Grieving Buttercup

They all wanted to watch me gently move her body from her cage to the box…. With no one there to help me grieve, it was my way as a young child to protect myself from the pain.

Yesterday was one of the saddest days I’ve experienced recently.

As I mentioned in my last post, I knew yesterday morning would be hard for my kids. So I quickly made the video. I rushed home before they left for school. There was so much pain and sorrow in the living room as I walked in the door. So Debbie and I gathered them around the computer to watch the video. They really needed it.

The entire day was sad for me. I knew my children had to bear their sadness alone at school. I couldn’t be there to hug them and tell them it was okay. They all coped the best they could. Dani drew a couple of wonderful posters of Buttercup during her free time at school.

I also knew that the afternoon would be equally difficult. Because of that morning’s schedule we left Buttercup’s body in her cage so we could have a memorial service that evening. Coming home from school was very somber. Cathy, who normally likes to do her homework alone, studied downstairs with the two younger kids. Michael moved Buttercup’s cage into the bathroom. But seeing her body really unsettled him.

After homework, the kids prepared a special box for Buttercup. They all wanted to watch me gently move her body from her cage to the box. It was heartrending, but like a viewing, they wanted and needed to see it.

Last night we had a short memorial service, burying Buttercup in Deb’s parents’ garden. She was buried with her bedding, some of her food and a couple of dandelions, which she loved. I gave each child a special rock. I asked them to say a final good-bye and lay the rock on the site. Then we went inside and watched the video again. I think it’s brought closure for them.

Our family has been touched by death before. In the last few years, our kids have lost their great-grandfather and great-uncle. And each time it hurts. But I want my kids to process their grief. It’s an important component to love in this broken world. I don’t want to short-circuit it by telling them to “stop crying,” “get over it,” or “you’ll see them in heaven.”

I remember as a young child standing at my great-grandma’s funeral. I was hurting and beginning to cry. No one was able to help me in that moment. So I held back the tears and made a vow never to cry again. With no one there to help me grieve, it was my way as a young child to protect myself from the pain. And I never cried again until I was an adult. But the only way one can protect himself from the pain is to stay disconnected. And that’s what I did. I never really loved deeply for a long time.

But with God’s grace, I have learned to love deeply again. And at times, that means hurting deeply.

I hope moments like these past couple of days help my children realize that it’s okay to love and grieve. It’s okay to cry and mourn. And through it, to hope for a better renewed world someday.

My kids are exhausted. It seems like they have cried non-stop since Sunday morning. Tonight will also be tough when they clean Buttercup’s cage. But we’re moving forward and I think they are processing it all very well.

Life does go on. And it is.

And we are also aware that death, and other forms of evil, will strike us again and again and again. I wish I could protect my children from it. But I can’t. So I will do the next best thing. I will be there with them through it all. I will hold them, cry with them, pray with them, hope with them. And I pray that we will not become calloused, bitter or withdrawn. But like Jesus, we will somehow take evil out of commission and replace it with genuine, unending love.

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