We were playing, a few fathers and our boys, in the newly cut hay meadow when a child found a dead snake.
The adder’s body had been split in half by the angle mower. We soon found more animals strewn across the field–voles, shrew, mice, slow worms, smooth snakes.
Death inevitably comes into our children’s lives one way or another. When we keep it at a distance, when we ignore the endings that bracket life, we stir fear and confusion in our children’s hearts.
Children need to learn about dying and death. It teaches awe, and solemnity, and appreciation for the gift of life. And a familiarity with the waning of life builds familiarity with all endings.
We gathered the dead animals from the meadow and lay them by a small cairn. The children gathered blackberries, rowan, ferns, heather and lay a wreath around the bodies. We examined the adder’s fangs, the mouse’s feet, the feel of the slow-worms belly.
All of our curiosity sated, we joined our voices and sang the first song that came to us, This little light of mine.