So yes that’s a picture of a dead duck. A duck the children found on the beach. A duck I tried to keep them away from. A duck I was worried little fingers would poke. As I tried to usher the children away from this duck a child stood their ground and said “But we have to do something. We can’t just leave him here!”
“Well what do you think we should do?” I asked.
“We should put him in the Ocean.” I was told.
“Well okay.” I said “But I am not touching it so we need to find a long flat piece of wood.”
The children searched the beach for the right piece of wood. It was found rather quickly and I slid the duck (without touching it) onto the long flat log. We walked it down to the water’s edge. I had visions of sending the duck off in a Viking style funeral sailing it out on his wooden pyre. (there would be no fire in this ceremony though) It would be a more sailing off into the sunset type funeral. I place the log on the water and hold one end.
“Should we say something?” I ask.
“Goodbye dead duck. We will miss you.” Says a little girl.
As I go to launch the duck into his last sail across the sea, he falls off and I am left with his body lapping in the waves by the shore. I was always taught to be respectful of the dead creatures we find. So as I try to push him out to sea with my failed pyre I find myself apologizing to the duck.
Finally the duck starts to drift out to sea. The children are wishing him well. “Go to the sunset.” one little girl yells to him.
Eventually the children and I walk up to the driftwood where we were first playing. The children start talking about death and the duck.
I ask “What does it mean when you die?”
“You never see them again.” says a little boy.
I listen as they talk about death with such honesty. I am moved by their openness to discuss it. I have had a year full of death. I have had to say goodbye more times then I cared too this year. With all this death I had been witness to I had never once engaged in such an honest and philosophical conversation. As I listened I could actually feel a swelling of emotion. There I was on a beach trying not to cry over a dead duck.
A young boy comes up to me, puts his hand on my shoulder and says “Danielle its okay.” And I brace myself for it, that big truth this child is going to share with me. “There are lots of ducks out there.” he says.