Suitable for Key Stage 3
To look at how our memories can comfort and help us.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and a reader who has had time to rehearse the story in the ‘Assembly’, below, so he or she will read it slowly and clearly. The story has been adapted from The Tenth Good Thing about Barney by Judith Viorst (Prentice Hall & IBD, 1987).
- For the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly, you or a student could read out either 'A 14-Year-Old Convalescent Cat in the Winter' by Gavin Ewart, in The Nation's Favourite 20th Century Poems, edited by Griff Rhys Jones (BBC Books, 1999), or, for older students, part of Louis MacNeice's poem 'The Death of a Cat' in Collected Poems: Louis MacNeice (Faber & Faber, 2007).
- Have available some music by Enya, particularly from her album Shepherd Moons, or some comparable reflective music and the means to play it at the beginning and end of the assembly.
Leader Today we are thinking about memories and the way in which we think about times when we were happy or upset.
We remember people and events in many different ways – photographs, letters, souvenirs, gifts given or received.
Today we are going to hear about a cat called Barney. Many of us have or have had pets. They give us great happiness, but, when they die it is painful. We grieve for them but remember and still talk about them. This is one way to remember a loved pet.
The tenth good thing about Barney
My cat died last Friday. I was really sad. I cried and cried. So did my mum and dad. Barney was our great friend. He was so nosey; he was always around, looking into things, and we would pretend he was always getting into trouble.
He died. We couldn't eat and I lay awake that night. I just could not sleep. I decided we would have a funeral for him and bury him in the garden. I would think up ten good things to say about Barney at the funeral.
In the morning, Dad and I went out to the garden shed. There was Barney, cold and motionless, but he was still Barney, still our cat. I wrapped him in a yellow towel and carried him into the garden. Mum had dug a hole under the pear tree. I put him in his little grave and covered him with soil. We put some flowers on the grave and went in to have our tea.
'What do we remember about Barney?' said Dad. I replied, 'He was smart and funny and cuddly. He was handsome and liked sitting on laps. He only caught birds sometimes! He lay on the bed and purred. He was always washing and looked so handsome.'
My friend, David, came round and said, 'Is Barney in heaven, sitting on a cloud and eating tuna?' 'He is not,' I replied, 'he is in the ground.'
Dad said a strange thing, 'Nobody really knows. Things change when we die.'
Mum went into the garden to sow some seeds for the spring. 'Are you coming?' she said. At first I didn't want to because I felt so upset. Then I had an idea. I made some holes in the ground on Barney's grave and sowed the seeds. I watered them and thought I could watch them grow.
Barney was our cat and we still loved him now, even though he was dead and buried. In the spring and summer his grave would be covered with flowers. Barney may be dead but now he is a gardener, helping the flowers to grow, and we would remember him every day and every year. That's a pretty good job for a cat.
Time for reflection
Read chosen poem (see ‘Preparation and materials’, above).
Chosen music by Enya