Students Build Coffin for Dying Teacher
Reading, Rotting, and Rithmatic
A Dutch primary school teacher who is dying of cancer is overseeing one last project among her beloved pupils - they are making a coffin for her.
Eri van den Biggelaar, 40, has just a few weeks left to live after being diagnosed last year with an aggressive form of cervical cancer. Always popular at school, she asked the arts and crafts teacher to build a casket for her.
'Why don't you let the children make it?' replied her colleague and woodwork teacher Erik van Dijk.
Now the youngsters, who normally plane wood for baskets and placemats, are putting the finishing touches to what will be the final resting place for Miss Biggelaar. The children have sawed more than one hundred narrow little boards and glued them together, and only the lid needs to be done now.
The coffin is standing in the middle of one of the classrooms. Some of the children play with it, climbing into it and pretending to be U-boat captains.
While Biggelaar is no longer able to work, she is keeping track of the coffins progress, looking at sketch plans and being kept up to date about it by pupils, aged between four and 11, who visit her at home.
She says: 'Life and death belong together. The children realised that when I explained it to them. I didn't want to be morbid about it, I wanted them to help me.'