My younger nephew, Gabriel, died last night.
So, I visited with the in-laws a bit today. Our older nephew, Michael (he’s three), was sitting on Jesse’s lap drawing pictures and practicing spelling “elephant”. Later, he went to sit on grandpa’s lap, and look at pictures. He wanted to see pictures of him and his baby brother, Gabriel, so they showed him some. Then he said it was the wrong one.
“No! The one where I try to pick him up and there’s blood.”
“No one took a picture of that,” said Jesse.
Last night, right after their bath, Gabriel (14 months) stood up in the tub. He slipped. He fell. He hit his head. He still had a strong pulse when the paramedics came, but he didn’t have one when he got to the hospital. He died.
We don’t know what Michael does, or doesn’t, understand about this. He’s pretty young, but he’s unusually advanced for his age. But here is a human coming to grips with death. He’s trying to understand what he saw, what happened. It’s a bit earlier than we like to think of kids dealing with this, but I’m told recent research suggests kids are a lot readier, a lot sooner, than conventional wisdom has suggested. For Michael’s sake, I hope so.
I will say this. He’s not running away. He’s trying to come to terms with the fact that something happened. He’s looking at it. He’s coming to terms with it. In a culture that prides itself on “shielding” children from death (and from a lot of life, too), at least one boy has made the decision that he’s gonna look the world in the eye. Brave kid. I know a lot of adults who are not yet ready to face death. I’m not really ready for the concept either, although I’ve at least gotten used to the fact that I really don’t know what to make of it.
Date: 2006-04-08 21:55:14 -0500
I think his reaction is normal. We adults are the ones who teach kids that accepting death is wrong, and that talking about it is socially unacceptable. In my world, the only fair thing to do is give kids the most honest answers we can, on a level they can comprehend, like Jesse did. My brain came up with, “That picture’s only in your head,” but I don’t think that has any more merit as a response.
Date: 2006-04-09 22:43:25 -0500
sad sad news