Lily had her first real brush with death last week. She was too little when our cat Badoop died to really remember that experience. This past week her pre-school class's pet guinea pig, Snuggles, died. It was very sad. I liked the way the school handled it, even if it grossed me out a bit.
On the day Snuggles passed away, Lily came out to alley pick-up and said "Snuggles died," in her best little mafiosa voice. She then told me that Snuggles was old and his body stopped working. When we picked Ella up from school, Lily also broke the news to her. Ella was unmoved.
The next day, the kids in the class had an open casket visitation with Snuggles, who was artfully displayed from the neck up in a shoe box. I thought it was icky to have a dead guinea pig in the classroom, but the kids were fine with it. I forget that little kids are very matter of fact about things like that.
After the viewing, the kids got all gussied up in dress-up clothes and had a funeral procession. Paula, one of the teachers, dug a grave in one of the church gardens, and they buried Snuggles there. When I picked Lily up, I again got another mafiosa-like announcement - "Snuggles is buried."
We've talked with Lily a few times about Snuggles, and while she says she's sad when we discuss it, I don't think she really is all that much. She never showed much attachment to the animal, and she doesn't bring it up on her own.
Still, it was a good dress rehearsal for future animal deaths. Mollie-dog is getting along in years, and at some point we're going to have to deal with her death. And based on what happened when Badoop died, we'll know how to handle it better. We let the vet take care of Badoop's body - she was cremated and her ashes buried in some mass animal grave somewhere. Ella was very upset that she didn't get to say good-bye and that we didn't know where Badoop was buried. I'm not saying we'll bury Mollie in the back yard, but we will give the girls a chance to say good-bye to her, even if it icks me out. Maybe I'll let Brandon handle that part of it.
I know it probably seems strange to be thinking about this now, but I've found that I can never plan too much when it involves the kids.