A primary school headteacher has been laid to rest in a coffin, covered in the drawings of the children she taught at school, in a touching tribute.
Sue East, 58, died on December 19, following a short battle with cancer, the same day she penned a heart-breaking letter to her pupils thanking them for their ‘joy and friendship’.
Yesterday, (Thursday 17 January), almost 700 pupils, parents, ex-pupils, and staff members attended a service at Bath Abbey, to say farewell to the beloved educator.
East had sent her pupils at St Andrew’s Church School in Bath, a heartfelt letter equating death to sailing over the horizon in a small, round boat, quoting the memorable passage from C.S Lewis’ 1952 novel, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Never forget there is fairy dust to be found in every situation, no matter how difficult.
Some pupils of the school, past and present, sang at the funeral, while others covered Mrs East’s coffin with drawings of fairies, butterflies, love hearts, and rainbows.
In a touching nod to her letter, they also sprinkled ‘fairy dust’.
Tributes paid by pupils said they ‘loved’ their headteacher, adding:
[She was] Fun, lovely, exotic, glittery, the best teacher, kind, caring, taught us to believe in ourselves, sprinkled fairy dust everywhere.
Mrs East’s deputy headteacher colleagues, Tam Stephen and Jayne Rochford-Smith, also referenced her love of Star Trek in paying tribute to their ‘inspirational’ friend and colleagues.
We often refer to ourselves as a family, with Sue as Captain Kirk at the helm of the Starship Enterprise. Sue was an extraordinary friend and colleague to us all at St Andrews.
There was wholehearted agreement that she was bonkers, as all brilliant people are. We all agree that Sue made a difference. She campaigned for creativity, inclusion, diversity and equality.
One cannot help but fall in love with her and the school she so proudly led. Sue exuded huge love for everyone in her care.
Mrs East’s three children – John East, Susannah East and Josiah East – were in attendance at the service, and all read touching tributes to their mother.
Referring to her playful nickname for the children at school, her eldest son, John, said:
Mum lived freely and selflessly. I am humbled to have received a love so unconditional. Mum didn’t just love us, she loved all the ‘creatures’ she worked with.
They were here today celebrating mum’s life. She would not think she is more important than anyone here. I would encourage you to live your lives with love to all people.
Her daughter Susannah spoke of mortality:
She said that death is not to be feared, for it is only coming home. She said how even in the most difficult situations, you find fairy dust.
I loved you to the moon and back. I miss you. I look forward to seeing you on whichever shore you find yourself on.
Lastly, her youngest son Josiah, joked his mother would have probably given him a telling off for writing a speech for her funeral instead of focusing on his dissertation.
RIP, Ms East.
Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.