Monday, 14 January 2008

Unplugged sculpture

We had an out of the ordinary morning today. I managed to bring together lots of strands of thought that had been ravelling around my brain of late - thanks to the inspiration I gained from this weeks Unplugged Project.

While on holiday last week I still occasionally pondered Christmas and wondered whether the children would still be able to remember most of their presents, or have they just disappeared into the masses of *stuff* around this place?

This got me thinking about the presents I received - this Christmas and in the past for various occasions. One of my best ever presents was from my sister, Helen. Here it is below. It's a replica of a statue (or perhaps I should say gravestone to be more precise).

My maternal grandfather died when I was very young. I was very close to my nana and stayed at her home most weekends. Every Saturday morning come rain or shine we got our coats on and visited the cemetery where my grandfather was buried to place fresh flowers on his grave. I always felt very relaxed about this. There was no unease about the place. I understood what it was about and felt at peace with it. Every week we walked past a particular gravestone which always caught my eye. It was very old and the face was beginning to crumble.

It took a few moments for me to recognise it when I opened a box almost thirty years on and found this replica. Helen moved to Canada six years ago and came across the sculpture which is known as 'The Grangetown Angel' - Grangetown being the place where the cemetery is, in the States. How bizarre is that? I haven't come across any replicas of it here, but move thousands of miles away and find someone there who has come across it and replicated it?

Hermione is always very interested in the angel but I've never told her anything about it. I suppose I was worried that talk of death may trouble her. She calls it the 'angel sculpture from Auntie Helen' and I just go with that.

Thinking last night about the unplugged project and the recent death of Pinky I decided that the sculpture we would look at today would be the Grangetown Angel. We didn't have time to travel to that cemetery and I didn't know if it would be wise as I was uncertain as to how Hermione would react. She is becoming curious about cemeteries but I don't think she really understands what they are all about. I Googled last night for information on talking to young children about death and the consensus seemed to be to demystify it.

Today I told her all about how I used to visit the cemetery each week with Nana to see Granddad's grave and how I used to look at the Grangetown Angel each week and how Auntie Helen found a replica of it in America.

We decided to go to our local cemetery and look at some of the gravestones there. Hermione took the camera and photographed this one as she thought it was very beautiful.

My worries about discussing death with her and helping her to perceive the stark realities of it were unfounded. She was comfortable in the cemetery and I said very little. She chattered away and said what a special place it is for people to come to when their parents or friends have died. She also commented at one grave that the person must not have been dead very long as the grass had not yet grown over the area where they were buried. We wandered back home happily to eat our lunch before dashing off to meet with friends.

Some people may feel that what I've done today is wrong. When is a good time to introduce a child to the concept of death? All I know is that I followed a chain of thought from gifts, to The Grangetown Angel, to the death of Pinky, to the Unplugged Project and ended up choosing today. I think I made the right decision. As a home educating mum I often spare a moment to ponder, 'what have they learned today?' I feel really pleased that today Hermione learned that the physical process of death is nothing to fear in a ghoulish sort of way.


Mom Unplugged said...

I think that was an excellent introduction to death. That is a very hard subject to brooch with children.

Several years ago our dog became very sick and after the children went to school, I had to take her to the vet to be put to sleep. When the children came home I simply said that she had died. They were very upset that there was nothing left of her and that she had just disappeared. I had not predicted this reaction.

When my mother was very sick at our house with hospice about 6 months after the dog incident, I was very careful to read them books and talk to them about what death means and what was happening to their Nana. It was all quite awful as you can imagine. However after her death, I believe they were much more accepting even though their Nana was very very dear to them and they grew up seeing her every day.

I think you did the right thing and I am glad my project helped with that! Don't worry about being "too heavy" this week. I think it is was an excellent use of the "sculpture" project.

Amanda said...

Both Z&M went through a 'death phase' around 4 y.o. We have visited lots of N.T properties (churchs and graveyards) since the children were small and I think children should realised that death is part of life.

Andrée said...

I can't think of a more beautiful and gentle way to broach the subject. Please don't doubt your intuition. Your grandmother trusted herself when you went with her. The photography and conversation were wonderful. This is a very lovely, touching post. Thank you.

(I did Puzzles, since I missed that week.)

Helen said...

I am so glad that you love the angel! it is really beautiful, I think you did the right thing in trusting your instincs. I think our Nana was very wise.
Lv, Helen

Kate in NJ said...

I love the gentle way you brought this difficult subject to light.
Always trust your instincts.
My P always asks if we know anyone to "visit there" when we pass a cemetery.My Grandfather died this time last year, and she is aware of others in our family who are dead (esp. my Mom)we talk about them to her all the time. Death is a part of life.

Wobblymoo said...

I have been frequenting graveyards for a long time, indeed we lived direcectly opposite one of the most beuatiful ones I know for 3 years. You certainly didn't do worng, I think it's a lovely way to learn about such a difficult sublect for some.