Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Susan's Shuso Blog: My Turtle Dies

When I was a little girl, the maid who cared for me often said: “We are born to die, Susie, we are born to die.” My mother did not like hearing that. My mother said the maid was being morbid. She said it was something to do with being Catholic. Eva, the maid, was Catholic, but we were not.

One day when I was in the third grade I came home for lunch to find my pet turtle stiff and rigid in the round della robbia ceramic dish from Italy I kept him in. I picked him up. I wanted him to move across my hand. I wanted to feel his tiny feet tickle me the way they usually did. But that was not to be.

I think this was my first experience of grief. I was inconsolable. I cried and I cried and I cried. I refused to go back to school. I was afraid I had done something wrong. Perhaps I had fed him too much, not enough, or perhaps I had not played with him enough.

I don't remember what happened after that. I don't remember burying the turtle or having any kind of ritual around his passing.

Ritual was something Catholics did. I wonder where Eva was. She would have understood. We might have said the rosary together the way we did when I went to church with her.

I think that all those years ago Eva was saying something about acceptance of death as a part of life. Buddhists say: I am of a nature to be ill; I am of a nature to grow old; I am of a nature to die. Acceptance of this deep truth is a gateway to liberation.

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