Tuesday we got a Berenstain Bears book called “The Wishing Star” from the library. In it is a familiar old rhyme:
Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight
Owlet brought that poem up yesterday while I was cooking dinner, a mildly fussy Platypup at my feet. I mentioned that I used to say that when I was a little girl, and that my mom, Grandma Jackie, had taught it to me.
I saw the wheels turning in her thoughtful little head. An unusual silence reigned.
And then she asked, in the sweetest little conversational tone, “Do you see her very often?”
Ah, no, girl child. I would not be holding her back from you!
“Grandma Jackie?” I confirmed. She nodded. “No, honey,” I said, crouching down to her level, “she’s dead. Grandma Jackie died a long time ago, before you were born.”
I have been waiting for this question. I cannot express how happy I am that her immediate thought was not full of the fear that I would similarly leave her. I’m sure it helps that 13 seems as old as 30 to a 3 year old; likely she does not realize I was still a child.
Lately Owlet has been asking a lot about our friends’ son, Caemon, who died of leukemia in February and should have turned four two weeks ago. In step with her clown’s-scarf collection of never-ending “Why?”s, she has been very eager to master the difficult subject of life and death. Last week Caemon’s parents lent us a children’s book called Lifetimes: the beautiful way to explain death to children by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen that did exactly what it should — demystify and familiarize, answer the primary questions and create openings for many more, and all with poignant illustrations and a soothing rhythm.
Amongst Platypup’s grousing I told my keen-eyed Owlet how much Grandma Jackie would have loved her, just like Granny (Thor’s mom) does. I said that I missed her very much still and wished that they had gotten to meet. She asked if Grandma Jackie had been very old, and I explained that, no, she had gotten very sick, like Caemon. And reiterated that most people live to be old, but some get hurt or sick when they are young.
She paused again, in a way that clearly meant the conversation would resume shortly. I started back on dinner.
“Who will be the next person to die?”
Now that is an unanswered question!
Of course I said there was no way of knowing, that no one could predict exactly when someone would die. And she was satisfied.
A typical shot of our kitchen. Platypup making a mess and trying hard to clean it up, Owlet drawing.