through the eyes of a child

So it seems that all I am able to write about these days is grief in some form. Or post scenic photos of food and flowers as a nice distraction. I suppose maybe that’s somewhat a reflection of my life right now…

As I’ve said before, one of the (many) things I feel I’m missing out on by not being a parent is the ability to experience life through the eyes of a child. Every so often I spend time with the children in my family, my nieces and nephews, baby cousins, and the children of friends. Through these interactions I get a fleeting glimpse into this world. 

A few weeks ago, we had dinner with my cousins and their two kids, ages one and a half and four. We have a particularly special relationship with the four year old, D. He knows us well and considers us auntie and uncle, even though we’re actually cousins (first cousins once removed if you want to get technical).

D remembers our pup K as a part of our family. She used to shower him gently with kisses and never tired of playing with him in the yard. D was just three years old when K died a year ago, and of course he could not grasp that she was gone. His parents tried to explain using a children’s book about pets that go to heaven. But not surprisingly, he never spoke of her. Until now. 

Over dinner he simply looked up at us, a year later, and said very matter of fact, “K died.” A statement, not a question. 

It caught us both off guard. We looked at his parents, who looked back to us. They were as surprised as we were. 

“Yes,” I said. “She died and it’s sad.”

He nodded his little head in agreement.

“She died,” he said again, this time with more certainty.

“Yeah. She’s gone and we still miss her,” I said. “She sure loved you, D. One of her most favorite things was to come here and play with you.” 

He paused for a moment, thinking. “Will you get another doggie?” 

“Well, maybe someday, yes,” I replied. “And we’ll bring her over and she’ll play with you too.”

He nodded again, then paused. “But won’t she die too?” 

Hmm. Now I paused, hesitating. “Yes,” I said, wondering if I was treading on off-limits territory. I looked to his dad, who gave me a look as if to say, good luck with that one. “We all have to die some day,” I explained.

“Oh,” said D.

And that was that. 


~ by luna on May 25, 2008.

16 Responses to “through the eyes of a child”

  1. I hate those discussions. I have them almost daily. I know they’re important for the kids, but they’re hard on us, too.

  2. Luna, the beauty of your blog is that it’s yours and if you need to talk about sadness and grief and unfairness, by damn, that’s what you do. We’ll be listening and supporting.

  3. This post really moved me, Luna. I have a really special relationship with my oldest nephew (maybe I will get there with the other two – they’re just babies right now.) And I’ve often wondered, being with him, whether this was as close as I was going to get to having my own child. You are so right that seeing the world through a child’s eyes is a huge part of the longing. I hope the fact that you handled the conversation with as much truth and grace as you did makes you feel good, even though it is surely bittersweet.

  4. Kids can be so perceptive (& yet so amazingly matter of fact about death). Our youngest nephew was just 6 when Katie ws stillborn, & came to the funeral we had. He has mentioned her occasionally over the years. Dh told me that one time he asked him what her name was & said how sorry he was that she died. I thought that was amazingly sensitive for a young boy. It gives me hope that someday when dh & I are gone, someone will still remember her — the little cousin he was supposed to have had. *sniffle*

  5. You know, it’s funny. I remember a friend of mine had such a hard time explaining to her little girl that Gabriel had gone away. Her little girl had understood there was a baby in my tummy, and then ofcourse he was gone. She came home one night and informed her mum that mummies were supposed to go to the hospital to have their baby and bring it home, and why did Mr. Spit and I not bring Gabriel home. . . It was just so hard for this little one to understand.

  6. That whole exchange left me a little teary. Sometimes kids are so sensitive, and yet so matter of fact, all at once.

  7. Thank you for sharing this, Luna.

    Not quite a month after we lost the boys, C’s sisters came in from (long distance) to visit with us. Ostensibly it was to help out, and they did cook, but the most comforting thing they did was just visit with us, just talking and sharing stories.

    Of course, the sisters were fielding calls from their own kids (ages 2 to 8) all weekend. I found it really surprised me how affected they were by our loss, especially the two older ones. They were sad to lose their baby cousins, but they were also sad for C and me. Every time he called, my older nephew kept asking if we were still feeling sad, did we feel any better. As loribeth said above, it is a comfort to know that they might remember the cousins they were supposed to have. That this was not just our loss, but theirs too.

  8. I don’t know what happened up there, but it was supposed to read ages 2 to 8. Funky wordpress.

  9. Wow. What a great lesson you’ve helped D learn and what a straightforward and lovely post.

  10. Oh, what a conversation. I can’t believe it ended where it did. But it is so cool that D still remembers K after a year. She must have made quite an impression.

  11. I didn’t learn that lesson until I was 35. I guess I’ve learned it makes no difference what age you are when you learn it, it sucks regardless.

  12. And so do our children.

  13. As Loribeth says, it’s incredible how kids can be so sensitive and yet at the same time so completely matter of fact about death.

    It sounds like a really important conversation for D to have had, and one which was handled really well by both adults and children alike.

  14. I so hear you on missing out on the wonder and wisdom of seeing the world through the eyes of children. When I get to experience such moments with my nieces and nephews it’s a gift I treasure. Thanks for sharing this experience…

  15. What a beautiful post. I know exactly what you mean — it reminds me of when my stepson asked a question about my father’s death — and I was honest — and there was just a very simple acceptance, process, move on — and later he came back to it again ‘remember when you said ‘x’ .

    It’s powerful.

    I’m thrilled to find your blog.


  16. […] lots of good wine, and a fun sleepover. The kids, our baby cousins, are one and a half and four years old, about the same age as my niece and nephew who live 5000 miles away. We are close with […]

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