Not that long ago we saw the demise of a much loved family pet, namely Billy the budgie. The death of any pet can be very traumatic, affecting people in many and varying ways depending on circumstance. Often the animal has been a companion for many years even to the extent of becoming an integral part of family life. Birds, cats, guinea pigs, dogs, rats…they all deserve respect. I was always taught that all creatures have as much right to live on this earth as we do and, if we are entrusted with their care and well being throuought life, we have a duty to take care of them responsibly when that life has ended. It would have been easy to just flush Billy down the loo or put him in the bin and forget about it. However we chose to take the opportunity to illustrate to our grandson who, following the death of his great grandma, and who is full of impossible questions, that people have a way of saying goodbye to those that have passed away. I found myself digging a little hole in the garden so that when Joshua and his mum arrived with Billy we would all be able to say goodbye properly. It seemed the perfect opportunity to answer so many questions without actually saying anything. As we placed Billy’s cardboard box in the ground that little boy moved me immensely. This little four year old boy stood, bowed his head, put his hands together and closed his eyes. Suddenly it dawned on me that he expected me to say a few words in prayer: I didn’t know what to say. I thought ‘keep it simple: not too emotional’.
“Dear God, we thank you for the life of Billy and the joy he brought to our family over the years. Please look after him in Heaven. Amen” I heard Joshua whisper ‘Amen’. Then, without any prompt or encouragement, he picked up the nearby trowel and began tipping some soil into the little hole. I think that I was about to burst into tears when he just looked at me and said “There, that’s that. What time’s dinner?” On the one hand he seemed instinctively to know what was happening and why, yet on the other he was still a four year old boy with an empty tummy. As I filled in the rest of the little grave I wondered just whom had taught whom something that day. On another level our little goodbye to Billy was yet another opportunity for our family to gather, each with a sense of belonging, and all because of a tiny family pet and the instincts of a child.
In memory of Tank, Blob, Pod, Gonzo & Douglas, Norman, Barney, Archie, Heidi and Rumpty