Monday, November 07, 2016

A reflection on demolition

photo Jeannie Prinsen, November 2016

The other day when I was out walking, I stopped to take this picture. St. Joseph St. Mary Catholic School -- Allison's first school, about six blocks from our house -- is being demolished. 

When Allison started at this wonderful little school in 2003, there were over 75 students spanning junior kindergarten to grade five. By 2015, there was one class, consisting of only about seven primary students. 

With numbers like that, closure was inevitable. But it's still sad to see the walls coming down and the rubble piling up. Right now the city is proposing that the property be repurposed for a combination of park land, affordable housing, and private development. It's the latter that is most controversial. No one seems to have objected to the demolition of the building itself; it was old and dated and would need a total, expensive overhaul if it were to be used for any other purpose. It's the question of what will replace it that's causing most of the concern.

Life is like that, too. Loss and change can be so difficult, and some things we lose are not replaceable. Sometimes we start out resisting or fighting the loss or destruction of something: a relationship, a job, a season of life. And when we're forced to admit that the loss or change is going to happen no matter what, we ask, When this is gone, what will take its place?

I felt that way when Jonathan graduated from Grade 8 in June. Of course we'd known it was coming. But suddenly it was imminent, and the prospect of change seemed so overwhelming: no more Rideau Public School. No more familiar faces. No more "Mr. O,"Jonathan's stalwart Educational Assistant for the past eight years. No more walking to school. Jonathan didn't really realize that this would be The End of a wonderful stage of life -- but we did.

And the replacement was full of new unknowns. Bigger building. Big kids and new people everywhere. New classroom. New teacher. New EA. New schedule. New daily bus ride.

 Thankfully, the transition has gone well. Jonathan climbs eagerly on the bus each day, has clicked with his EA, Matt, and seems to enjoy the activities he's doing.

But there are some disorienting aspects, too. Jonathan seems to have lost interest in some of the things he used to love. He no longer wants to go to the schoolyard to do "yellow-blue-red" on the weekends. He doesn't want to go out and play ball in the driveway for an hour after supper anymore. He seems more cranky, and he gets much angrier and more unmanageable when things don't go his way. It's strange: on one level, things are going better than we'd hoped. But on another, they're so much more difficult.

Although demolition is what got me thinking along these lines, it's probably not quite the right metaphor in this situation. Jonathan's not being demolished; he's just growing up and changing. Many of the old familiar things that anchored his world and ours have faded away or changed, and we're all struggling to acclimatize ourselves to a new season -- but not knowing for sure how long that will last, either.

At times like this, this Bible passage encourages me:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
- Lamentations 3:22-23 

It tells me that in spite of changing circumstances, some things are steadfast, like God's presence and faithfulness. I need that reminder right now.


  1. Beautifully written words. I remember looking out the windows of the McLean house and seeing that school yard. Thanks for letting us in on your processing. It is so meaningful.

    1. Thank you, Melody! Alastair has been quite vocal (in the paper, TV etc.) re ensuring that the plans for the property are community-friendly; we need more park space in this part of town. And it's sad not to be hearing all those kids' voices in the schoolyard now. We had so many good years there!

  2. Change is inevitable, but as you suggest, it is wise to acknowledge it and allow the metamorphosis.
    Always good can come.

  3. What will replace that which is gone? This question gives me anxiety. As much as I trust that God is with me, the question still makes me anxious.

    You and your family are a good example for me, Jeannie. I'm not putting on rose colored glasses in this, just taking comfort that with all you go through there is a foundation on the bedrock of Christ fopr you all. Thanks for showing me that in this post.

    1. I appreciate your comment as always, Tim. Thank you and please keep us in your prayers. We need it.


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