My little family grew up this month. Two-year-old Little Fairy and four-year-old Boy-Who-Asks-Questions were introduced to the concept of mortality.
But before we got to that life milestone, I had to do a little “juggling many balls under much emotional stress”. Yes, it was a dead rabbit, and yes, I have led a sheltered life…but it’s a good story so indulge me my melodramatics.
It was a hot Sydney morning and Flopsy was having his usual mooch around the garden. It was time to bring him inside (rabbits don’t cope well in the heat...bit like my Irish husband).
As I bent down to him, I heard a familiar thump and wail from upstairs. Little Fairy was testing her wings again. My mummy “trouble” sensor was triggered and I left Flopsy to save the day.
Calm restored, I came back outside and was greeted by a startling vision. My happy little thumper was a still, stiff and very dead bunny. In complete denial I slowly knelt down and gave him a prod.
“HOLY CRAP! FLOPSY’S DEAD!”
It was the first time I touched a dead “thing” bigger than a cockroach carcass. (When I am forced to dispose a cockroach I usually do with a very large broom and much hysterics.)
After a little jogging on the spot and helpless hand flapping, I was brought back from the brink of hysterics by the ring of my mobile.
A client needed me to pen some words to “fix his world” within two hours. Not the kind of client who would understand that “my bunny just carked it”.
Ever obliging - “no, that won’t be a problem at all, I’m having a quiet day today, nothing happening here,” – I commit to the deadline and hang up.
By now Flopsy had a fly buzzing around his head. There was no way I could leave him there.
Luckily it was kindy day. I used my “crazy mummy dance” to get the kids into the car without noticing their now dead pet. It did the trick, despite some bewildered frowns (this was not the time to need respect).
After kindy drop-off, I returned to the scene of bereavement. Clock ticking towards my deadline, there was no time to dwell. I grabbed Flopsy’s pet carrier and whipped on a pair of surgical gloves. I took a breath and placed him inside.
All was going reasonably well until it was time to shut the door. Flopsy’s stiff state meant there was overhang, no matter how I tried to coax his body to bend. I had to settle with his wide-eyed face poking out.
The journey to the vet was quiet – well, obviously. Occasionally I glanced down at his little face, rocking gently with the movement of the car. Poor Flopsy.
I had managed to keep it together until I got to the Vet, when the obviously shortsighted receptionist cooed: “oh, what little cutie do you have there?”
“My children’s dead rabbit.” And with those words I turned into a blubbering mess. The receptionist handed me a tissue, took Flopsy from me and disappeared through the white swinging doors.
So, that was it. Flopsy was gone.
Back in our now rabbitless home, I gathered my thoughts and wrote a cracking piece for my client. Well, as cracking as an article on capital markets can be. Email sent, I sat back and went through the morning’s activities.
Rabbit died - check
Body disposed - check
Client kept happy - check
Explain to children that rabbit is now dead - shite
I felt so overwhelmed by my final task. Can’t we keep them happily oblivious to the cruel reality of life for just a bit longer?
At kindy I pulled the teacher aside for a few pointers in breaking the news. “Uh, sorry. We don’t do death here. We leave that up to the parents.” Helpful...
I decided to nip it in the bud as soon as we got home. I sat the kids on the couch, knelt down and held their hands.
“I have some very sad news to tell you. Flopsy was sick and died today. That means he has gone away and we won’t see him again. But it’s ok, because he is in bunny heaven now,” I said softly bracing myself for the meltdowns.
“Can I go and watch Dora now?” said Little Fairy.
“Does this mean we can get a puppy now?” said Boy-Who-Asks-Questions.
Since that day, Flopsy’s death comes up occasionally – like the night my husband pulled out The Tale of Peter Rabbit for story-time. But there are only questions, not tears.
And the final twist in this tale – Flopsy died on the first day of the Year of the Rabbit. Make of that what you will. I try not to think about it too much. Just hope my pet dragon doesn’t cark it this time next year.