When hamsters die, do they go to Devon?

7:37 am
death, kids

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been a bit quiet for a while. Some of you may remember the title quote from a Robinson’s squash advert in the 90’s. Some of you may just be reading my blog for the first time – not a good post to start with I’m afraid. I’d fully recommend you check back in a couple of weeks for something a bit more light hearted 🙁

I know it’s a cardinal sin in blogging to bleat on about not having posted for a while, but given that ‘him indoors’ died suddenly from something as innocuous as a chest infection, I’m sure you’ll forgive me this once. Please?

Even if you don’t read the rest of this (it’s more for my benefit than any of my readers really), then just finish this paragraph. If you are ever faced with this traumatic situation, there is a charity for bereaved children called Winston’s Wish which provides support and suggested reading material for young children. I hope you never need it, but then that’s what I thought…

It’s been a strange time. One minute I’m nagging him about every day trivialities (‘what do you mean you bought salad cream? I wrote salad dressing on the shopping list!’) then the next I’m dialling 999, and he’s walking into an ambulance. Less than 15 minutes later, he was gone.

Dealing with the boys was hard – parenting classes don’t cover what to do if Daddy suddenly gets put on a life support machine and is never coming home. I can’t remember anything about it on Cbeebies either, and you only get one chance at saying goodbye. I did what seemed to be right (though may seem a bit macabre to some). I took a picture of him in hospital with all his tubes and needles and wires and showed the boys so they understood. No.1 son was adamant he didn’t want to go and see Daddy, though given that he’d only come out of hospital himself 4 days earlier, I guess that was a blessing as a lifelong fear of hospitals wouldn’t have helped anyone. No.2 son went, prodded him and announced ‘It still looks like Daddy’.

Kids are amazingly resilient, but you do need to be honest with them. No good saying ‘it’s been 2 weeks since we lost Daddy’ or they’ll be out in the garden looking for him. No good avoiding the word ‘dead’ either or they will expect the recently departed to come back. They haven’t said much about it, but clearly it is on their minds – now again out of the blue comes a question to challenge the best of us ‘Why is Daddy in a box with flowers on?’ or worse still, the questions come from a different source – I remember picking pre-school no.2 son up in the week following the events to be asked by another child ‘Why is his Daddy dead?’. A good question. One I really wish I knew the answer to.

I came across this poem the other day, which sums up my advice (apart from always retain a sense of humour. Even in the darkest hour.) And no, hamsters don’t go to Devon when they die.

The Dash – Linda Ellis (1996)

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

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One Response
  1. Alex :

    Date: March 25, 2008 @ 11:22 am

    Our thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time…

    Another useful website for anyone in this unfortunate position is http://www.childbereavement.org.uk which has some handy information for all.

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