It’s said that only two things are certain, death and taxes. I learned about death early from my pet goldfish to my four-legged friends. I have noticed that the subject of death today for the young is verboten. Death is glossed over or misrepresented. Children grow up thinking just hit restart and start over with multiple lives. They think life is like a video game. Children of today have very little concept of death, because their parents shelter them to protect them or because the parents don’t really want to or know how to talk about it.
Adults frequently answer the question as to why someone died with platitudes such as God wanted the person in Heaven. This implies to the youngster that God took their friend away, leading the children to believe that God is mean. For those parents who are non-spiritual, they say it was their time to die, or they are in a better place, or they are no longer in pain. Putting yourself in the mind of a child and you will see that none of these responses is very comforting. The subject of death is discussed with children briefly and in abstract terms. Is it any wonder that some youths have no respect for life or that murdering babies in the womb is acceptable? I do not believe that God or whatever Higher Power you believe in causes bad things to happen. I believe that all things happen for a reason but that we are not privy to why. Talking to a child we have to talk on their level.
What should be discussed with children is how they are feeling, because it is only upon their life experiences can they relate to their loss and their grief. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, death is a physical end. There is no reset button. There are no “do overs”. There is grief, memories and in some cases guilt.
The first time I remember crying about a death was my puppy Cindy, a blonde cocker spaniel. After that my Mom refused to allow any more pets until I was in High School. The first time I cried about a human death was my father and I was over 40. I had been through a war and seen a lot of action, I had seen friends and brothers at arms die but I shed no tears. It wasn’t because I didn’t care or didn’t have emotions, I suppressed all emotion. When my father died, I crying more because of the plans we had made and hadn’t completed than for his passing. Some would say I had become inured to death, but that jaded I never was. I prefer to take comfort in my personal beliefs that we will meet again.
Now I will release tears in a heartbeat over the passing of a pet, but rarely any over the passing of a friend or relative. Lately in my dotage I seem to cry at the drop of a hat over things that bring me joy, but I still cannot cry in public. I cry alone away from the world, away from people. When I pass on I don’t want anyone crying because I don’t want my passing to cause anyone sadness. I have lived a full life. I have made mistakes, lots of them. The only thing I wish is that possibly somewhere along the road of life I helped some people.
Crying is natural and we humans cry for many reasons. Children should not be chastised for crying nor should they be taught never to cry. Crying is necessary result of empathy.
Death, in all its forms, is part of life. My impending death causes me to think about my legacy, if I have any. With no progeny, with a career that is only recorded in dusty secret archives I doubt my legacy will last for too long, it is a history known only to me. I have tried to pass on some things and maybe it will be enough for one or two generations. Other things are locked away in my memory vaults. All of us have secrets and in order not to hurt the ones we love or care about sometimes it best to keep to ourselves.
This subject might seem a bit morbid for a new year but it is the cycle of life. None of us know what the New Year will bring. No one knows how much time they have left. Leave nothing unsaid to the ones you care about.
2016 is almost dead, 2017 is ahead. We are looking at a New Year, a new birth. 2016 will become a memory. Events of 2016 are already in the history books, they can’t be changed. Everything is in flux. The future is up to each individual. Events around us can influence us but only we can actually change. Happy New Years!