Paloma had her introduction to death in the animal kingdom yesterday. There are a lot of deer in the regional wilderness area behind my parents' house (it's CA scrubby, not a magical forest, unfortunately). We often throw fallen fruit from my parents' trees over the fence for them. Paloma wanted to toss some apples, so we collected some.
As we approached the fence, I could smell something and heard flies buzzing and kept thinking that something must have died but couldn't see what it was... and then I saw a baby deer curled up by our fence.
P pushed a tiny apple through the wire, then another. And she said, "Up, up?" And I knelt next to her and told her, "No, honey, that deer isn't going to get up. The deer is dead, so he doesn't eat apples anymore." And she said, "Up, up?" a few more times, and we went through the explanation a few more times. Then we went to tell Grandpa and to play in the sandbox.
A few minutes later, a group of three deer had gathered by the back fence. I was surprised, thinking they'd all avoid the area for some time. But there they were. So I asked P if she wanted to gather more apples to give, and she did. Then we went through our Q&A again: "Up, up?" And she'd point to the dead baby deer. "No honey, that deer isn't going to get up because he's dead." And she'd point to the deer who were munching her apples, and I'd say, "Yes, those deer are alive and still need to eat apples." This exchange happened about 20 times.
I think it was a good introduction for her-- a part of the wildlife scene behind the house, an animal she recognized but not a pet, no entrails strewn or anything (I think it succumbed to the heat and drought). I think of death as a part of life, something all living beings experience. I wonder what, if any, memories of this Paloma will carry.