Thursday, December 13, 2012

Good-bye Little Terrapin

F had to say good-bye to one of the dear little terrapins (turtles) that our friend generously gave her for her birthday.

She had named him Dylan. Sadly, he stopped moving about and the whole tank got a bit stinky.

Then we realized he had met the end of his little turtle days. (KP, don't hate us! I really did feed them every day and change their water!)

F has been home from school for the last several days sick. Already feeling slightly tender probably didn't help her emotionally. There were a few tears.

Last night, I had talked to my friend at Feisty Blue Gecko (amazing blog: check it out!) about mortality and ritual around death. It wasn't as morbid as it seems...but perhaps that conversation, in particular discussing the helpful Tibetan Buddhist rituals around death, helped me make sure to pay a little more attention to the little terrapin's death.

I asked F if she wanted to put the turtle in the pond to let it go, but that upset her; she didn't want the catfish to eat it. Burying it was what she decided. So we dug a hole under the hanging orchids.

F decided she wanted to paint some rocks and place them over Dylan the Turtle so she could remember where he was. 

She did this and then had a few quiet moments saying something to Dylan. She refused to let me listen. I was told to walk away, not look, and plug my ears. Of course, I unplugged my ears to try and hear what she was saying, but unfortunately, she was just whispering away. I don't know what she said, but ohhh, how I wish I did.

She told me I had to say something, too. I told Dylan it was nice he was our turtle for a month and  wished him well.

This is only the second time F has really had to encounter death. The first was with my mom's sweet Dachshund, Turbo. That was some time ago and F knew Turbo well. She didn't know the turtle as well and thankfully didn't have the time to get super attached.

Perhaps that's why she's been quite satisfied and seemingly at peace the rest of the day. I also like to think that acknowledging Dylan with a small ritual helped in some way, too.

Have any of your pets died? How have you handled that with your kids?


  1. I do not yet have any children but I remember how my mother handled death with me as a little one. It might seem a bit morbid but she purposefully wanted me to have a pet at a young age so that when my loved friend passed I would learn to cope. It is human nature to want to sheild the ones you love from pain... but I think it's even worse if your never given the skills to deal with the feelings that something like death can provoke. My first pet was a hamster, and I remember when she passed. I cried as to be expected but i look back at the memory more as a celebration of my little hamsters life. My cousins came over to help cheer me up and then we had a little funeral for Katie and said our prayers. I'm glad I was exposed to this reality of life at a young age for it prepared me for the loss of my beloved cat almost a decade later. I think you and F handled the death of little Dylan extremely well. Sorry this got a bit lengthy but your words called my own memories to the surface of when I was a little girl just like F.

    1. Jennifer, thanks for your comment!

      I agree with you that we need to discuss death. Well, maybe not discuss it all...but accept that it will happen to all of us. (Sadly.) My friend - Feisty Blue Gecko - and I were talking about that and the differences between western culture and in particular, Buddhist beliefs. Based on extensive personal experience, her thought was that Buddhism helps prepare people for the grief experienced with death. In Buddhism (so most SE Asians), are taught that death is part of our experience in life. In the west, we try to deny that death will happen. We're ill-prepared for it when it does occur.

      That all ties in nicely with what you were saying. I don't think it's morbid your mom wanted you to have that experience. She was teaching you, not morbidly, reality. I want my daughter to realize this, too.

      After my mom's dog died (they buried it in their garden), we could visit Turbo. I told her that everyone dies. This frightened her, which worried me. Because she asked if I'd die and said she didn't want to die. My response was, "Honey, everyone and everything does. And then we carry them in our hearts." I think that's all I need to say to a 6 yr old...but...eek!

      Thank you so much for sharing your story about the hamster. I think it's key...what you said...about family coming over to comfort. How sweet your cousins came around. :) I think that helps!

      Thank you!

  2. Becky, I love how you helped your daughter handle the death of her little turtle. What an awesome mother/daughter pair you two are. Love the compassion you had with the whole situation with her. She will be an awesome young woman one day and will have learned all that from her amazing mom. xo

    The first few encounters I remember with death was when I was about 5 to 7 years old. The first time my father brought me with him to a wake for someone that lived in town that I didn't even know, Mom must have stayed home with the 3 younger ones. Back then people were waked in their parlours in their home. It was weird walking in to a place where there was so much sadness felt and where I knew no one including the deceased person. The second death was my father's dad, my grandfather... I was about 6 years old. Again he was waked in my uncle's parlour and all I remember from that is my mother and a few aunts screaming at one point they felt that they sensed his ghost when they went to go outside. It was terrifying as a child. I didn't feel safe knowing the adults were so afraid. Then as a teenager we lost our family dog, a neighbour down the road shot him because he had gone on his property. That was unheard of for anything like that to happen, so it was very upsetting.

    Fast forward to when I was about 45 years old our daughter had a pet guinea pig he was already 6 years old. One summer when she was gone to camp for a week he decided to croak. I cried over that little creature not realizing how attached I had become to it all those years. Why so emotional I have no clue. I must have been grieving something else and not just the guinea pig. My husband and I had a little burial for her pet in our backyard. When I picked her up at camp that last day I had to tell her that he had died of course we shed more tears. I will stop here otherwise I'll be filling up your comment section. lol ;)

    1. Suzanne, you are very, very kind. ;)

      I thought it was very interesting reading your stories about death. I hear many people now say (in North America) that funerals are inappropriate for children. That kids shouldn't go to them. That it's too upsetting. And though I've always been very sensitive to the feelings of others around me, and as a child, taking in others' sadness (as you described) difficult/intense, I don't agree: I think it's OK for kids to be at funerals.

      I'm wondering if your dad was trying to teach you something, too, taking you to the funeral of someone you didn't even know.

      I can imagine how frightening it would've been as child to witness adults being scared. I cringe for your little 6 year old self! Your story reminded me, though, of when my grandmother died. I was older. About 11 or 12. After her burial, it was just my mom, cousin, Aunt, and I at the graveyard. Suddenly, the car door swung open. My mom + Aunt screeched; they held onto each other, a bit freaked out, thinking it was my grandma. But then a good thing happened: they started laughing. I was very scared until they laughed. When they laughed, they just talked about gram + what a jokester she was + how that was something she'd do just to freak them out on purpose. lol I am wishing your Aunts had laughed.

      Death really does impact us in different ways, doesn't it?

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  4. Hi Becky
    We have a labradoodle named Max that my kids are crazy about. He's only 3, and my middle son asks quite frequently when Max will die, and the thought of it tears him up inside. I read A Dogs Purpose not long ago, and it is such a sweet interpretation of what happens when a dog dies. The dog is reborn into another dog and blesses the lives of other families. He's never really dead. In the book you follow this dogs spirit through many types of dogs and owner situations. True or not, I don't care. Its a beautifully written book that creates hope that your beloved pet will live forever.
    Thank you for your support in my neck of the woods, I've added you to my blog roll!
    Peace be with you today,

    1. Hi Angela,
      Thank you so much for your comment.

      Thanks also for the tip about the book, "A Dog's Purpose." That does sound very sweet! I really like that idea. Would be nice if it were true, wouldn't it!



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