This morning my daughter and I had to walk to the backyard neighbour’s door and gather our beloved Finnegan, the family dog.
“Um is your dog okay? His skin looks awful” my neighbour asked.
“He has a disease.” I replied “He probably won’t be with us to much longer.” I added forgetting my daughter was with me. The neighbour gave me a knowing look, we said our goodbyes and the three of us walked home.
I picked Finnegan up when we reached our home. He can’t get up the stairs anymore. Helaina my daughter watched me with a perplexed look on her face. When we got inside she asked “Mommy what did you mean when you said ‘he won’t be with us much longer’?” My heart sunk when she asked. I had been keeping the fact our dog was probably going to die to myself. See we don’t know when, we just know the tumor in his brain will kill him. Right now he is comfortable and I didn’t want to worry my children with the knowledge that his days are numbered.
So there in the foyer I told my daughter that Finnegan was sick and he will die. The tears came to her eyes immediately. Followed by howls and screams of “But he is only eight years old!!!” I grabbed her and did my best to console her. I cried too. My daughter’s heart was broken and there was nothing I could do to make it better. When she calmed, I said to her “It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to cry. We don’t know how much time with Finnegan we have, what’s important is we enjoy our time with him and make sure he knows we love him.”
I decided to take her for Mother and Daughter pizza date after to cheer her up. We then wandered around downtown. She was quiet. Not many smiles appeared on her face. She was thinking and I wondered what to do. So we went to the bookstore her favourite place, she perused science books while I desperately searched for a story about death and mourning.
I found a beautiful book by Glenn Ringtved titled Cry, Heart, But Never Break. A fantastic story about a grandmother and some grandchildren trying to distract the grim reaper with black coffee. I got a little teary when I got to the end of the story. My daughter and I went to purchase our finds. The lady who helped us looked at the book I purchased and gave me a knowing look with a trace of tears in her eyes.
Helaina and I walked onto the street and Helaina said to me “Mommy it’s good anything can happen.” I nodded. “It’s good anything can happen, even death.” She continued. Holy truth bomb. How do you reply, what do you say to such wisdom?
In my case you nod, stand in awe and reflect on the wisdom of children. I so wanted to make things better for her (fix it) today. We can’t always fix it though, sometimes we just have to let them work through it. Develop their theories and understandings and listen when and if they want to share their findings with us. Maybe just maybe if we really listen we will learn something.
“It is the same with life and death,” Death said. “What would life be worth if there were no death? Who would enjoy the sun if it never rained? Who would yearn for day if there were no night?” excerpt from “Cry, Heart, But Never Break” by Glenn Ringtved