Margie

We got up, as usual at 5.30am to wave our neighbor Trevor off to work as he rode off on his motorbike. Trevor (specifically) and motorbikes (in general) are major obsessions for my little 2yo.
‘and there he goes….’ this little guy says as if it’s been his sign off line for 20years.
As usual, we made our way into the lounge room and I immediately ‘assumed the position’ (lying down) on the couch while N pulled the cover off our little girl budgie Margie’s cage.
His normal routine is to say ‘hi Margie! How are you going today? Are you feeling better?’ Margie has not been well so it’s a beautiful empathetic and endearing exchange. Doctors, getting sick/hurt and medicine are another favorite topic of his.
But here’s where the usual routine took a turn. ‘I can’t see Margie mum’.
I quickly stuck my head up and checked. I couldn’t see her either. Oh no! I jumped up and could see her lying on the bottom of the cage. Margie had died sometime during the night.
‘How’s she doing mum?’
Not too good darling.
I had to think quickly. What was I going to tell him? He was the one, out of the three boys, who would really care. Who would take every word I said and lock them into that vice-like memory of his for many repeat visits and detailed circular discussions for the next 6 months at least.
I did not dive into that discussion. Instead, I got a little box and put some tissues in it. Then reached in and gently got Margie and put her in her little box. He watched all this, asked to see her. I showed him and told him that she needed to have a big sleep in her special box. We put the box out on the deck, out of the reach of children and any other animals.
He was unsure but happy enough about what I had said. He asked about her many times throughout the morning. It wasn’t till early afternoon, when the boys were asleep that I placed her in the ground.
When he woke, he asked how she was going and I attempted a simple, age appropriate explanation. It went something like this:
Sometimes animals get sick and the doctor can’t make them better. When that happens they have a big sleep and we don’t see them any more. Margie feels better now and she knows that we love her very much.
OK, I know! I couldn’t quite bring myself to say the ‘d’ word. I tried. I almost said it. But in the end I felt like this little guy has enough big issues on his plate right now without having to contemplate the meaning of life and our ultimate demise. I’m an advocate for telling kids the truth. In foster care, those truths can be very hard to hear. Words must be chosen very carefully. Age appropriate isn’t quite enough. You must also be able to shape what you say to fit with where they are in their emotional development which doesn’t always match their age.
We are focussing on Louie – our boy budgie. We still talk about Margie every day. He seems to be coping with her absence reasonably well. Margie is having her big sleep in our front yard …and there she goes…

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8 thoughts on “Margie

  1. I think you did a wonderful job here, Rose. Death is difficult concept even for adults. “Big sleep” is a beautiful way to explain this to a two-year-old mind. “Big” is an easier concept than “forever.” And, that you were able to do this in the midst of losing family pet is even more commendable. You’re a marvelous momma, my dear. You truly are.

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