Ah they’d make you laugh sometimes would’t they? More times they’d make you want to throw yourself out of a moving car.
It had been a bit of a turbulent journey, with all three acting up at various points over the first five kilometres. Of a 100 kilometre journey. Truthfully, I was on the cusp of turning around by the time we were in Crusheen, but Shakira kept me going. A miracle of sorts – Whenever, Wherever. Crooning crazy sanity, taking me out of my head and the car. I manage a shoulder shimmy – I am still alive! They haven’t finished me (yet).
Within the Cork County bounds, on the Mallow road – somewhere between the stag and the exit for Blarney – it came, out of the blue. As these questions always do.
‘Where’s Rocco gone?’
When Rocco, our dog, died recently, Alan had set the party line: ‘Rocco had to leave. We will get a puppy’.
Not every parenting conundrum can be navigated in tandem. Rocco had died early in the morning and between the small ones getting up, hens being left out, breast-feeding baby yada, yada, we didn’t discuss how we’d explain all this to the small ones. So Alan was there when they asked and he answered. He presented the facts of the matter – ok, along with a distracting promise of another dog, but I get that – it was a tricky conversation.
The small lad regurgitated the conversation to me later that morning, cooly, casually, as he took off his wellies. He’s only four so Rocco having to leave was absolutely acceptable. But over the course of a few weeks he had asked the question a couple of times more. The two year old too. Mostly we stuck to the party line, followed by some melodramatic distractions – ‘Oh wow! Is that a birdie?’.
Once I had raised the idea that Rocco had died, a statement that was met with furious throat-slitting-gesturing by Alan. I swiftly distracted again – ‘Now, who wants a biscuit?’ The introduction of the idea of death, while acceptable to me, was deemed too much too young by my other half. We continue to observe that co-parenting as a cohesive unit takes a lot of advance discussion.
Now, trapped in a car that offered few distractions, I was muddling and bumbling – unable to stop talking, putting all my feet in it.
‘Where’s Rocco gone?’
‘Sure didn’t we tell you – he had to leave. Is that a tractor?’
‘But where’s he GONE?’
‘Well, sometimes dogs get sick and they have to go to… em, heaven. Rocco is in heaven.’ (Alan’s gonna KILL me)
‘Just a nice place.’
‘Where is it?’
(Oh, make it stop) ‘It’s… em, it’s in the sky’.
By the end of the conversation I’d even thrown in a few angels for luck.
And then he asked me to repeat this story of forever and heaven and sky and angels for his little sister. She nodded wisely. How would I explain this philosophical mess to my husband? Because it’s emerging we’re not particularly on the same page (or book) when it comes to explaining to our children what happens when we die.
And then, the other week, we joyfully christened our youngest. We brought her to our local church, which promises eternal life for all who follow the way of Christ, and we promised to raise her within a faith who’s place in my life continues to evolve.
Our Youngest’s Christening Day – A Very Happy Celebration
The thing is, I am a much-disparaged a la carte Catholic – a vastly undervalued section of the modern Church because although not perfect practitioners, at least we’re hanging in there! Like many people my vintage, it’s hard to see where Catholicism ends and I begin, it is so much a part of my psyche, history and culture. The Pope’s Church? Nah-hah. I own it, it’s mine. My ancestors built the churches, they drew the stone. My parents taught me the stories, brought me into the tradition – have trust and faith, be kind, ask and you will receive, all is well. My wider community showed me ceremony and celebration (all those wonderful songs!), how to honour birth and death. Prayer taught me to be still and take time and get perspective and the stories of Jesus are, at their core, great stories of imperfection, compassion and love.
All of this – the very best bits – I want to pass on to my own children. A structure for spirituality. A gift they can ultimately take or leave.
When I was a child, people and pets died and they went to heaven and we could all look forward to being reunited again in the future. And while my core beliefs around death and the afterlife have been swayed by logic in more recent times, when I search my soul I can’t help but still believe it to be in some way true – life itself is a miracle and who among us can say they know for certain?
A conscious, living faith takes work and reflection and I know I need to get my a la carte pickings in order. We as a family need to get our beliefs straight so that we can attempt to make sense of life, death and our place in the universe, together.
So maybe he’ll agree to a theological/philosophical kick-off debate next Tuesday somewhere between the battle which is dinnertime and the all-exhausting bed-time? We can’t keep promising puppies…
Blind faith was definitely much more straightforward.
In The Walled Garden, Coole Park – A Grave For A Beloved Pooch.
All Dogs Go To Heaven You know…