The Dead Duck

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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.

WP_20131011_009 (768x1024) 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.



About Danielle

Danielle is an Early Childhood Educator,blogger, self admitted ECE geek, Preschool teacher, Mother and project coordinator for The Images of Learning Project. These days she juggles presenting, conference calls and blogging with playing with her daughter and nursing her son. She looks forward to the day where she can once again finish her morning coffee.

6 thoughts on “The Dead Duck

  1. Death, talking about death with young children is so refreshing. Their ideas and concepts have lead us in so many directions. In June, at our very last day after 2 years of preschool, I brought out our basket of favourite books. I asked which one should we read on our last day together. With one breath they called out, “Mog!” I asked, “Which Mog?” thinking maybe “Mog and the Bad Thing,” But no, the resounding cry was “Goodbye Mog,” the one where Mog dies. I’m thinking, oh no! All the parents are here and we’re going to read about Mog dying…whatever will they think we do at preschool?

    Well, we read “Goodbye Mog,” and everyone sat with rapt attention. I looked around the room, tried not to catch any parental eyes, and focused closely on the children. They were spell bound. All I could hope was that the parents noticed.

    This Sunday the same children are coming back to preschool for Alumni Day. I’m already beginning to think about what they’ll want to do at Group Time. Will it be sing “A Duck Walked Up to a Lemonade Stand,” OR will it be read, “Goodbye Mog?” I’m thinking and I’m wondering, yet I know it could just as easily be anything else. Can’t wait to find out!

    1. Yes Sarah talking to children about death is very refreshing. I may have to pick up the Mog book. I have never read a mog story which I admitted to Kim on the drive home last night. Must put it on the to do list. I wonder what they will want to read?

  2. A beautiful book about death is ‘Duck, Death and the tulip” By Wolf Erlbruch – After all my years of dealing with my fathers passing, it wasn’t until I read this little picture book that I finally felt at peace with death.

  3. In the end they discussed whether it should be “Goodbye Mog,” but could only get consensus on reading something new…so we sang the Lemonade song and read “No Problem” a very funny book about following instructions. Oh how wonderful to be a part of the democratic process with young children!

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