1941 … my first encounter with death
I was 8 years old when my beloved canary Bitsy keeled over dead and, of course, I was devastated.
Barely a year had passed since I’d held her little cage on my lap during our train ride from Plainfield, New Jersey to Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts. Our family was making a big change and she was my link to the past so I guarded her zealously.
I was actually amazed at how well she fared during the journey and she was a happy and chipper little bird for the first year in our new home.
Her sudden demise was a great shock to me and I will always be thankful for the understanding and comfort that my mother gave to me then. She took it very seriously and, after explaining that death was an integral part of life, she encouraged me to gather my friends for a special funeral the next day.
After a bit of searching we came up with the perfect coffin. I don’t know if any of you remember but back in the 40’s they sold a boxed brush and comb set that was somewhat similar to this:
It was lined in satin and had a transparent cover … the perfect resting place for my little Bitsy. She looked at peace and lovely as she lay there.
The next day six of us gathered round the hole that we’d dug in our garden. My mother held the box first and she spoke of the joy that Bitsy had brought to all the family. She then passed it on to the next person who continued the dialogue. It ended up with me and, amid tears but also smiles, I recalled all the special times that I’d shared with Bitsy.
I remember the feeling of peace that I felt when we laid her to rest and covered her with packed dirt and a sprinkling of rose petals.
During this whole time my mother never told me that Bitsy was going to heaven or that “time would heal all” … or any of the other time worn clichés. She simply allowed me the dignity to grieve and it’s a lesson that has served me well for the past 70 years. I will be forever grateful to her for that.