Wednesday, January 04, 2006

thoughts on life and death

I cannot quite remember how old I was when I realized death was permanent. When I was rather young, I want to say 7, I visited my dad and step-family in california. When I came home, both my "grandfather"-(my mom's step-dad) and my best friend at the time, another 7 year old girl had passed away. I remember being much more upset about my friend, and feeling guilty that I missed her more, but I also remember thinking that it would be ok, I could make it up to them later. I know that when my grandpa-(my dad's dad), passed on, I was 11, and I knew he wasn't coming back, no matter how much I wanted him to, if for no other reason than to yell at him for being gone.
In Bigguy's four and a half years on this planet, we have had, on average, one funeral a year to attend. Actually, I think it was two his first year, then a year off, then one a year since, but on average, one a year. He has attended all but the very first, as he would not have been more than six months. Oddly enough, we brought him to the next funeral, when he was only about nine months without a second thought. When we had a beloved pet die, we explained to him, at three, that the cat was gone, and wasn't coming back, but might have some sort of kitty afterlife. He seemed satisfied with that. When his brother was born, just a few months later-I allowed Bigguy into the dilivery room, but only in between rather painful contraction, and only when I was fully covered.
It's odd, according to some of my friends, that I let him be exposed to death, but I do not let him witness a new life come into the world. For a while, I could not come up with what I felt was a valid arguement other than the trump of "I'm his mother, and that's how I do it." Over the last few months, however, I have come up with a much more satisfactory(in my mind) answer, one that I am going to share here.
It has been proven that when a small child, and by small child, I am referring to any child under the age of eight-needs a secondary support person, just for them, if they are to witness their mother giving birth. It is an overwhelming sensation on many levels-beside being very graphic visually, the sounds are frightening, and they do not cope well with seeing anyone in pain, let alone a parent. Secondly-and quite possibly most importantly-My son witnessed funerals and wakes, the rituals we surround ourselves in to mourn someones passing and celebrate their lives-he did not witness an actual death. He has seen a brand new, minutes old, baby, and knows that the baby grew inside a mommy, and that the baby came out of mommy-he has been at showers for babies, and has attended birthday parties-both his own and others. He does not need to witness a live birth, by a family member, to understand the concept.
Maybe, as he gets older, he will have some issues, like I did, with understanding completely that they don't come back, but I also think he will realize that as long as you remember-they are never truely gone.

As an aside-this is very near the aniversary of the arson fire that caused the death of a family member, and the destruction of many objects that we can never get back. Make sure you make copies of pictures, and documentation you want your family to have, and put them somewhere safe. Also, make sure your loved ones know they are loved, you never know when it will be too late.

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