Walking to school, I finally had the courage to tell him: “They had to put Nevada down.” Immediately he burst into tears.
His sister watched the tears roll down his cheeks, scrunched up her own face and offered her interpretation, “Mom, he doesn’t want to talk about it.” She thinks that I don’t understand. Her heartbreak is for him, but so is mine.
I have been sitting on this information for two weeks: How do I tell him, and when?
Perhaps at home on a weekend when we have the time and energy to deal with the emotions and questions and total indignance that everything must die. I thought about that, but would it not be better to have some distractions to remind him that his own moments are precious and shouldn’t be spent brooding over death?
I had avoided a morning divulgence for the sake of his dignity at school. He is almost 11 and treading the line between machismo and sensitivity. Can I rely on his friends to comfort him if they find him quietly mourning his loss?
My timing is little more than a moment of bravado and hope. In that moment, I felt I could deliver the message without hesitation. In that moment, I held my breath and hoped his tears would wash away his sorrow.
He was just a horse, I tell myself, but I know better. This is more than missing a friend, this is about death and its inevitability in the future, “I don’t ever want to die,” he says to me.
I remember that conversation when I was about his age. I had a different take on it though. I remember telling my mom that I hoped I would die first so that I didn’t have to lose her. She, of course, exclaimed, “I don’t! Parents should never outlive their children!”
My grandmother lived 94 years. She knew all of her GREAT grandchildren’s birthdays. She knew EVERY players’ name on the Toronto Blue Jays. She lived a full life in her right mind until the very end. She also knew it was time. She was done and said so, quite openly.
“Remember when Great Grandma Bess said she was ready?”
“Imagine if you were still stuck in kindergarten and you had played every game, finished every task, could sing every song forwards and backwards, don’t you think you would be bored?”
“Well, Great Grandma Bess had welcomed baby after baby, celebrated wedding after wedding, eaten meal after meal, and sung song after song. I think she was probably bored, and I think Nevada was pretty bored too.”
Had I the chance to do it all over again, perhaps I would have asked him how he would have liked to receive the news. We knew Nevada’s life was coming to an end, and he began mourning the gentle giant months ago, but until now, that final word “death” he could largely ignore.
I’m the parent, it’s my job to help him cope. I couldn’t leave it unspoken and have him discover the truth on his own without me or his Dad at his side. I’m still holding my breath for the next time he goes riding, hoping he has had time to let go.
Live within limits without limiting life
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