Wednesday, 19 November 2008

“You get Smarties on your pillow at bedtime in Heaven.”

It was said with such utter matter of factness that even if you wanted to there was no room for discussion. I had wondered if the fact that I had to put our old Jack Russell down yesterday afternoon had had any affect on either of my boys – they just seemed to have taken it in their stride.
In the morning there was Biggles and in the afternoon he was gone.
The Littlest has said nothing and I’m not sure if he has noticed. But the Boy has obviously been considering the matter very seriously.
After demanding biscuits and other foodstuffs on immediate entry to the car at pick up time from school this afternoon and as we meander back along the windy Suffolk lanes, he suddenly pipes up from the depths of the back seat.
Him: “What happens when you die?”
Momentarily flustered and veering slightly in the road, bringing us rather too close to the answer in a practical way, I avoided the question with one of my own.
Me: “Who’ve you been talking to about that?”
Him, nonchalantly: “Daniel, Henry … what happened when you killed Biggles?”
Well there you go then. No beating about the bush, no putting a gloss on it, no putting him down or putting him to sleep, just straight out there – when YOU killed him.
Me: “Well,” - not actually trusting myself to commit to the word kill and unsure quite where the conversation is heading – “what do you want to know?”
Him: “Everything!”
Me: “What from the start?”
Him, slightly losing his patience: “I want to now everything from the beginning, what happened.”
What happened? So I start by telling him that Biggles was old and probably not very well. I tell him that Biggles had got too grumpy and that when dogs are grumpy it means that something is wrong, perhaps they are in pain. I remind him about Biggles snapping at people and how horrid that was. The Boy takes it all in and I have a feeling he’s not interested in the reasons behind the decision. It seems as if he takes these as read. Would that it were so for me. I am uncomfortable with the word kill – but that is what I did. I don’t want to say it was because Biggles had become too unpredictable and that I was scared.
My musings are brought to a sharp halt.
Him: “Muuuum, what happened at the vets, when you killed him…”
Me: “Right well, um, well, er, I took him into the vets’ on his lead and we went through to a room, which was nice and warm and comfortable, then the vet put him on the table and got a needle out and injected him then Biggles sort of fell asleep and that was that.”
Him: "Where? Where did he put the needle in??"
Right details as well ok then. Blood thirsty little monster.
Me: "His front leg you know sort of like your arm when you have injections…."
Him: "Like my injections?"
Me: “ER, well no, um, not really, but in the same place but we don’t do that with humans, you see we have a duty of care with animals and we have to look after them and you see it’s important that we do these things so they never suffer..”
Him: “Like being God?””
Oh Phew!
Me: “Yes. Like God.”
That was close…
Him: “So now he’s dead - is he in heaven?”
Right. Now Heaven. OK. Dogs and Heaven. Should I say yes ‘cos that’s what I believe or should I sort of fudge it? What has he been told at school? Maybe dogs are not heaven material as far as the Church is concerned? Well I bloody hope they do though ‘cos I love my dogs and it wouldn’t be much of a place if they wern’e there. Right then here goes…
Me: “I’m sure he is.”
Him: “What’s heaven like?”
Why has he chosen now for this conversation? Why when I am driving home has he chosen now to ponder these questions? Next he’ll be asking me how many Angels dance on the head of a pin!
Me: “It’s the best of places. Just think of all the good things you like doing and eating and stuff like that and that’s what it is like I expect.”
The Boy ponders for a while then starts rattling off a list of things he likes doing and it feels like we are on safer ground.
Him: “You get Smarties on your pillow at bedtime in Heaven.”
Not bad…
Him: “Mummy, you wouldn’t have to wash up in Heaven!”


Mud in the City said...

What a time to have to deal with that! I think you did a great job.

They were having a similar discussion on the radio this morning - a caller recommended any child considering life & death questions at this age watch The Lion King.

Apparantly it is a good way of discussing death with children.

Tattie Weasle said...

Mud - What a brilliant idea! Though I tend to cry in that film...

Zoë said...

TW, take 'the Boy' to see it on the stage (its due to end soon) It is one of the most amazing musicals I have ever seen, and I've seen it twice, in London and NYC.

Milla said...

that was very dear, you murdererer you!

lampworkbeader said...

Children see the world so clearly. A lovely blog. Thankyou

Crystal Jigsaw said...

The boy done good. I have to be terribly careful when talking about these things to Amy too. But smarties might work!

CJ xx

LittleBrownDog said...

Goodness, those questions are so difficult, aren't they. I remember having to explain about our cat being put down a couple of years ago, and I thought I'd done a really good job, until I heard my boy explaining to the girl over the fence next door about how Gorgy had gone to the vet's for a little sleep and would soon be back, good as new. I think the important thing is to be as honest as you can be, taking account of how much info you think they can handle. And I believe it's ok to say you don't know what happens when you die (if that's what you believe - wouldn't like to assume!). Hmmmm - no washing up? That I could handle.


Ellie said...

Well done - not an easy topic I know.

toady said...

great blog Tattie. We've all been there. I'll look forward to the Smarties.

elizabethm said...

Heaven sounds just great to me, smarties and no washing up will be fine.
Great blog Tattie, and I think you did a wonderful job of coping with the inquisition!

mountainear said...

Why do children have their most profound conversations in the car?

I think you explained it well - interesting that they are most curious about the mechanics and the practical side of things. I suppose adults are too but we're just too polite to ask.


"Out of the mouths of babes" Tattie, straight to the point. I love the logic of children. Because Mr.T has been unwell for the past 5 years, and our little grandaughter adores him, we have explained the death and heaven bit to her. She has taken it all in her stride, and looks on it as something that just happens. She has a wonderful vision of heaven, and has worked out how the angels get you up there.She figures her great grandmother should be on her way up at any time.

Cait O'Connor said...

Great blog, I think you handled it so well.

KittyB said...

A hard job, well handled. I wonder if The Lion King goes over their heads a bit when they're young, I'm not sure it's explained much to H, but worth a try anyway. Maybe if the questions are being asked at the time they watch it then they will find some answers therein.
May you have Smarties on your pillow in this life - if not in the next! What a lovely thought. Like a Sweet Tooth Fairy.

ChrisH said...

Well done, very hard when your own heart must have been breaking to deal with all the questions so sensibly. Sorry about your loss.

Mud in the City said...

Award for you at mine!

Ladybird World Mother said...

Me again. Well done for conversation while driving. Am full of admiration!
Dont they ask the damndest things when you need to be doing something else. Hope you are Alright.

Exmoorjane said...

Mine would want to be the killer! Sorry about the JRT though, Tattie...and apologies for not having visited for so very long. Will have a catch-up now.

Pondside said...

It sounds as though you came through that conversation very well, Tattie!
I'm so sorry to read about your dog - I'm just doing a catch up (and hoping to stay caught up). It's one of the things about having animals in our life, isn't it? - that awful time when you realize that you have to do the responsible and caring thing and let your pet go. I've done it three times and thought I'd die the last time, as my wee Cairn was such a part of the children's growing up. Sending you hugs xo

disa said...


Go on you know you want to...


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