"Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect.” - R Bach

September 13, 2010

Saturday, while walking in the park, we saw a dead seagull.

All white in the green grass, looking for all the world as if it had tumbled directly out of a tree and landed inches from the trunk. It was unmarked, its wings half folded like the eagle on the back of the quarter, head turned to the left, beak open.

E and his father were so busy watching the antics of a squirrel a little way ahead of us that I think they would have stepped on it had I not said something.

We, of course, tried to bustle E around it, but as we passed it he turned and craned his neck for a good long look. I found out later he knew its eyes were closed, which is something I had not noticed.

I don't think E has ever seen anything dead before, certainly not anything larger than a bug. I was not surprised he had questions - why is it dead, how did it die, where is its family? - what really surprised me was our inability to answer his questions to either his or our satisfaction.

Given the events of our week (I had been ill, in the hospital for a couple of days) "it got sick and died" wasn't really a good answer. Josh ventured that it might have been hit by a car, but E noted (logically) that it wasn't in the road, but was rather far from the road, near a tree. I talked with him some about steam engines, and how their parts wear out and need to be replaced, but parts on people and animals can't be replaced (an oversimplification). I talked with him about how no one knows what happen when you die, how Sarah or his Grandmother might say you go to heaven (yes, even seagulls) but that no one really knows - but that I was sure that nothing hurt after you died, and that no one was lonely.

He seemed very concerned that it would be lonely, laying there in the field. Concerned that its seagull family would be looking for it, but also that it would miss them, that it would have no one to play with. This is an ongoing theme with him, Strange, I think, for a child who has other people around him constantly - this fear of being alone, of loneliness - although as I look back now I suppose you could call my only-child childhood lonely as well. But E's driving concern is that no one he loves (parents, toys) be lonely. Its the reason I still co-sleep with him almost every night, the reason its important to him that someone be in the room with him, his concern about his grandmother (who lives alone) and his primary concern about me in the hospital (that I would be lonely, with only the doctors and nurses to keep me company - "but no one to sleep with" he says). Its the reason he has three "best toys" so that one can be with him while the other two keep each other company. It comes up, daily, and I don't know where it comes from, but its a strange dark hole inside my otherwise joyful little boy.