We've been dealing with a lot of death this week. Thankfully, not the type involving family or friends of the human kind, but still loved ones to Nora.
Nora had two goldfish, both named Dorothy. I believe they were a very happy lesbian couple. A routine Dorothy bowl changing resulted in finding two very dead fish the next morning. Having spotted the floating fish I was able to handle the situation before Nora saw them. I then quickly made up a story that the fish were taken to the "hospital" by her Uncle Dave who stopped by and saw that they were struggling. Was this the best choice? Hard to say, but after a kitty passed away a few weeks back and we explained that Lucky now "lived with Jesus", Nora developed what seemed to be an unhealthy fear of Jesus. This being quite the opposite of one of the biggest goals that her father and I have, I made the decision to not repeat that scenario with these little guys. So the "fish hospital" it was, which I thought would be easily accepted as she has seen her cousins fish go to the fish hospital....but Nora is unlike most children in many ways and this was just another one of those. Nora sobbed for the better part of a half hour over her missing fish. She was unhappy mainly that they may never return and that they may be sad and miss her. I love watching empathy develop in Nora, but it's still hard to watch her have to go through things like this.
The next day I found the bug she had put into her "bug catcher" to be 8 legs up in the air about a day after we put him in his little home. I had a stomach ache over the fact that both Ella The Bug and the Dorothys' had died so close together and how Nora would react. Turns out she didn't know Ella kicked it. She simply kept reporting that Ella was sleeping an awful lot, until finally I suggested perhaps Ella was sad and needed to be returned to her family. Nora wholeheartedly agreed, mainly because I had recently purchased a new bug home and bug net for her and she felt excited about moving on herself. So we happily brought Ella outside where Nora very gingerly placed her in the tall grass, a spot I had picked carefully so that Nora would not see that Ella still remained in her "state", shall we say? Relieved both that Nora had failed to notice Ella was not alive and that I had that bit of unpleasantness behind us, I turned around and nearly stepped on a dead bird carcass laying on our lovely brick patio.
How neither of us stepped on the poor thing was amazing to me, given that it lay right in our direct path from the door to Ella's resting place. I had no time to be grossed out for the little guy, I had to quickly devise a plan to get Nora from point A, the backyard, to point B, the house with out her seeing the dead bird. I knew noticing the bird would have rocked her little world, and she was already in a fragile place from the separation of dad who was in China, the fish being M.I.A., and the fact that we'd be leaving for school in about a half hour. And God knows I wanted her to go to school! So I quickly launched into a very lame conversation about how nice the patio chairs looked all folded up and in a corner, which made Nora look at me like even at 3 she knew I badly needed a life. But we got back into the house, with all the death behind us.
What's more difficult to think about is the fact that, very soon in her life, I will not be able to guard Nora from the fact that we simply do lose people and things that we love throughout our own lives. I've already lost my own mom and G.R.'s mom, who is very precious to Nora, was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago. She kicked is currently cancer free, but it's a reminder that this life as we know it now, is not a forever deal. And I fear I will have to explain that to her before I am fully able to convey to her our knowledge that although we lose people we love, we do see them again in Heaven. The time between being able to bring both of those thoughts together for Nora is going to be an uncertain one in which she will have little comfort and mostly question. I'm praying that God will help me figure out the way to convey all of these things with the grace that Nora deserves to have in a mother.
There are many times I feel ill prepared for this parenting gig.