Nightmares and newborns
Marlon muses about 3 year old Maddison's reaction to death.
(Robyn Abrahams)

Two things happened in my world over the last few weeks which made me incredibly sad, and incredibly happy.

The first was that Maddison, my 3-year-old daughter had a horrible nightmare in which she said she was being chased by birds. She had to be calmed down for about two-and-half hours, and in the morning she searched under the bed covers for the birds. Her reaction was somewhat understandable because earlier that day she and her little friends had been informed that one of their classmates had died during a seemingly simple procedure in hospital.

As a parent I was completely gutted thinking about what was going through the minds of the little girl’s parents. And I was also left absolutely helpless trying to get into Maddi’s little head to try and calm her down.

How does a 3-year-old process an event like this? What do you say to her when she wants to know why, and how, and… and… and…?

I have to believe that there is reason in everything and that for every negative there is a positive. And so came the news of the latest addition to my extended family. Cousin Ian, at the age of 38, was beaming at the birth of his first child, a son named Tristan.

Soon smses were doing the rounds and photos of the smiling little mite were wizzing around in cyber space. It took the edge off the death of Maddi’s friend, yet there remained an empty void where there once was a bubbling bundle of life.

A long time ago I read somewhere that the Eskimos celebrate death as the beginning of a journey to a new and better world. You could Google the afterlife and come up with a million views on what happens to you when the lights go out. And while some of it might make sense, maybe even be comforting, there is nothing at all that will ever make me at ease with the death of innocent children.

With May 25 recognised as International Missing Children’s day, and our government confirming that there are more than 900 children reported missing in South Africa, the only comfort we may have is that birth sometimes follows death...

What do you think about the life and death cycle? How do you explain it to kids?

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