Wing­ing it with an­gels

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - Jor­dan Wat­son­sta­­to­dadnz

How-to Dad Jor­dan Wat­son ex­plains death to his kids

We’re not re­li­gious, so there’s no book for me to re­fer to when talk­ing about death. I had to wing it.

Death. Even as adults we all have a dif­fer­ent view or be­lief on what death is and what it means to us.

It can get quite heated, po­lit­i­cal even when views col­lide – it’s not an easy sub­ject for us big kids. So how do I ex­plain it to my lit­tle kids?

The whanau and I have been down in Gran­ity for the week, a small coastal town north of West­port. We’ve been down in this bloody mar­vel­lous part of the coun­try to send off a bloody awe­some bloke.

I fig­ured my kids al­ready had a de­cent idea of what death was. My el­dest two, Mila and Alba, are five and three – surely they get it.

One stands on an ant and the other shrieks ‘‘Oh no, it’s dead!’’

They go fish­ing with me, see me catch and then fil­let a snap­per, and Alba asks ‘‘Can it blink now?’’ – where miss five jumps in and ca­su­ally says ‘‘Na, it’s dead’’.

They even eat the ducks I bring home each year af­ter a suc­cess­ful hunt­ing trip. They must un­der­stand, right? Well... The mis­sus and I de­cided I would be the one to ex­plain to them what hap­pens when some­one dies.

I picked them up from school and day­care and I had but­ter­flies. I was hon­estly re­ally ner­vous about one, try­ing to fig­ure out how to ex­plain it; and, two, how they would take it.

Ex­plain­ing the birds and the bees would have been eas­ier. ‘‘Mum and Dad did a spe­cial dance and then you grew in mum’s belly like a flower, and then one day

you fell out of mums belly as a baby’’. Easy. Death – not so much. We’re not re­li­gious, so there’s no book for me to re­fer to. I had to wing it.

I gave it my best, told them how se­ri­ous this was, how that per­son will be asleep for a long time, how there will be lots of sad peo­ple at the funeral, how they get buried, and how they will al­ways be in your mem­o­ries but you will not see them again.

They both lis­tened in­tently. I think it worked, I think they un­der­stood.

Mila even started to cry. What an amaz­ing fam­ily mo­ment. Turns out she had just poked her­self in the eye.

A few days later we were at the funeral. Fu­ner­als are never great, es­pe­cially with an un­pre­dictable five-year-old, three-year-old and baby.

To my sur­prise, they stayed quiet. A few cute ‘‘oohs and ahhs’’ from the baby but that was it. I think see­ing the process ac­tu­ally hap­pen was help­ing my JFK-es­que speech sink in.

At the burial they sprin­kled some dirt onto the cof­fin – and it hit home. I could see the dots con­nect­ing in­side their cu­ri­ous, curly mop­cov­ered heads.

Mila’s look of ‘‘Why is there a big hole?’’ showed a slither of re­al­i­sa­tion. Alba mo­men­tar­ily stopped sprin­kling dirt and cud­dled my leg. I’d clearly guided my lit­tle ones suc­cess­fully through the hard­ships of death.

Then, while skip­ping back to the car, Alba looked up at me and said ‘‘So, we’ll see him to­mor­row?’’

OK, I tried.

R.I.P Tommy boy.

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