Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Childs Memories and Understanding of Death,

I can so see why  growing up on a ranch or farm helps to prepare young people for adulthood.  

Having spent my life in the country until I married a sailor. I am triple grateful and he did not want to go back to farming in Iowa so he stayed military for 25 years. USN

Thus our children had a wee bit of exposure but not as much as I wished for my younger ones.
Nature teaches you about death and life moving on and replacing of the dead ( not quite the term I wanted to use) but best for now. I will explain)

You mentioned your son loosing a rabbit.  But did his class ever loose a classmate?  Did a neighbor loss a parent or grandparent?  It seems you lived in oblivion to life. (?)
I am sure along the way you had an ability to help your children grow but missed it.  If it helps I have learned guys tend to do this more than gals. ( at least with my exposure). 

You see, in the country death is next to birth and reawakening. You loose a baby chick you gain a rooster, you butcher rooster and then replace and it creates a cycle.
One year we had a 3 legged calf. Dad did not put it down.  One time we had a 2 headed calf and yes that one went to town within a short period of time.
What did it teach me?  That nothing is perfect.  Not in animal or human.  Dad said that to explain when I asked," why did this happen?"

We had young and older neighbors, many we called Grandpa an Grandma  Whomever, as a term of respect for their age.  Younger close friends of my parents, some times went by Mr and Mrs or Aunt and Uncle if that was their wish.  We created our own family out of the community.  Our true family was way back in Wyo. Iowa, etc.
We had 1 Aunt (Dad's sis) and her family near us. In fact Dad when we came west worked for her Ranch during the War.  More family came after and during Korean War.  She married an Air Force person, was Army Air Corp. 

My first close exposure to death was the loss of Aunt's GGrandfather in law died. I was about 5 and the next major event I remember was in 2nd grade.
A classmate of mine drowned over at Bodega Bay stepping in a hole, no one thought was many feet deep. Ironic I had been on that same beach the day before with my family hunting clams.  Of course the entire class went to the services at St. Vincent' s in Petaluma, Ca.  

Of course slowly Mom's Aunt's, Uncle's and other family members died  in Wyoming, Iowa,  Illinois, PA and Colorado and New Mexico. I lost a close friend and class mate in High School. I was 15. He was returning from milking cows to go to school and hit a milk truck head on in the fog on his motorcycle. It was the first open casket that I demanded I see.  Mom was most adment. I am glad I did. He was a much like a big brother and he still pops into my mind at random times. My comments were they did a great job of having him looking at peace more than he ever did in life.
 (Another story ).  I was relieved he was at peace. 

Those that were not near were sent a card or flowers if we could afford it and our parents always told us a bit about these people. Many I only know even today from family stories shared.  My Dad went without me to my Grandad's services Casper, Wyo and I am still upset he did not tell me so I could go with him. I hope my Grandfather knew how much I did want to attend. Mom was not able to travel at that time.  Mom went to her Mom's services and a year later went back to her Dad's services in Wheatland, Wyo.  It was very hard on my DAD to do this by himself(another story). He had 5 siblings. His brother did catchup to him but still.

The year before I graduated, my neighbors boys graduated, went to a party and were drinking.  I think there were five in the beautiful brand new car. They popped to the top of the hill went airborne and car went sideways into a telephone pole, making it a convertible and death vehicle.  One survived but never totally recovered.

That class lost to many for  me to remember, some by joining the Marines and being killed overseas shortly after graduation.  Their life was just beginning but ended. I had not yet graduated the next year.

I wish I  could help you to deal with this situation now but I know it hurts. 

 My younger children did not get the country exposure, as much,due to military duty stations and moving. So sometimes at the death of people that they are not even close to, it hits them hard.  Over all I am proud of how they handle the death of  our neighbors as we lost them.  We are now the old timers in our neighborhood of 45 + years.

I see how the older ones roll with the experiences of life a wee better than those not exposed to the learning of the rotation of life like one does in the country.
Each of our children lost at least one classmate. Some lost more than one.  Of course now they are loosing them again due to illness etc and age.

Somehow you need to talk about the family you forgot so your family has something to remember of who you are and where you have been.  Writing this as a query for help is a very good thing to help you to also heal.  Somewhere along the line things slipped into the cracks way back when you were a toddler I suspect. Maybe not but tis a possible.

