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Honour the Child

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Friday, 30 April 2010
Death is never an easy thing to talk about with children.  Partly, we are limited by our own concerns and experiences, and partly by their limited understanding.  In some places in the world, death is an every day part of life in ways that we would never wish for our children, for any child.  And few of us live on farms any more where cycles of life and death are closer to home.

So, as parents, we need to grab those teachable moments.

Being able to talk through the feelings and consider the finality of dying takes practice. It is part of our life's work of making meaning, whatever our experience or beliefs may be.

Being a preacher's kid, Rowan has been to homes for wakes, to homes when people are approaching death, even to the funeral to home colour while I met with a family for funeral planning (sitter fell through!).  Rowan forged a special relationship with 'Miss Alice' whose husband was dying, and became a comfort to the elderly lady throug the experience~ a bright spot in her home which was otherwise so full of illness and grief.  When Miss Alice passed, Ro was still a little young to feel its impact but even so, we were able to share the experience with her.

This week, our neighbours lost their dog,

Dixie's passing was an opportunity to talk about death.  To share our feelings and to imagine ourselves in their place (as our old dog isn't long for this world). It was a chance to make a card and pay a visit and share our sadness.  To see grownups moved to tears by a beloved old brown dog. A moment, rare as they are, for a child to offer comfort to an adult with genuine sympathy and connection.

These are important and weighty lessons for us as parents, as much as for our daughter.  How we will talk about dying. How we will value life and mark its passing. These are the rehearsals that let us work it out together.

And as we passed along the card Rowan had made, in which a happy and healthy Dixie frolicked outside with a butterfly (Easter imagery still large in Rowan's mind) it felt like we had added something essential to our understanding of what it means to be neighbours and to be human beings together.

So long Dixie, and thank you. We hope you love the dog bones in Dog Heaven.


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