Monday, 24 February 2014

Dying to ask

During a recent family walk, SW announced that somebody died. The somebody was unknown to her, and although she’ll never recall the face or characteristics of the deceased in question, never know how they walked or talked, she’ll remember the car they were riding in and the flowers they had for company. Why will she remember? Probably because, in the process, she learnt that the correct name for an undertaker’s car is hearse. Coffin was already familiar to her, and was used extensively in conversations when she was going through her vampire phase. Scooby Doo has a lot to answer for, believe me.

From early on, my son-in-law explained a person’s ‘passing’ sensitively. “Sometimes we have to say goodbye to people we’re fond of,” he said. But by the time my stepfather left the stage, in 2009, we were all using the word, ‘died’, and that was fine.

It’s a tricky one, dealing with the business of dying, when the questions are coming from someone so young. Explaining where babies come from is so much easier.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to mention (to anyone who might be listening) that SW would be 17 in 10 years time. She turned quickly to me and asked, “Will you still be alive then?”

“I’ll do my best,” I said.

I should add that shortly after SW made her announcement that somebody had died, Thing 2 chirped, “I’ve never seen anybody die before!”

That seemed like an ideal time to dive into the village shop for some sweeties.


  1. bwhahahaha - sweeties come in very handy for so many things :D

  2. Sweeties for the kids and, presumably, vitamins for you so that you can celebrate that 17th birthday.

  3. Good solution, Martin! Though I am not a believer or a non-believer in an afterlife (Surprise me, I say,) when my boys were little I answered questions about death with the standard going to Heaven thing. We had butchered two pigs and Ethan was watching me put meat through the grinder. After a few moments he said, "I hope you're right about the pigs going to heaven because it looks like that would hurt."

  4. It seems quite unfair that as parents (and grandparents) we have to explain things that are quite impossible to understand!

    A good friend of my from Harris was told by his parents, when his dog died, that the dog had "gone to the Isle of Skye". In clear weather, the Isle of Skye loomed on the horizon, so for years he thought that the cliffs and hills he saw on the other side of the Minch was where all the dead people and animals had gone. I think he didn't go to the mainland until he was a teenager - it must have been a very strange ferry crossing, as to get to the mainland you would have to go to the Isle of Skye! No doubt he'd worked it out by then...


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