Suggesting you write to any living kin and ask them to tell you about their families. So that can be shared so that your son knows there is and was a family out there.
Who knows one of those grandchildren may be just like an Aunt or Uncle of yours.

Having worked as an Omsbudsman during the Vietnam Conflict I have more than see my share of aches from this topic.

Thanks for letting me share some of my thoughts and I hope it helps others to rethink not talking about death, It happens we can not stop it and the better they are accepting this the easier for them to deal with death whether it is sudden or expected.

I have now buried my Parents and my husband's Parents, all my Aunt's and Uncles on both sides but a WW2 Paratrooper Uncle and his wife. I even lost my dear cousin whom was my play mate as a wee one.  Even loosing many of the generation under me and I am not even 75 years of age.  
I had family in Freeport. Ill at one time no idea if still there. Think the downline is.
 I did not make the Reunion 3 years ago due to sons' illness in Michigan. BTW, I grew up in Sonoma and Marin County, CA.

Letter written asking for thoughts on children and death.

On Apr 23, 2016, at 10:34 PM, 

Let’s see if I can start adiscussion on a subject of current interest to me: children’s memories andearly  understandings of death. I left SterlingIllinois after high school graduation forcollege in Chicago; then seven years in Denver before arriving in San Francisco in the late 1960’s.  After leaving home I pretty-much never lookedback.  I forgot about grandparents, auntsand uncles and all cousins.     About 12 years ago I was in NorthernIllinois (Freeport) for a genealogy trip, about 50miles north of Sterling,where my mom still lived.  It was my lasttrip day, Sunday, I would fly home Monday.     I called mom Sunday noon and she told memy cousin Barbara had died, and the graveside funeral was that day.     Barbara was my favorite cousin!  An absolutely beautiful girl, I hadn’t spokento her since I was about 14 and she 11. I had to go!  I rushed down to Sterling, found thecemetery, saw a group of people and so arrived at my cousin’s funeral.     That finished, one person told me therewould be a luncheon at the Milledgeville Community Center.  I arrived at the Community Center, walked in,and soon saw Barbara’s younger sister, Nancy. I gasped as I saw her and exclaimed to her, “My God, Nancy, you’re Kitty’s twin!”     She replied, “Who’s Kitty?”I was stunned and foreveraltered!  Nancy didn’t know who our mutual grandmotherwas!     Back home, I checked my family tree chartsand saw that Kitty Moore had died when I was fourteen and Nancy was seven.  Seven years old and she didn’t recognize thename of her grandmother?!     So, since that day, and particularly nowthat I have two granddaughters, one 2 ½ and the other almost 5, I live with thefear and horror that, if I died tonight, they would never remember me!      No one ever counseled me about death.  At age ten, I attended a family reunion in Freeport at a parkbordering a river, and some stranger drowned. I remember people standing along the shore and boats with grappling hooks,and then they found the person, brought him or her ashore and tried to savethem, but finally covered the body with a rubber sheet.  As for my grandmother’s death, I justremember being told that she had died, and that weekend riding with my parentsup to Beloit WI and going to some ‘churchy’ building(most likely a funeral home) and then seeing grandma lying there in acasket.  I don’t know what I comprehendedor thought.     I would like to hear about YOUR earlymemories: how old were you at your earliest memory of death?  What and when was your first confrontationwith death?      Recently I went to Mt. Tam Cemetery and bought a niche for myfuture ashes.  It’s in the Mausoleum, onthe lower level, in the free-standing cabinet. One weekend I asked our son, Niles,to go with me and see where I would end up. I suggested he bring the girls.  He arrived alone.  I asked aboutthe girls.  He said he and his wife hadmixed feelings about that, and weren’t ready to expose her to any discussion ofdeath.     I laughed and said to him, “This ishilarious!  I never had any sort ofsimilar discussion with you, and your first two exposures with death were thedeath of your pet rabbit when you were about eight, and, when your were two months shy of age twenty, thedeath of my mother back in Illinois.”     “I never prepared you for anyunderstanding of death, and now you’re unprepared to discuss it with yourdaughters!”      I would like to hear from any of you aboutyour child’s first exposures to death and about any discussions you might havehad on the subject with your children.This should be interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment