had to leave it. She talked about saying her goodbyes to our eighth grade history teacher, Mrs. Campbell, and Mrs. Fordham, and how she couldn’t do that due to moving to the high school. I mentioned the projects that had been left in my Sew Much More and Creative Living classrooms, never to be picked up again. We both reminisced on what we could have gained from the last few months of our bio class, despite the chaos it had brought us.

The gravesite, featuring the pumpkin Sapna had left for the planaria.
[Alt text: In the foreground, a pumpkin is painted red, though the paint has come off in several places. The text on the pumpkin reads “RIP” with the words “‘planarians directly beneath that. It then reads “we love and miss you” though the words “and” and “you” have chipped off. At the bottom, it reads “2019-2020”. In the background, wilted flowers and some rocks are utop the grave.]

Something Sapna had said stuck with me though. While discussing what we could have had, she said “I mean, whatever happens happens, so I guess it’s okay.” We are moving forward from this, and even with the lack of closure, we should still be grateful for the fact that we can move forward from this, and that everyone is doing the best that they can within these times. We left the planaria’s grave, adorned with fresh dandelions, and Sapna told me she planned to come back in the winter. She’s going to bring an ornament, and give them a little holiday so that they could celebrate too.

I think it’s a wonderful idea. Moving forward doesn’t mean you have to leave the past behind.