On making sense of death

I grew up in a small suburb of Vancouver, in a tidy house, in a normal life.

We had hamsters as pets, and one dog.  We took our beloved pets to the vet for regular check ups, had boxes of treats, and possible one (maybe two) outfit changes for the dog.

Once we had baby hamsters and one of the babies was born “in distress”  My mom and I rushed the baby hamster to the vet where they lovingly put our 2hr old soul “to sleep” .

For 45$.

Time travel forward, and 18 months ago this is how my kids where growing up.  Hamsters, fish and a dog or two. Vet bills for expensive surgeries and birthday party celebrations when the puppy turned one (yes, we DID make a dog bone cake) It was everything I was used to being, a city girl with animals as a part of my family.

We would fight death in my youth. Medicate old dogs until we had no choice but to let them go.  Make choices for “us” and not for them.

Now, 18 months later, things are different.

The first “farm pet” we lost was a bunny.  He escaped his enclosure and was taken by a hawk.  Taken, dropped. And eaten. As a hawk will do.

I drank a half bottle of gin and sat pounding the kitchen table, sobbing over and over again “Why, why, WHY??”

The kids and I all snuggled together in bed that night, snotting up the blankets and crying ourselves to sleep.

Yes. I know.  But he was a  lovely bunny, and it was horrible.

Luckily our next losses where “natural”  Two elderly chickens peacefully passed away, and then the hamsters who had moved with us reached their natural expiry date.

They were ceremoniously buried next to Captain Fergus (the bunny)

Death. It is all around us here on the island.  A regular trip to school will see “something” in pieces on the road, be it a deer, a rabbit or any number of other creatures our island is home to. It is regular conversation to hear of a friends loss of chickens, or other farm creatures, and many of the neighbours and friends raise meat animals and death is a natural part of their business.

I see this acceptance of death become easier in my kids, and myself, and I am not sure if it is a good thing, or a bad thing.

We lost a bantam (small) chicken this weekend to an eagle. We were more upset trying to remember how many bantam chickens we had, than by the loss of one.
And then this morning we found our 6 beautiful ducks destroyed by one nasty mink.


And it is heartbreaking. And horrible. And devastating.

And it is life.

The kids are upset, but there is no sobbing.  There is an understand that it is horrible, but it is also not unexpected.

I think they understand that with each animal acquired on the farm, it may only be here briefly, and that to fight it’s passing is ridiculous.  There is nothing to do but to make cages stronger, and keep them more protected.

And so life goes on today on the farm. The dead are buried and the living are loved. And I can only hope that what my children are learning will make them stronger in the future.   I can only hope that by accepting death as a natural part of life, they will understand the value of each day they live.

I have fought death long enough, feared it and hated it. I am done doing that.

Now granted, I am not going to welcome it, but I will start to accept that it is a natural part of our existence, and by doing that I will release the fear, guilt and worry I have about it.

And I will appreciate moments, and understand this everything will one day, come to an end.  And as much as that can be devastating, it is the moments of joy you have before the end that count more then the end itself.

Comments (2)

  • So sorry for your lose Julie 🙁 I lived on a farm when I was younger but we had cows, when the coyotes got them it wasn’t something that bothered us or something we noticed as kids. My uncle also owned a farm and we did stumble upon a pet dog that was attacked and killed by a badger! It’s sad but at the same time a great opportunity to teach kids about the food chain, that death’s a part of life and how to cope with loss.

  • Julie, this is something I’ve blogged about in the past. Being a city girl, I grew up with a different attitude towards death than my husband, The Farmer did. Our 5 year old seems to understand death better than I do. Sounds strange, but she’s surrounded by life and death every single day on the farm. She’s growing up connected to the land and to our animals. She was telling ME about the cycle of life and death when we lost a calf and its mom (while the cow was giving birth). I was in tears and Little One was also upset, but told me “Mom, that’s part of life. It’s sad, but sometimes this happens.” Wow. Just wow.

    Sure, she was upset when my grandmother died the other year and I know she will be upset when our cat and dog eventually get old and pass away. I think that because she’s been exposed to the beauty of life and also the sadness of death, she’s so much better able to handle things than I did when I was her age.

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