Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aren't mothers great. They know when to say something and when not to.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

How intuitive of your mother to let you learn how to grieve your own way Ginnie.
Whatever way it is explained or taught, it's never easy.
Love Di ♥

3:41 PM  
Blogger KGMom said...

It's a wise mother who comforts, educates, and allows her daughter to have this first encounter with death. We all have it--but that first awareness is so important.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Arkansas Patti said...

What a thoughtful Mom you had and a really gentle way to treat your pet.

3:49 AM  
Blogger NCmountainwoman said...

What a sweet post Ginnie. I also had similar experiences and we had a little "graveyard" in the woods for our beloved pets.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous schmidleysscribblins, said...

I believe you had a wise mother. I also believe someone hears every sparrow that falls. Dianne

9:43 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

This is a moving post, Ginnie. Your mother is to be commended for her sensitivity, insight, and eschewing empty platitudes. Thanks.

10:49 AM  
Blogger ellen said...

She was, indeed, a very wise woman.

2:35 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

That was really nice of her. I have only had 2 birds (parakeets) but I was very sad when they died.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

What a lovely post Ginnie, and your Mother was wonderful to let you grieve in your own way. I too had this experience with my horse, I was 12yrs old. The bond we had was amazing, I can still feel it now when I remember her. When I smell a horse, I remember her. It is a fond memory.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Ginnie, your was a wise and sensitive mother. I can't recall how our pets deaths were handled.

5:06 PM  
Blogger possum said...

That reminded me of Chippie, our canary. Actually, it was my grandmother's canary but I loved that bird dearly. It was Years later that I found out that the current Chippie was about the 4th or 5th Chippie. G-ma never told me that Chippie was gone, just repleced the little bird, and kept me happy.
Guess she had been thru too many goldfish funerals with me when I lived with her.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

She was a wise mom. I think that we all need the process of grieving. And with pets, well, I seem to have had a lot of funerals lately.

4:22 AM  

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