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Partying with the Dinosaurs

dinosaur dancing photo: dancing dinosaur DancingDino-sm.jpg
The first time I had to explain death to my kids was a couple years ago when my uncle died. Two weeks prior, I flew to Jacksonville to visit him and say "goodbye". He had cancer and his days were numbered. I got to spend time with him and had a great visit. Two weeks later,  I had to return to Jacksonville for his funeral. All the children knew I was leaving, but #2 was the only one who inquired why. "Uncle Bernie died", I told him. He looked puzzled and said, "You mean he's extinct? Just like the dinosaurs? And after the next ice age, he'll come back with the dinosaurs?" Well, that is a really great way to look at things, right? "Yea, he'll come back after the next ice age." I assured him.

A year later, our cat, Mimi, that we got right after our Honeymoon, died. She was 17. The girls were three, so they understood that Mimi had died, which in their minds meant Mimi wasn't there anymore. In Mimi's final days, we told the kids to say "goodbye", because we knew it was just a matter of time. And when she died, #2 said, "she's going to come back with Uncle Bernie and the Dinosaurs." But, he was a little mad at us because we had buried her before he could see her.  #1 was a little more melodramatic, "you mean she's gone forever?" I tried to reassure him, "Well, yes. But, she'll come back after the next ice age".  That didn't work on him. He got agitated and cried, "she's gone forever. AHHHHHH" and off he went.

Over the next year, whenever the twins were asked if they had pets, they'd explain, "we had three cats, but Mimi died and now we have two." Wow, they got that.

And this week, we said "goodbye" to another cat. Ellie the cat was 15 years old. She had a massive tumor in her sinus and the vet explained that at some point, it would grow large enough to suffocate her. She was only five then. She managed to live an entire decade out of one sinus. I noticed her breathing was getting labored the day before and sat with her because her time was coming. The next day, #3 went to check on the cats. He returned and told us that she wasn't moving. She was deaf and would only move when touched.  He told us that he touched her and she didn't move. I went to check with him and told him that she died. He asked me, "mom, what is dead?" I told him, "Dead means you get buried in the ground. There is no fun dead. There are no cookies in dead. There are no movies or TV in dead. You stay in the hole in the ground."  He was sad, but in five minutes he was fine again.

We told #2 and the twins that Ellie had died and brought them downstairs to say "goodbye".The twins at first said,"let's save her," but then I told them, "you can't, dead is dead." They said their goodbyes and moved on with the day. I asked #2 if he was glad that I let him see her, and he responded, "Thanks, Mama, I needed to see that. Now is she going to come back with Uncle Bernie, Grandpa Mike, Mimi and the Dinosaurs after the next ice age?" Yes buddy, but by then, we'll all be coming back together.

With kids, life and death are black and white. One day you're there and one day you're not. In their minds, things go on and they are sorry you're not a part of it. It's not until we get a bit older that we're tuned into the ramifications of death; The "I won't get to see them anymore" or, "who will I play with when I wake up?" That happens much later.

 I remember talking to them about life cycles, after we saw a dying fox on the side of the road that was hit by a car.  "All things live and all things die. Each species has an average life span, but each individual is different. Some grow to live long lives and some die younger. The length of time something lives is called a life cycle. When something gets to live it's entire life cycle, then they are lucky."

Brain-pop has a video about death. #2 watched it and then asked me questions. He pointed to the tombstone on the screen with "R.I.P" written on it and asked, "Mom, are you going to put a tombstone on Mimi and Ellie's grave?" I replied that a plant was good enough for animals. A whole bunch of compost for that plant. It's a win-win. I then asked him if he knew what R.I.P meant. "Death" he replied with absolute certainty. Well, yes. It does mean death occurred here. I told him It meant, Rest in Peace. "Oh. Rest in peace. I got it. Until the next ice age."

That's right. Until the next ice age. It'll be a big party with the dinosaurs.


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