Friday, March 20, 2009

Saying goodbye...

Angelina, asked in a recent post how others mourn. The topic has been on my mind a lot lately as I am dealing with the passing of my cat, Sibella. I realize to some, animal deaths and people deaths are entirely different things. Often times more signifigance is attached to the death of a person over an animal. For me it isn't so clear cut.
I grew up on a farm and was exposed to many endings, planned and unplanned. My family raised cows, pigs, chickens and ducks and rabbits and horses. There were also turkeys and goats and the odd sheep could be found every once in awhile. We had dogs and cats aplenty not to mention the mice and owls and frogs that lived in or around the barns. Cows and pigs and chickens and rabbits were killed for food, sometimes cows would die giving birth. One horrible summer one of our barns caught fire and some cows died. One mama rabbit ate her babies. My bloody cousins shot frogs. Cats would get hit on the road, kittens drowned in water troughs. The spector of death was everywhere.
Lots of farm folks have a really practical view of life and death based on their experiences on the farm. For most of my relatives connected to the farm, death was either a good thing: freezer full of meat or an inconvenience: disposal of a body. For me, it would be a time of tears (even for the *&^%$#@ turkeys that I feared) and a ceremony of sorts. Pretty much every critter got a name or some phrase like, "gray mouse that got squished into a hay bale." I would say a few words like, "You were a good mouse and I am sorry you got squished." If it were a pet, more words. My brother and I would bury the smaller animals behind the hen house. I wonder if the people that own the property now have discovered the cemetary back there.

Human death was no stranger either. My Mother's older brother, Randy, died when he was 16. She was a couple years younger and idolized him. His passing tore my grandfather up so much, he turned to books and alcohol to escape. My Mom and Grandmother relied heavily on each other until my gran's death when I was in high school. My Mom wears the sadness of the loss of her brother (and later her father and mother) like a custom made undershirt. It's there always, just under the surface. Happy times always have a twinge of sadness. I remember hearing Auld Lang Syne when I was a kid and my grandfather telling me what it meant and his eyes filled with tears (possibly due in part to the amount of alcohol in his system.) Later, I realized that the feeling I felt when I heard that poem/song was similiar to the feeling I felt my Mom must feel constantly.

Over the course of several years my granparents all passed away as well as a much loved neighbor girl that babysat for my brother and I. I felt the solemness and the sadness of the funeral services but chafed at the rigidity and the religious posturing. I resented the ministers making the death of someone I loved an occasion for preaching. About two years ago, I was at the funeral of one of my Dad's aunts. Though divorced from my dad, my mom had kept in contact with this aunt and she attended the funeral. It was a typical funeral for that side of the family, heavy on the fire and brimstone. People getting up and talking about what a good church going woman she was. Her faith in God, yada yada yada. My Mom stood up (in a room full of her ex husband's relatives) and told them all how the last time (only a week before) she had taken this aunt out to lunch and how they had laughed and how my aunt had been flirted with by a "very good looking older gentleman" and how she had blushed and patted her hair into place. I just hugged my Mom when she sat down. She was the only person to really acknowledge the humanity of my aunt. She told of the flesh and blood person where everyone else seemed more concerned about tallying up another soul for heaven.
I think our culture is so far out of synch with nature that death is seen as something to be avoided at any cost. By adopting that mind set we often alienate (unintentionally) those that are nearing the end. Wow, so much more to say but I am so very tired tonight.


Monkey Girl said...

Ooooh Sweetie, I'm so sorry. I missed yesterday's post. I'm sorry for your loss.
I've been thinking a lot lately about our 12 year old 'old girl' who is my love bunny and sleeps and snuggles with me...what will I do when she's gone.
I've experienced much loss in life...and there not much someone can say at the time that will make anything better.

I'm so so sorry.

Angelina said...

It's so good for all of us to think about this. I don't think the loss of people is necessarily more important than the loss of animals. I suppose it depends on the people and the animals.

I always acknowledge the dead as well- like you, even the wild beasties I discover dead like roadkill. I always mutter a little silent acknowledgment.

Philip's mother's memorial was just like the one you described of your great aunt. It really bothered me that everyone was so fixated on how pious ViElla had been and that no one was saying anything particularly personal about her.

cconz said...

For me a pets death is the hardest. I loved this post. The whole funeral thing is so strange. I've been to afew. Afew really good ones where people you don't even know get up and tell a story (about the person).But, the strangest are the real religous ones. It makes me want to start planning my own.