A lesson about death

The 3rd anniversary of our twins’ passing happened a few months ago and in a moment of grief/madness/genius, I got their pictures out from the abyss of my computer and started photoshopping away the grislier aspects of the pictures. I added floral crowns, vignettes, and some clever filters in an attempt to breath life into them so to speak. While deep in my work, Liam came across the pictures on my screen and began to question me about the babies.

The husband and I believe that children are more capable of processing theories and digesting information than given credit for, so whenever “tough” topics arise in our conversations, such as this, we do try to explain to him as clearly as possible without any dumbing down or sugarcoating.

While he already knew that he has siblings that have passed away, this was the first time he had actually seen their faces. To be honest, I had no intention of showing him any picture well until he’s at least a teenager but since it had happened, I didn’t think it was wise to skirt around it.

So I told him, yes, these are Levi and Lola and to my relief, he said that they’re cute. He also said that he’s sad that they are dead. He asked me how they died.

I explained to him how babies have to grow for 9 months in their mommies’ bellies before they could be born but Levi and Lola came out of mine before they were ready. I also mentioned how lucky he was that he managed to grow just enough to stay alive eventhough he also came out of my belly early. He asked me if they had turned into stars and I said, yes they have turned into stars and planets and trees and rivers and mountains – because I do believe that after death we are all literally fed back to the universe.

Now Liam is only five years old and I have no idea whether he absorbed any of what I said. But for a child, he seemed respectful with his questions and also remarkably empathetic. Later that night, while reading to him at bedtime, he suddenly said that he missed Levi and Lola. I laughed and told him that he couldn’t have missed them as he has never met them. He answered, “But mummy, I miss playing with them!”. Well, me too, buddy.

Recently, a mother cat and her two newborn kittens sought refuge in our backyard. I’ve never been a cat person, but for some reason I felt something for the cats. Seeing the two little ones suckling on their mother, I guess I identified with the nursing mother, so much so I didn’t have the heart to shoo them away. I gave the mother water and plain scrambled eggs so that she didn’t have to find nourishment away from her babies. I wasn’t going to adopt them but I guess I could be somewhat kind?

The mother with her healthy kitten.

I checked on them daily but one day, from my window I spotted one of the kittens crawling very slowly towards the drainage hole, away from its mummy and sibling. It was very weak; I knew that it was dying. A few hours later, I found the mother licking and grooming it so I held some hope that maybe the kitten was going to make it. However, by nightfall, it was dead.

Didn’t make it.

I didn’t expect to feel as sad as I did. With teary eyes, I insisted on giving it a proper burial and I wanted the kids to be involved. Gareth told me that he thought I was so affected because it was a symbolic act for me since we didn’t get to bury our twins. As soon as he said that, I bawled even more.

We had signed them away to be dealt with by the hospital and to be honest, I have regretted that decision ever since. We were in such terrible shock that our first instinct was to avoid doing anything pertaining to them. There wasn’t anyone who took the initiative to sit down with us and talk things through with us. Everybody walked on eggshells around us and expected us to make the best decisions after we just lost our kids. I wish someone, anyone would just say, look…you have to give them a proper send-off, they’re not hospital bio-waste. Alas…

I digress.

Gareth moving the lifeless kitten into a box.

I found a box and lined it with kitchen towel. At first I was worried that the mother cat was going to attack us, but she actually watched quietly while Gareth picked up her dead baby.

We told her that we’re sorry for her loss and that we would bury her kitten in a nice, peaceful place. Liam drew a picture that he wanted to bury together with the kitten, though he forgot to bring it with him so it’s now on our fridge. I did promise him that I’ll bring him to the grave again so he could leave it there.

Liam’s drawing that he wanted to bury with the kitten.

We found a nice shady spot near our house, just off the walking path to the park in our residential area. With Liam and Lily watching, I dug a hole as deep as I could with a tiny trowel.


Then we tipped the kitten over into the hole and buried her. The kids chose some heavy rocks, we placed them over to mark the spot and called it a day.

Rest in peace, little kitty.

I guess Gareth was right, I did feel a wave of relief washed over me as soon as the act was done. I may not have buried my own but this will do.

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