My Daughter’s Childhood Reflection Regarding Death

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This was written a few years ago by my baby girl during her Junior year at Mizzou. (GO TIGERS!)  I reading it again tonight, and thought I would share. I hope you enjoy it!

Family Characters

 

            My family is full of insane people.  That is probably why I write such great stuff about my childhood and the people that influenced me.  That is also why I am insane, myself.  After days of thinking of funny stories I have heard over the years, I could only come up with a goofy story about myself as a kid, so hopefully this paper doesn’t crash and burn.  Here is the story of my Minnie the mouse’s death.

            As far as I can tell, I had a strange childhood.  Needless to say this childhood of mine involved tons of pets, which eventually led to my ability to cope with death.  When I was about five years old I received a mouse for Christmas.  I named it Minnie (like Minnie Mouse, of course).  She was pregnant when I got her, so shortly thereafter she had a litter of weird little naked baby mice; she ate like three-fourths of them.  The babies aren’t important, though.  So, I had Minnie for a couple years and one day I pulled her out of the cage, ran to my parents, and told them there was something wrong with her.  My mom says I woke them up on a Sunday morning, my dad says it was a Saturday morning in the living room.  Regardless, I claimed there was something wrong with the mouse.  They asked if she was dead, because she wasn’t moving, so I shook her really hard and declared, “Yep!  She’s dead!”  My dad says it was a pretty sad occasion; that they were both tearing up and I never was sad about it. 

            And so began the Barbie funeral procession for my dead mouse: matchbox casket, Barbie car hearse, parents as pallbearers, and me officiating.  We buried the mouse in a matchbox casket with polyester lining so she would be comfortable in the afterlife, we all carried her out to the yard to bury her in the Barbie car turned hearse, then we all said a few words over her body.  My parents returned to the house and I probably kept playing or whatever 8 year olds do.  Needless to say, my parents went on with their lives.  I didn’t seem too beaten up about it so they didn’t worry.

            The following day I came running into the house yelling.  I doubt that was very unusual, but apparently I was extra rambunctious about it.  So, here I was yelling, “Minnie’s gone!  Minnie’s gone!”  My mom calmly explained to me that of course the mouse was gone she died the day before.  I imagine my parents were pretty nervous at this point; my dad said he thinks I didn’t understand death at that age.  Nevertheless, my mother continued explaining how we had buried her yesterday and she wasn’t going to be around anymore.  Then I declared that no, Minnie wasn’t only dead, but she was no longer in the ground where we had buried her.  Now, this is the part that I remember of the story.  I decided, in my infinite childhood wisdom, that I should dig up the dead mouse to make sure she was still there.  Well, to my surprise and everyone else’s I did actually dig it up and it wasn’t there.  My dad went out in the yard with me after the screaming fit and determined that some creature had dug up Minnie in the night and carried off the matchbox and all. 

            My parents were astonished by the fact that I had dug up a dead thing.  I just wonder now what I might have done had she been there still.  I don’t remember my reasoning in digging up the mouse, but I remember thinking it was a good idea back then.  My parents still have no clue why I did it, other than I had a vibrant imagination where anything was possible.  Looking back on it now, I would speculate that I was just bored and wanted something to do.  I am an only child and have always been fascinated by our four-legged friends, so it makes sense that I could find nothing better to do that day except explore nature. 

            My dad mentioned he thought I wasn’t sure how to deal with death.  That is probably the best reason for why I dug up the dead mouse, without making me sound like a crazed lunatic.  As a child, I was always sheltered away from funerals and death.  In fact, I don’t remember going to a funeral until I was about eight, which leads me to believe it was around the same time that the mouse died. 

            We as Americans are totally weird about death.  Other cultures celebrate life, mourn the dead for a short time, and then continue on with the feeling that the spirit of the dead is guiding them.  Americans tend to freak out when a person dies, crying and screaming, never letting go of the person metaphysically.  My grandmother is a prime example of that weirdness; she goes to her mother and sister’s graves probably once a month or more, especially on holidays.  My great-grandmother (her mother) died when I was two and my great-aunt died when I was about eight.  That means both of them have been gone for over 13 years; maybe it’s just me, but graveyards are totally creepy and I never go visit them unless I am forced.  People need a connection with the dead to feel like they are still a part of them; I suppose that is why there is a whole material industry devoted to death and dying. 

            Death is sad.  That does not give us warrant to halt our own lives because of a death.  I would rather see people laughing about the good times they had with the person that wallowing in sorrow for eternity.  This is certainly one aspect of our culture I could do without.  One day, I hope that on my deathbed they put me on a floating funeral pyre and set me out to sea, burning in a wash of glory just like the Vikings.  I want to be remembered in a light-hearted way and others to never be saddened or depressed, but rather joyful and laughing.  

            The dead mouse story essentially illustrates the strange way children cope with death.  As a child, I had little understanding of what it meant other than the basics.  Maybe that’s how we should be as a culture.  There would be no crying, guilt, or anguish: just simple loss. People don’t want to die with nothing to show for their lives; they want to go out in a blaze of glory with millions of dollars and the most expensive hearse delivering them to the ground where they will reside for eternity with no fortune.  There’s a quote that keeps coming to mind from a television show, “Live together, die alone.”  In the end, we have to remember that the relationships we have in life are what are important and not that some of those people we had them with have died.

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