Monday, 12 March 2012

Death...That is All

When I was seventeen my grandmother died.  Somehow I had managed to avoid, or be shielded from, death for that long. Amazing.

There is no puppy heaven: discussing
death honestly with children shouldn't be hard
Image credit: Zach Weiner SMBC
Buy the shirt: SMBC Alien Shirt
The downside to this is that I was totally unprepared for the event emotionally and mentally.

Death is the most certain thing in this life and in our society is shrouded in taboo, wishful thinking and outright dread.  It is the cause of much anxiety, fear and irrational thought and behaviour.

I wanted to take the power of death away from my children's minds.  When the Little Dude was two I bought him a pot of flowers to care for.  He would water it every other day and harvest the flowers to give to Athena.  On its own, this was a boon to him.  He had a responsibility (watering) and would reap the rewards (flowers) and he revelled in treating his mother kindly by giving her flowers he grew himself.

But I had a more sinister motive.  I knew the cosmos flowers were cursed.  In a few short months the plant would be spent and die. This is good.

I really wanted to explain the finality of death to the Little Dude. The flowers weren't going to flower heaven, they weren't sleeping, they were dead.  Not coming back. Ever.
Death row: Cosmos X. Flower and his associates
This was a gentle introduction to death. Everything that lives must die.

When the Little Dude was three I bought some chickens.  Chickens have been selectively bred to be docile, farmers don't want their chooks pecking each other to death. This means that the world's tastiest animal is also the most vulnerable.

Too vulnerable.  We have lost a few chooks to death.  Just last night a wily fox infiltrated our coop and killed our beautiful birds. It is not a nice experience picking up severed pieces of your pets' carcasses from your neighbour's yard. Indeed, murder most fowl.

I explained it to the Little Dude and he understood that Sunny and Midnight were dead at the jaws of a fox.  I asked him if they will be coming back and he told me they weren't.  He was a little bit sad but understands that everything that lives must die.

On the weekend after our first chicken died, we were at a grandmother's house and she tried to console the Little Dude.  She was hamming up how sad it was that the chickens were dead and how dreadful everything was. I stepped in.  I didn't want death to have a terrible emotional hold on my son.  I immediately reminisced with him the good times we had with the chickens; collecting eggs, chasing them back into the run, the time they pecked my toenails, me chasing escapee Midnight around the neighbourhood in my pyjamas.

RIP Midnight and Sunny (and Eos and Dawn)
We celebrated the good that the chickens had brought to us.  They enriched our lives greatly.  Sure, it is sad that they are gone but our lives are better for having known them.

This is how it should be when a loved one dies. Hopefully I have given the Little Dude the appropriate tools to deal with the death of a family member or friend.  It is going to happen, whether we want it or not.  Everything that lives must die.

We, the living, must carry on. No reincarnation, no false hopes, no puppy heaven, no wishful thinking, no take-backs.  Death is final and when we accept this fact for what it is, we can live our lives fully, passionately and fearlessly.

This is the crux of it all.  While it is sad that Sunny and Midnight (and Dawn and Eos) are dead, I sure am glad that they were part of our lives.  We should be grateful to have known them and think back to them with smiles on our faces rather than burdened hearts.

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