Thursday, April 01, 2010

Goodbye, Hodi Dodi: encountering death in Holy Week

Last summer I gave A two water frogs for his birthday. It was no surprise that he named them Hodi Dodi and Adi Adi. They were his first and only pet and though he often commented that a dog would be better, I think he was fond of them.

I noticed recently that Hodi Dodi did not seem to be doing well and then today I found him lying belly up. I lifted A in my arms to see and told him that Hodi Dodi had died. His face went entirely blank, and then suddenly filled with deep grief.

For an hour or more he asked question after question in a thin, quiet voice. Why? What happened? How could we help him? Could we call a Veterinarian? At least call? Why not? When would he be alive again? Could we still keep him? Might he just be sleeping? There were no tears but much seriousness and holding on to me. I knew he was navigating through deep and powerful new emotions.

Then he asked me to hold him in my lap and tell him the story of Hodi Dodi dying. I held him close and told the story of a little frog who came to live at A's house, who spent happy day after happy day, swimming and jumping, eating and sleeping, living life just as he was created to do. But one day he felt tired and knew his turn to be alive was ending. He lay down on some rocks and it was his turn to die.

A began to cry. He cried and sobbed and wailed. I held him, encouraging him to cry loud and long, telling him it was normal and right to cry when someone has died. My eyes filled too, for the hard truth my child was facing for the first time and not for the last; for the hard truth we all face.

As he wailed I told him that once all the sadness had passed through him, after some time the sadness would begin to heal. He hated this idea, refusing it, not wanting the loss of Hodi Dodi to fade. I was amazed that he recognized so instinctually the bitter-sweetness of dried tears, of moving on.

When he calmed, he asked if we could put Hodi Dodi in a cage to look at forever. I explained that when something dies it lies still for some time but then begins to fall apart; that it was best to put it in the ground or water because when it fell apart it could become part of the dirt and then become good food for plants and flowers, giving itself to create new life. He asked if we could put Hodi Dodi in the ground by our tulips - just beginning to peek up - so his body could feed them for springtime. I said that was a great idea.

But then he was sobbing again, crying hard. He was asking something but it took me awhile to make it out. He asked about when God creates the new Heaven and new earth, when he raises the dead back to life and gives us new bodies. What then, he wondered? Ah, as do I. I told him that I didn't know how it would work, or when, but that God would be with us and take care of us. "But what about Hodi Dodi?! In the ground!" he sobbed "Can we bring him with us?"

I told him again that God would know what to do, was in control even over death, that God would take care of us when we died and Hodi Dodi too - that he knew even when a small bird fell, and cared. "But what about the tulip plant, if Hodi Dodi's body was food to help it grow?" he asked through tears. "Could we kill it so we could have Hodi Dodi back to life on the new earth?"

Oh, my sweet thinker. These are such deep mysteries. I ask these same questions of Death, of God. In the end I know only that God is near to us in life and in death, and that he is tenderhearted and loving to us, and so gentle. Death asks so many questions and leaves so few answers. But I trust the One I Know.

Today A is learning the depth of grief and of loss. I want to walk with him also on the path of Hope, and of Love, which does not ever let us go.

2 comments:

wheelsonthebus said...

Wow. All I can say is you are a wonderful mama.

Dedee said...

Tears here. Beautiful post. Aching loss. So many questions. So much trust.

God is good and so are you.