While driving the boys (8 & 7 years old) home from school today, we happened upon a conversation that started innocently, just to pass the time, but it ended up to be a serious conversation that I think all parents should have with their children if they own a pet.
Our initial topic was the fact that we are going to a horse show tomorrow. Paris (the 8-year-old) was excited but Bristol (the 7-year-old) wasn’t really interested. When Paris asked Bristol why he didn’t want to go, Bristol said that he would rather go to the animal shelter and help the animals. For those of you who know me personally, you know that volunteer work, especially for the shelters and animals, is extremely important to me. I’ve tried to raise my children to respect and understand the full realm and responsibilities of pet ownership. I’ve shown them the great moments and sadly, the really depressing outcome of bad decisions. Anyway, while Bristol lamented, somehow the conversation went to Biscuit, a dog that Paris found at the shelter in January and who he deemed “Biscuit”. The name came from a book about a dog, one of my child’s favorites. Paris said that he wanted to go back to the shelter so he could see Biscuit and because he really hoped that the dog was still there. I explained to Paris that he really didn’t want Biscuit to still be at the shelter because that would mean that he hadn’t found his “forever home” and that he had no family to call his own. (I didn’t dare tell him that dogs don’t live that long at the shelter) Paris just responded with, “Well, someday Bowser will die and then we will get a new dog and we can save Biscuit then. We can be his family.” I told the boys that yes, someday we would have to deal with Bowser dying and that eventually, we would get another dog but that I didn’t know how long it would take me to get over the loss of Bowser. Then the conversation took another turn…
Paris said that when Bowser died, he would still be with us, he’d just be in the yard all the time. This is when I brought up the subject of cremation. At first, Paris was outraged and offended and he screamed at me. He said that he wanted Bowser to be in the back yard so that he could give him kisses and talk to him every day. I asked Paris what would happen if we moved and he said that he had never thought of that. Then I told Paris about “Rainbow Bridge” and the fact that when Bowz dies, he will leave his body and go to the heavens and there he will wait for us. Without hesitation, Paris said, “”Okay, we can do that. As long as I have my good memories, it doesn’t matter. You aren’t supposed to think of the bad memories anyway. I will remember him as he lived and not as he died.”.
Death is not something that we want to talk about with our kids. But shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t they understand that when someone or something passes, that it’s never truly gone as long as we let it live on in our hearts? Shouldn’t our children understand and have a say in what happens to them when they are gone? At my boy’s age, they only understand 2 things. When you die, you get buried. Unless you are a fish, then you get flushed. But is burial always the right answer? When I think of Bowser leaving us, all I can think about is that memories will not be enough for me and that I always want him by my side (I do have a tattoo as a living memorial in his honor). I had decided years ago to cremate his remains but what I still haven’t figured out is exactly what I want to do with them. As macabre as it is, I really think I want to carry his ashes around with me until I am gone and then, I want to be cremated and reunited with my best friend. Yes, the Rainbow Bridge and thoughts of heaven are great but I want to be back with him, body and spirit. My strangeness factor is through the roof. I better not talk about the other thought that I had of using his ashes to create a diamond…
Regardless, my kids now know of another option and I think they understand the meaning behind why someone would cremate vs bury. The biggest thing for them to know is that although those we lose are not here in body, they live in our hearts and through our memories of them.
Amazing to think that even though I am supposed to be teaching them, I still have a thing or two to learn myself. The love of a child knows no bounds.