Explaining death to a child

Olivia and I were shocked by the sight of a dead cat on the sidewalk. It wasn’t just about seeing roadkill, but the entire nature of our discovery.

We were walking along a busy road to the store. We were engrossed in our conversation when we looked down and, three feet ahead of us, saw a cat sleeping on a piece of cardboard in front of a store. Because the cat was black, any stains, blowflies, or other trauma was concealed by the darkness of the fur.

We love animals, and I know her typical response to seeing any cute creature is a loud “Awwww!” When I’m with her, to be cutesy, I do it with her. 

In two seconds, we were right in front of the cat. We stopped to see if it would wake up, so maybe we could pet it. 

In two more seconds, we realized it was dead, and one of its eyes was hanging out. It was quite disturbing. We recoiled and gasped in the same moment, then kept walking.

I enjoyed a long career as a news reporter. That means I’ve seen enough death. Still, this stung a bit.

We came expecting a living kitty, but our expectations were spun around, and in a most grotesque fashion. Imagine how this child is feeling.

She looked stunned for some minutes, so I hugged her and asked her if she needed to talk. She said no. I said we could talk about it later if she wanted. Then I quickly changed the subject to something fun.

On the way home, she asked if we could walk on the other side of the street. Of course we could. I wanted to, also. The cat made me sad.

At bedtime, she admitted, “I’m still scared because of the cat.” I knew I should say more, but what? What do you say about that?

Finally, I said, “It seems it was hit by a car, so hopefully it died quickly. When animals and people are hurt very badly, they go into shock, and they don’t feel pain either. Let’s hope it didn’t suffer much. And as sad as it was to see, it’s a reminder that life is short, so while you’re here, you do great things and fill your life up with happiness. Love others, and love yourself.”

Then I led her to my Buddhist altar, where we said a prayer for the cat’s soul. We asked that it reincarnates into a better life, like a pet who will be loved and happy, and will bring happiness to others.

We then laid in bed, where she wanted to be held. “You’re my favorite person in the world,” I murmured to her.

“You’re mine,” she said back. I laid there for a long time, well past my arm falling asleep, and thought about wanting to absorb all my child’s sadness and fear.

I know she will have to make her way in the world, and I know I can’t protect her from everything. But tonight I can, or at least I can try. 

Diane Ako

Peace of mind By Diane Ako I like to reflect on life. Sometimes it’s philosophically. Sometimes it’s humorously. For all its beauty, life is far too difficult a journey to take alone. You need the support and connection with others to help carry you along the way. Writing brings me that connection– within and without. It clarifies my thoughts and feelings. It helps me reach out to others for advice, wisdom, or feedback. Your thoughts become your actions. Your actions become you. A wise yogi- Patanjali- said, “Speak what is true. Speak what is pleasant.” Let’s speak of things pleasant to one another and seek some peace of mind along the way. ABOUT Diane Ako joined Hawaii: In Real Life in October 2016. She likes being part of a community of local bloggers – people who like writing and sharing, like she does. Ako is an anchor/ reporter at Island News (KITV4 – ABC) in Honolulu. She previously anchored and reported at KHON2 (FOX) and KHNL (NBC), and at stations in California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. She freelance writes for NMG Network's magazines. In between news jobs, in 2017, she launched and ran her own p.r. company, Diane Ako PR. From 2010-2014, she headed the public relations department at Halekulani Corporation, which oversees luxury resort Halekulani and boutique hotel Waikiki Parc. She’s been blogging since 2009 – before Hawaii: IRL, she wrote for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state’s largest daily newspaper, where her stories garnered a dozen journalism awards and an Emmy nomination. Ako has a BA in Communications from Menlo College and an MA in Political Science from University of Hawaii at Manoa. She volunteers as a board member of the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation, a Shinto shrine maiden at Daijingyu Temple, a citizen-scientist studying shrimp, and a yoga teacher at a senior center.

Diane Ako has 274 posts and counting. See all posts by Diane Ako

One thought on “Explaining death to a child

  • April 3, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Aww. You handled it great. That was tough.


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