After a valiant effort on my part to play the part of a reptile doctor over several weeks, our old pal Leo woke up dead the other day.
rest in peace, buddy
My kids have not had much experience with death. They’ve known about a few, an elderly relative or acquaintance of mine who have passed away, people not directly influential over their day to day lives. Therefore, death was an abstract concept for them.
When my boy was in kindergarten, he had two goldfish. One shared his name and the other was called Santa. I don’t know which announcement was more disturbing to hear; that my boy’s own namesake was belly up or: “I think Santa is dead.” He was very matter of fact about it though, and after a quick yet somber ceremony around the porcelain mausoleum, we went right on with our lives.
A couple of years later my boy got stung by a bee, and he cried because the bee had died.
We’d see something dead on the road and be sickened, but also saddened at the loss of life. But still, it was abstract.
Until last January, when we had to make the wretched decision to let our old girl Porgie scamper away from her failing body and over the rainbow bridge. I joke, but it was awful. Awful for bill and I, who had chosen that puppy as soon as we’d signed the lease on the little beach house where we first cohabitated, long before marriage or babies were on the agenda. Awful for the kids, who had always had Morgan underfoot, agreeable and tolerant and relentless with her tennis ball. She was their muse, their comfort, their real mother. We talked about the circle of life and how all living things must die, she was in pain, blah blah blah. One of them sniffled out an indignant “Stupid circle of life”, which has become a family catch phrase for all things naturally disastrous. But when we lost Porgie, they learned about death in a way that had meaning for them. It was no longer abstract, it was about as concrete as a brick wall.
It's a terrible, awful thing to break the news of death to your kids, regardless of the relative significance of the life that has been lost. We want to protect our kids from loss, from grief, from pain. When I saw that the gecko was dead, I was relieved. That thing was sick, and I was trying to help it out but it was not doing well and I was beginning to get really pissed off about the fact that we were even discussing the possibility of taking it to an exotic animals veterinarian. So when I told each kid upon their waking that Leo had died, it was with the caveat that there was no more pain, no more sickness, no more worry.
My boy took it well, he digested the info and then asked if his sister knew about it yet. Just then, she came out of her room, and I told her. She immediately burst into tears and ran to the tank, newly cleaned and sanitized and now holding only one gecko, our
So I took down the box to show her, and she reached right out and grabbed the dead gecko. Naturally, I shrieked. That was helpful. She cried a little harder while I recovered, encouraging her to place the body back in the box and go wash her hands and arms and hey - let's all just take a clorox bath!
I had to go to work, so left the burial arrangements in the capable hands of my husband. I'm told it was a somber affair, and that they wrote messages to Leo on the casket before burying
Stupid circle of life.