Friday, 27 May 2011

Gather ye Rosebuds

Gather Ye Rosebuds while Ye May - John William Waterhouse 1909

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.
                            - 17th century poem 
"To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time"
by Robert Herrick

 Today is my grandmother's birthday. She was born on the 27 May 1894. If she were alive today, she would be 117. I was telling Rocket (who is 6 years) this morning over breakfast, and pointed out to him that she died when she was 98 years old. 'What did she die from, mum?' Rocket asked. "Old age', I replied. "Old Age??!!', he exclaimed.
I realised in that moment, that death in his six year old eyes is in terms of something going wrong. My father died of cancer, Rocket hears about things like Cylcones, Flood, Tsunami's, and people getting sick. I'm sure that we have talked about old age in the past, but this has been so thoroughly overtaken by various disasters and illnesses, that it had been forgotten. Obviously none of us like to dwell on the thought of death, especially not with our children, but I realise this morning that his only concept of death was one where something had gone wrong, something that could (and maybe should) have been avoided, rather than a natural concept of being alive. Every creature on earth is born, lives their life and then dies. Perhaps it would be better for him to be getting this message, as just a part of life, rather than something horrible and tragic.
How do you explain Death to your children?
Perhaps this is a little too philosophical for a Friday morning, so I better get back to tidying the house! And after that, I will try and make sure that I do something meaningful and special today, and 'Gather Some Rosebuds'. What are your thoughts on making each day count?


  1. Very interesting post! And timely for me. My partner's family have just lost their family dog, a beautiful old dog and I haven't told my little boy (3 yrs)because I had no idea how to talk to him about the subject of death. Death as a result of old age. You have certainly given me some things to think about! Lovely to have discovered you and your blog


  2. It's something I'm struggling with in talking about with my kids. Because my brother died when I was 7 I am all too aware of how horrifying and scary death can seem to small children. As a result I am very careful about talking about it with my children. I don't avoid it, but I am very sensitive to how frightening it can be for them as well. A very interesting discussion point.

  3. Thanks for stopping by Gill and Sarah.
    Losing your brother and learning about death that way at 7 must have been quite traumatic. I learned about death when my grandfather died of old age (well into his nineties). I was 3 years old and remember it quite well, although I could see that it was sad, I could understand about souls, and felt that part of him had gone somewhere near the rainbow. I didn't see it as horrible, or something to be feared.
    I think that I as a parent tend to either overly avoid the subject, or when it does come up it is in terms of something that shouldn't have happened; could have been avoided. I think there should be middle ground I could try harder to find.