Purchased from the local Petsmart, Ernie quickly became a treasured member of the family.
Wolfie especially loved Ernie, and, Oh, how Ernie loved living in his cage next to the TV.
Until one sad morning.
I was asleep when Wolfie whispered in my ear, “Ernie is seeping.”
I mumbled back a thoughtful, “mmm hmmm” while attempting to roll over and ignore him.
But Wolfie persisted. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Mommy, Ernie is seeping on the bottom of his cage.”
Instantly, my eyes flew wide open. Ernie “seeping on the bottom of his cage” could mean only one thing.
I leapt up and sprinted to the cage.
And there was Ernie lying feet up, dead as a doornail.
Wolfie triumphantly pointed to Ernie and said, “See Mommy, Ernie is seeping!”
Already rigamortisized, I groaned inwardly and silently thought to myself, “When was the last time I fed that bird?”
But there wasn’t any time for rumination or regrets. Rachel was now awake and wandering over to see what was going on.
I felt overcome with emotion.
Yes, I was a little broken up that our cheap, little parakeet from Petsmart had kicked the bucket in the night–quite possibly from starvation–but I swallowed my heart realizing that my children were facing death for the very first time.
I wished Daddy was home to share this special moment, but lucky Daddy was at work. I was going to have to tell them about death all by myself.
I pulled my children in close, and, in my saddest voice, said, “Sweethearts, Ernie isn’t sleeping. Ernie is dead.”
They gazed so trustingly up at me, the question written all over both of their tender, innocent faces, “Wha?”
“Ernie is dead. His soul is in heaven with God.” (Regardless of faith, what else are you going to say?)
Within moments, I had two sobbing children on my lap, along with a dead bird that needed disposing. All I could think was, “When is that Daddy going get home anyway?”
Scrambling for some way to comfort my heartbroken children, I offered, “We’ll have a funeral for Ernie. Okay?”
Of course, Rachel and Wolfie, who had no idea what a funeral even was, instantly thought this meant something positive and stopped crying quite so hard. We all decided we’d better call Daddy with the bad news. Overwrought with emotion, he asked Mommy, “When was the last time you fed that bird, anyway?”
After Daddy came home the funeral was planned. I donated my cherished 1990 Nordstrom’s box that had contained Daddy’s Christmas gift to me that year just for the occasion.
Grandpa carved the cross.
I didn’t even know Ernie was a Christian.
The sad processional to Ernie’s final resting place commenced.
Grandparents had shown up to pay their last respects.
It was an open-casket funeral.
Doesn’t he look so natural?
Ernie was laid to rest.
Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.