An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Key Stage 3
To consider the importance of memories.
Preparation and materials
You will need a leader and three readers. They will need to practise prior to the assembly.
Optional: you may wish to bring in some objects that are associated with a particular personal memory and share these with the students.
It would be good to have available the book called The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst.
Please note that there may be pupils present for whom recent events bring back painful memories, so sensitivity is required.
Show the students the ‘memory objects’, if you have chosen to use them, and explain why they are special. Explain that today’s assembly is going to consider memories and the way in which we think about times when we have been happy or upset. We remember people and events in many different ways, such as photographs, letters, souvenirs and gifts given or received. Invite the readers to come forward.
Leader: Today, we are going to hear about a cat called Barney. Many of us have or have had pets, and they give us great happiness. When they die, it is painful, but we remember them and still talk about them. This is one way to remember. The following story is adapted from a book by Judith Viorst, which is called The Tenth Good Thing About Barney.
Reader 1: 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 really nosey; he was always around, looking into things, and we would pretend he was always getting into trouble.
Reader 2: He died. We couldn't eat and I lay awake that night. I just could not sleep. I decided that 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.
Reader 3: 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.
Reader 1: ‘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.’
Reader 2: 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.’
Reader 3: Then, Dad said a strange thing. He said, ‘Nobody really knows. Things change when we die.’
Reader 1: Mum went into the garden to sow some seeds for the spring. ‘Are you coming?’ she asked. 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.
Reader 2: In the spring and summer, Barney's grave would be covered with flowers. Barney might be dead, but now he was 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.
Unfortunately, in life, sad things do happen. One of the most difficult things to come to terms with is the death of someone close to us, whether that is an animal or a person. Sometimes, it can be good to do something that will keep the memory alive. This could be looking at photographs, making a memory box or planting a special tree or flowers like in the story. What really matters is that we keep hold of our lovely memories while also moving on to live our lives to the full.
Time for reflection
How do you feel today? Sometimes in life, we find that we are sad. When we feel like this, it is often good to talk about it – to friends, to a teacher, to the school counsellor or to our families.
What do you do when you see people who look sad? Remember that we never know exactly what is going on in someone else’s life. Sometimes, we need to think before we speak.
We all have memories – some of them are happy and some of them are sad.
Help those who are sad today because of the loss of someone they loved.
Please help us to put our efforts into creating happy memories for those around us.
You may wish to play some quiet, reflective music during the assembly or as the students leave.