Family and Death

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Loss can be described as many things; the misplacement of tangible items, the ending of a close relationship with a friend, a goal not achieved or the death of a loved one. Through the readings, posts and responses of this course we have seen that individuals each respond to their loss in ways that are unique to them, yet there is a common thread amid it all - everyone grieves and mourns their losses and their lives are forever changed. While reviewing the losses that I have experience, I at first attempted to define which would be the most significant and there for most deserving of further thought and ultimately inclusion in this lossography. What I realized was that significant does not always mean huge or all encompassing, that some losses are smaller and maybe only seen as a loss to the person directly experiencing them. Focusing on death, the first recollection I have is that of a beloved pet, Henrietta an orange and black guinea pig. I am not exactly sure how long we had her or how old I was when she died (although from the room in my memory I would have to guess 9 or 10) I just remember thinking of her as a great pet, she never bit, she did not try to run away, and always seemed to be listening when I talked to her. I remember going into my bedroom and realizing she had not issued her usual welcoming whistle, I walked up to her cage - a large square made of welded together refrigerator shelves with a solid metal bottom that the sides could be lifted out of - and seeing her lying on her side, not moving. I think I knew immediately that she had died, because I uncharacteristically stepped inside the cage and bent down to pick her up, she was large and I always used to hands, this time she was limp and cold. I do not really remember what I did after that, I am sure I told my mom and we buried her, I also do not remember how my younger siblings reacted, but I do know that in that memory I was not crying. Having grown up

spending a great deal of time on my grandparents farm the death of animals was not a new concept, but I think Henrietta’s death stands out to me because it was the first time my pet had died, the first I found dead. I am sure I missed having her, but we always had so many pets that perhaps the void was filled right away. Oddly the next childhood death that stands out is again of a pet and I think it stands out because at the time I felt relief and then guilt. It was my brother’s white rat. I hated that thing - he should have named it Houdini because it did not matter what kind of cage or how well the lid/doors were secured that nasty little thing could get out and inevitably would find its way to my room and climb up on my bed! I was not afraid of it - we had had plenty of mice and hamsters and guinea pigs - I just hated the way it would climb up everything and the way it’s scaly tail would scrape across your skin if you gave it a chance. Anyway, I remember Malcolm being very upset and crying when he found it dead, as soon as I knew what was going on I felt relieved I would not have to deal with its escapes anymore, but I still hugged my little brother and tried to make him feel better. I did feel bad for him and knew he felt like he was losing a friend and as much as I felt bad for him and would have done anything to take away his pain, I just could not feel bad that rat was dead which made me feel a guilty. I knew of course it was not my fault the rat was dead, but I did think my being glad it was dead made me a bad sister. I know now that my feelings were perfectly normal and not those of a bad sister, just those of a thirteen year old who loved her brother but hated his choice of pets. I know there have been other deaths that have touched my life; pets, a great aunt I barely knew whose funeral was the first open casket I had attended (I do not remember seeing her up close - I think my mother kept us back), a good friend who died

in accident at the end of our freshman year in high school, one...
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