Monday, September 22, 2014


This Saturday, I found myself doing something I never imagined I'd ever do...Performing a funeral service for a large black beetle. A beetle? Yes, a beetle. And, before you judge us as hard-hearted parents who will only let their precious older boy have a pet insect, rather than something cuter, like a goldfish or a hamster, the beetle came from school. Last year, Spencer came home from school with a live black beetle, roughly 2 1/2 inches long. His teacher gave it to him! Apparently, the class had been studying this type of creature, and the teacher offered one to any student who wanted to take one home to raise as a pet. It came with instructions stating that it is not a native species and is considered a pest. We were cautioned, therefore, not to set it free into the environment. (There was, by the way, no parent permission involved in this "gift" of a beetle. It just came home. Spencer had already named it "Austin" after his cousin. How were we supposed to say "No!"???)

So, Austin the Bess Beetle became part of our family. Thankfully, taking care of him involved giving him an old piece of wood to chew upon and spritzing his plastic tank with water every few days. That's the extent of it. No handling necessary by Mom, thank goodness. Spence did a great job meeting Austin's limited needs, checked on him every day, and thoroughly enjoyed his unique little room pet. 

Until Saturday...

Spence had been gone on a 3-day, 2-night field trip with his 5th grade class. He got home Friday night and went to sleep without checking on Austin. Saturday afternoon, he lifted the piece of wood to check on his little bug buddy, and here's what happened next:

Spence came up to me in the kitchen and whispered, "Mom, can you please come into my room with me? But, please don't tell Dad or Foster. Just come." So I wrapped up what I was doing and followed him in.

Entering his room, I found him curled up on the floor by the side of his bed, clutching his favorite soft blanket, his eyes welling over with big, fat tears, lower lip trembling...

"Sweetie, what's wrong? Are you hurt?"

In a whisper so quiet I could barely make it out, he said, "Austin died while I was gone." And, the floodgates broke. He broke into great wracking sobs and threw himself into my arms. Poor kid.

We snuggled on the floor for awhile, as I reassured him that he had been a great owner for Austin. I pointed out that Bess Beetles are only supposed to live for 10 or 11 months, and Austin had lived to the ripe old age of 14 months. I murmured that he was lucky to have had that much time with Austin, and that Austin was lucky to have had such a wonderful boy taking care of him. We hugged for a long time, while my heartbroken little boy cried his heart out for his dead bug. 

Then, he said, "Please don't tell Dad or Foster."

"You don't want them to know? I think they would want to know and be able to comfort you, don't you? They both love you very much."

Sniff. "Mom, I just can't handle anybody else knowing right now. Just you, OK? I want Dad and Foster to find out on their own and ask me about it when I'm not feeling quite so sad." Sob, sniff. 

Is it wrong that I felt a little thrill knowing that the only person he wanted to pour his little heart out to was me? It's not that I wanted him to feel sad or to experience this loss, but something in me was filled with joy as he snuggled close to me for comfort in his time of need. Perhaps it's the recognition that these precious times are fleeting, and that there will be a time, soon enough, when the person he goes to for comfort is not his Mom...

So, trying to help him find some closure over the loss of Austin, I suggested that we find a nice place in the garden to bury him while Dad was dropping Foster off at a playdate. Spence wrapped him gently in kleenex and chose a spot in the garden. I cut a few flowers, and Spencer picked a couple of pretty rocks to use as a marker. Spencer placed him oh-so-gently in the little grave, and we solemnly covered him with dirt, laying the rocks and flowers on top. Spencer looked up at me with huge eyes, swimming with tears, and said, 

"He was a really good beetle, wasn't he?"

"Yes, sweetie. A very good beetle."

"And, I'd rather have had the time I had with him and lose him, than not ever have him at all."

"I feel the same way, sweetie."

"I love you, Mom."

"I love you, too."



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