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Aunti Jane is a Star

04 December 2011

We used to visit Holland a couple of times a year. If that. My sister's two daughters however, knew exactly who we were. She had made a conscious effort to show them pictures of us so they would recognise us when we did come over. When Jane died, my sister explained to her that Aunti Jane was very ill and that people who are old or very ill die. And when they die, they become little stars. This tied in neatly with the cemetary that is near their house. My sister explained that when people become Stars, a cemetary is where we bury their pelt*

After Jane's funeral, I went to visit my family in Holland for a week. The eldest of my neices, F. ran to me as soon as she saw me and said: Aunti Marieke, Aunti Marieke, Aunti Jane is now a star.

She then went on to explain that Aunti Jane could be seen at night in the sky but that she was unsure which of the many stars was Aunti Jane. She looked at me and said: Now you are all alone. Are you sad?

Throughout the week, she kept mentioning Aunti Jane at times and asking me about being alone.

Last week, I was in Holland again, 6 months after Jane's death. My eldest niece once again asked me about Aunti Jane, that she is a star etc. As we were playing together, she looked at me and said: are you still all alone without Aunti Jane? I told her I was. We played on and she mumbled, whilst drawing a random picture: Now you have nobody.

A few days later, we were outside in the dark. In the sky was a single very bright star. Without prompting, she pointed at it and said: That is Aunti Jane there. The other stars are not very bright so they can't be Aunti Jane.

For a little girl of 4 (5?) I find that very impressive. Not only is she aware of death (in her own child-like way), she also realises death means Gone Forever. And that this creates emptiness and loneliness for those left behind.

It is very touching that she cares and remembers. The first few times she brought this up, especially on the first trip, my parents and my sister winced. They were worried the direct approach would upset me. In reality, I really like the disarming honesty of children. They are full of questions and just want to ask them. They are not yet hindered by social conventions about things like death. They don't worry about upsetting me when they ask their questions. Sometimes that is bad but most of the time, in my case, I quite like it. A direct question means I can just talk about Aunti Jane for a bit :)

I wish more people would just come up to me and ask: Are you feeling sad because you are all alone?

* The word my sister used for pelt was 'velletje'. This is a dimminutive Dutch word for skin or thin membrane. Velletje is most commonly used when referring to the pelt of a small animal. Using this term neatly avoided using the more confrontational word 'bodies'.


Lynn Allison said...

Good For the soul, bless you! In a non-religious way...!

Dutchcloggie said...

Thanks for the non-religious blessing ;-)

lifeinvignettes said...

That's a beautiful story. How thoughtful F is.

How have I missed a month of blog posts? Maybe you've dropped off my google reader somewhere. Shall have to catch up!

terryd said...

I'm sad you are sad. But, I'm thinking a star definitely is looking at you. And that niece of yours is a keeper, an old soul.

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