Sunday, July 12, 2009

The hard lesson

Yesterday morning I observed something that I have never before seen in my twenty years of road running: I saw an animal get hit by a car and die. It frankly didn't bother me - while I would rather the rabbit have died of old age in his cozy rabbit hole, surrounded by thousands of his little rabbit progeny, I think the death of wild animals is simply part of the natural order of things. I eat meat, I fish, I have no problem with hunting. Don't get me wrong: I think people who torture animals have something seriously wrong with them. But the death of a wild animal is of little importance to me.

It did, however, get me to thinking about how my Bug will feel about death, and how and when to teach her about it. Buffy and Sirius won't live forever, but they're young cats with incredibly sheltered lives, and the Bug's lessons will probably be long behind us before they expire. My parents' dear, sweet old Mack recently passed away, but it seemed a bit abstract for a two-year-old to comprehend the death of a dog she loved but didn't see on a daily basis.

What really struck me while I was meandering down this train of thought was that this is a lesson without any good ways of being taught. The overwhelming feeling of loss associated with the death of someone dear cannot be explained. The Bug will learn about death, and she'll decide for herself whether she believes we'll all reunite someday in a castle in the sky. But she won't learn that from Joker or from me. We won't be able to protect her from the pain of that lesson, and will be seemingly for naught. I think the best we can hope for is to prepare her with the strength and the support network to handle it.


Stacey said...

and your zodiac year is the rabbit

Anonymous said...

Animals use my car to commit suicide. I am serious! It is awful. Starting at age 16 and going on and on. I have hit dogs, cats, rabbits, a coyote, a hawk, foxes, a raccoon... that is all I can remember.

They do it in a crazy manner too! They will run out when my tires are RIGHT THERE.. or they will walk in the street so I just have time to swerve and then they run RIGHT IN FRONT of where I swerved (a coyote did this on the interstate at night when I was doing 75 and couldn't safely swerve any more).

My daughter has been exposed to animals dying from my car since she was fairly small. Why they pick me to send them to the next world I will NEVER know.

Death is a sometimes scary and heartbreaking part of life. We started to discuss death with Hannah from the time she was 2, when my husband's grandma died and we went to the funeral (she didn't understand, but the subject had been opened up).

When my dad got sick with pancreatic cancer, that was a TOTALLY different ball of wax. No amount of preparation can help a 9-10 year old watch her big, strong, robust grandfather wither away, get skinny, and die in one year. But there are a couple of really, REALLY good children's books on the subject that I can recommend for you, that I found when my dad was sick.

The Fall of Freddy The Leaf is a great one.

Gentle Willow is the other awesome one.

They are both about death from natural causes, of course... but I do think the sentiments on death can hold true in other cases.

Now that I wrote you a book, I'll sign off.

~Angela Woerner

Angie said...

Thanks, Angela - I will check out the books you recommended, and appreciate your stories.

Incidentally, I think my 15 - strike that, 14 - goldfish would be a perfect introduction to mortality for the Bug. We'll have to get a tank at home... as soon as we have a little more room!

Anonymous said...

Fish are often a child's first intro to death. We had an aquarium in the house for a while and... yeah, lots of death (this is why we no longer have an aquarium). I do realize that I probably gave you far more info than you ever wanted but since dad only died a year and a half ago it is still fresh in my mind. ~Angela