When the phone rang the other day, I didn’t expect the news I received. It was my younger sister calling to tell me that she had bad news. Her dog had undergone a little procedure to pull a tooth and did not make it out of surgery. Not only was she sad about losing her pet of 14 years, she had no idea how she would break the news to her 8 year old son. The dog was his buddy.
My heart hurt for my nephew, but also for my sister. It’s a terrible thing to watch your child in pain. It’s a terrible thing to watch them try to understand death.
My children know far too much about death. But I think that is a good thing. Because they understand how to show compassion to someone who is grieving.
When my son (who is only three months younger than my nephew and the two of them are like brothers) came home from school, I told him the news. He was very sad for his cousin W. I asked him if he wanted to call W. and cheer him up. My son (who is one of the most sensitive and compassionate children I know) immediately agreed.
I dialed the phone and handed it to him. I walked into the other room so that I could listen without it being obvious. Bug, in his sweetest little voice, began telling W. that he was sorry Cooper died. He was sorry that he was sad and he wanted him to know he was sad too. He told W. that he wanted him to come over and they could look at pictures together and remember when Cooper was alive.
While I wanted to cry, I was also very proud of my little man. My sister had to take the phone back because my nephew was crying so hard, but I heard Bug say “I love you” before he hung up. And then he came into the living room, looked at me and the tears started flowing.
We hugged and I told him that I understood how difficult it is to see the people you love suffer. Through his sobs he uttered “He wasn’t even a person!”
No, he wasn’t. But he was beloved all the same.
I’m glad I had my son call his cousin. I’m glad he had the opportunity at a young age to comfort someone while grieving. This is an act of compassion. Even though Bug didn’t love the dog the same way W. did, he knew that his cousin was hurting, and he wanted to help.
Too many times people are afraid to say “I’m sorry” to someone who is grieving. Too many times we run away from the griever instead of showing the compassion that they so desperately need.
Not my children. The greatest gift I can bestow on them is compassion. Compassion for themselves, and compassion for others. Not just when someone is grieving, but when they are hurting or sad, confused, lonely, make bad choices or choices that we don’t understand. I don’t believe compassion is something that is innate. I believe it is learned. By experience or by example.
This post is part of the #1000Speak initiative, an idea by two bloggers to flood the internet with stories of compassion and kindness, rather than the bad news we see every day. Please help us share and use the hashtag #1000Speak. Visit the Facebook page 1000 Speak for more information.