Teachable Moments: Lessons In Death

by mrsncook
(Pittsburgh, PA)

The other day my twelve year old found a baby bird that was injured. She brought it home, named it Fledge since it was a fledgling, and we set it up in a box. I couldn't get the bird all of the way out to the wild animal rescue, so all we could do was to make it comfortable. Unfortunately, Fledge died.

My girls were very upset. They had put an old nest into the box, put a feather in the nest to make Fledge feel comfortable, added some bugs in case the bird was hungry, and placed a small bowl of water in the box. They cut a small piece of old sheet to put on him, and they watched him carefully until he died.

When he died, they dug a hole and placed a rock that they painted on top of the spot. We discussed how we did all we could to make the bird comfortable in its last hours. They learned a tough lesson that all things die, and sometimes there is nothing that you can do. They learned that it's okay to be upset and that it can be comforting to know that you tried to help.

Unfortunately they learned more about death only a few days later, when our dog caught a bird. Our dog, Amber, has a very strong hunting instinct and is always chasing small animals. Sadly, that meant that she went after a small bird and broke its neck.

My concerned daughter brought the bird to me, and I had to let her know that the only thing that we could do was to try to make it comfortable until it died. It was still alive but limp, and it didn't last long. It was really hard for them to watch the bird, and then they dug another hole and put a rock on top.

I've been lucky that my girls haven't had many people close to them pass away, so it's easier to talk to them about death when it's a bird in the back yard that they haven't known for very long.

I am happy to know that my children are handling this well, even though it does make them sad. Hopefully when the time comes that someone close to them passes away, this will make the grieving process easier for them.

They've learned that all things die, and it's okay to be sad. They look at the little spots, one with a beautifully painted rock, and think about the little birds they tried to help. Hopefully one day when it's someone they were very close with, they will think back to this first lesson in death and remember that it's okay to be sad.

Hopefully they remember that sometimes all we can do is comfort the person in their final hours. Hopefully they will always know that I am here for them trying to help make the death a little easier, because it's never easy when a life ends, even when it's a little bird you didn't know for too long.

Thanks so much for sharing this touching story! A huge benefit of homeschooling is never missing an opportunity to be there for your kids and discussing together, the many issues that come up during the day.

On a personal note:
When my mother passed away six years ago now, my children always came to the hospital with me. For ten months we made multiple trips to the hospital each week. Because we continued to homeschool during this time, they spent lots of time with their grandma, talking, playing games, helping to make her feel better and making her smile. It was precious - something we couldn't have done with the time constraints, etc. of public/private schooling.

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