Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Death as S.Rube understands it

One of the benefits of raising children on the farm is the learning experience that it provides. The cycle of life and death becomes so common that farm kids live with a different understanding than their big city cousins do. We can only hope that it doesn't become so common that they don't feel it (as was S.Rube's demonstration today....).

Even though, we've not had any recent death on the farm (this week), it still seems to have been a bit of a theme for S.Rube. Up until last night, I've not had to explain death to her. When she asks "What happened to the lamb?" and we answer that it died; that it just wasn't strong enough to make it; that we did what we could, she's never questioned it.

When the starlings come down the chimneys and into the fireplaces every spring, we have to wait until they die before we can get them. We listen to them flapping their wings for days before they do. One of S.Rube's favourite things to do with her dad is to remove the birds after their demise (once we had 5 at one time). When they're being particularly loud in the days leading up to their deaths, I joke with S.Rube saying "Please - can you just get the garbage can and the tongs and get those rat birds out of there already????".

She'll sigh, and say, "No, mommy. They're not dead yet. We have to wait until they're dead."
I'll sigh, and say, "Okay. They're just so noisy."

We also get a few other dead birds left laying on the deck, after they dive bomb straight into the glass. Considering the whole front of our place is glass (and much of the back, too), there's a few casualties. We do manage to save a lot of the birds that hit the windows though, too. We rush out there when we hear the impact. S.Rube has taken the time to examine these bird corpses carefully. Woodpeckers, finches, chickadees, towhees. She knows her birds. Dead or alive.

Here's a picture of the bird-loving rube imitating a dead house finch she's found on the deck that day:

There have been a few other deaths - there was the loss of Uniqua, the minks.
Nothing really graphic or tragic (unless the mink impaled on a pitchfork is considered graphic). And nothing that she's been really attached to.

She started asking about death last night for the first time - right before bed. She said, "Rudy got really sick and then he died. " (Rudy is my friend's dog) "Our dogs aren't going to die, though, are they, mommy?" (ugh. are we EVER prepared for this conversation?) "But we can get new dogs though, right? Nice ones like Xena and Beeser?"
She asked again tonight at dinnertime. "Will our dogs die then, too, mommy?"

Shortly after this, she was downstairs watching TV and I was cleaning the kitchen. T.Rube had missed her nap today and fell asleep on the living room floor while playing. I left her there while I finished cleaning up.
S.Rube came upstairs and walked into the living room. She walked over to T.Rube and lay down at her head. She looked closely in her face and started to reach out to touch her. I was lovingly watching her adore her little sister. It was so sweet.
But, I didn't want the big rube to wake the little one up. So, I stopped her with, "Just leave her, honey." gently.
She turned to me and, with little to no affect whatsoever, as though her sister was nothing more than a starling stuck in the flue vent, said, "Mommy, is T.Rube dead?"
I tried not to laugh. "No, of course not, baby! She's sleeping. She never falls asleep on the floor like that, though, does she? The poor thing."
"Maybe she's just dead."
"No, babe, she's not dead."
"I think she is."
"No, honey, she's sleeping. I'm sure of it."
"No, I'm sure she's dead, mommy."
"Do you want her to be dead?"
"What do you mean yeah?"
"Oh, no look. She's not dead."

Whew, eh?


Anonymous said...

Hey Ruby, I know what u mean about the scewed sense of death. Kookoobelle still asks me to dig up the other cat so she can play with her some more. Its okay mummy we can wash off the dirt! She's not so keen on the remaining live cat. Mum, I want to bury this one instead! Why do I have to wait til she's dead?

Anonymous said...

Great topic J.Rube......as I am still struggling like a babbling fool trying to explain to Molly that Gracie died. At first I just told her that Gracie went to Heaven to be with Aunt Tessie and Nannie....and sh e was fine with that.
Then last night she wanted to know when Gracie was coming home.
UGH -- my heart spitting in half I started to explain to her (per the school directors advice) that Gracie was Very Very Very old and her body was very very very tired.
I thought I was making headway and then Molly said: "Oh well, Aunt Tessie will take care of Gracie and then when Gracie gets better she can come back".
I'm NOT good with all this stuff...afraid I might say something that will scare or scar her for life. I'm thinking maybe I should explain or get a book for Molly on the true meaning of "dead"....
Glad Tessa was just taking a nap...LOL

Anonymous said...

Sorry -- one more thing.
Why can't you put a screen on top of the chimney so the little birds don't get stuck and die.
I'm no farmer....but that would make sense to me!

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