Heaven on earth

16th January 2018

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By Andi Turner

When the children returned after the holidays our beloved Marley wasn’t home to say hi. From the outset the children knew something wasn’t right. Yes the pretty tree and the pretty lights were gone but this was something altogether different. Immediately Marley was missed. Marley who’d been the best thing about my home, my family and my home-based setting for the best part of seven wonderfully happy years. And therefore a very significant part of lots of children’s lives too.

The children had fed him, cuddled him, played ball with him and completely loved him – just as they would a dog of their own. In return, he greeted each and every one of them excitedly every morning; sat beside them during story time; and didn’t mind one little bit when babies tugged at his fur and flapped his waggy little tail up and down.  He really was the best of dogs.

“Where’s Marley?” they asked.  “Is he at nursery?”

No my dear, he’s poorly in hospital but he’s getting better every day.

We think they’ll soon forget all about this and yet it’s the very first thing they share about their day when Mammy or Daddy collect them. Almost as if the painting, dancing, building, pouring and cooking simply hadn’t happened at all.

And Marley really did start to get better – at least for a little while. But then exactly one week later, my worst nightmares became my worst reality.  Marley wasn’t ever coming back to us ever again.

But it’s impossible to hide the tears. And nor do I think we should. For how else can a child learn how to manage such strong feelings as grief and loss and hurt?

So much the same as every preceding day, the children asked “where’s Marley?”

Well, a weekend’s a long time to a 3 & 4 year old after all.

It was the hardest thing in the world to reply:

“I am really, really sorry sweetheart but our darling Marley isn’t coming back home to live with us. He’s in heaven now where he can run outside all day long, chasing as many squirrels and rabbits as he wants to. And where he can run off his lead and go as far as his little legs can carry him and where he can make as much mess and as much noise as he blooming well wants to.”

“Is heaven just like nursery then?”

I catch my breath.

“…yes, my dear, heaven is just like nursery.”

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring: the questions I’ll be asked or how well I’ll respond to them. But I’ll be honest about my feelings and the children will be able to be honest about theirs. And together we can shed our tears, and be human. And day by day, together, we’ll get through this most difficult of times.

RIP Marley

28.02.2011 To 15.01.2018

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