Our best friends in Ireland, The Mighty Family McGee, used to keep turkeys. Their eight year old daughter Fiona grew very attached to one particular turkey called Goblin. She told my wife Gwenan once how much she was missing Goblin.
“Did Goblin die Fiona?” asked Gwen.
“No, he went away on holiday two Christmases ago.”
In the last Abergele in Shorts I introduced you to one of Abergele’s toughest street gangs of the 60s: Maes Canol’s feared Diddy Davies Gang.
One hot summer’s day, I was playing on the long swing in the Playnies (Parc Gele) when the Diddy Davies Gang landed. They sat on the river railings smoking, playing ‘knuckles’ and giving each other Chinese burns.
Looking for something to do, one of them picked up some stones from the stream and started throwing them at some birds in a tree. One of the stones made contact and hit a small sparrow. It fell from the branches. Dead.
I ran to the bird, picked it up and sprinted home sobbing. Mum opened the door:
“What’s the matter?”
As I opened my fist to show her the sparrow I cried harder. Mum stroked my hair:
“Come on, we’ll bury him so he can go to heaven.”
We got an old shoe box from the garage, packed it with tissues, laid the sparrow in its coffin and closed the lid. Dad dug a hole in the garden and we all gathered around for the funeral.
Seeing that sparrow killed by a stone thrown by a child was my first contact with death. The fact my parents took my grief seriously enough to hold a ceremony to let the bird go to heaven helped me come to terms with the sadness I felt.
When a death affects young children close to you, don’t think it’s kinder to protect them from its sadness by telling white lies like Fiona’s parents did. Help them to face the truth of death by letting them be sad. It will stand them in good stead for their life ahead.