Q: How do I talk to my kids about death? I mean how do I even talk to myself about death – especially in front of others? What if I hurt my children by talking about death? or curse them, or frighten them?
A: We finally left the Humane Society with a god, I mean, doG. There have been so many empty handed visits in the last few months – since we got the land in White Salmon. We named her that evening: Luna Waapatui (first came Waapatui and then Luna) She’s our small-ish medium cutie / bear alarm for new life in the wild (yes, there are bears and cougars and rattle snakes) I won’t let David go out at night until we have a dog to keep him, and the chalupinators, safe – at least as safe as I can humanly manage.
Anyway, the very next morning as we went on our morning stroll we saw the neighbor’s dog run out the door and his owner scurrying and calling out behind him. David immediately handed me the baby and went after him. The dog was headed toward our house – and we have already lost one goat to a dog attack.
When we caught up to him I found my 13 year old kitty, Brux (Fia’s first word), laying in a heap on the ground. She died a few minutes later in my arms. I watched the life leave her body, her breath quicken, slow, and then stop. I wept. I was relieved. We are burying her today under the Easter Hydrangea.
I want to be honest with Fia about death.
She says cool-ey, Mama we’ll just get another cat. and I say, I don’t want another cat.
I say to someone later that day (about something totally different), I just want to lay down and die.
And she overhears, Mama, I don’t want you to die. What if I didn’t have a Mamina?
My heart cracks. I do not want to hurt her.
I remember the words of a wise man: Accustom your children to hardship.
and I go back and forth like this for awhile.
Before having children . . .
I really thought of death as an amazing opportunity, a liberation, a celebration (could anything be harder than this planet??? smile). I still do and I am always a little braced for my children’s possible death, like its not quite safe to let them be alive, just in case they are whisked away suddenly. I had the honor of meeting Beth Knox of Crossings when I hosted her home-funeral workshop in Portland a year ago. Her daughter died in an auto accident when she was 8 years old:
I cared for her at home for three days, bathing her, watching her, taking in slowly the painful reality that she has passed from this life, and sharing my grief with her classmates and brothers and grandparents and our wonderful community of friends, before finally letting go of her body
Some would say she was traumatizing her still living children by having her daughter’s funeral at home.
She was including them in the tapestry of being . . .
that includes All Things – the cycle of birth and death.
All things that ever have been or ever will be. All Things. Not just the nice ones.
But HOW do you do it? Should you just be completely open?
Today we buried Brux.
Brux who loved killing mice and leaving them on our doorstep. Today we take walks with our new dog who herself shows interest in chasing cats and squirrels. Today, we as a family celebrate our existence together and honor our mortality. We are learning the ways of hardship, how to meet, navigate, and emerge from the suffering of life. Hearts weeping, we are connected to each other – and to All Things.
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