Once upon a time there were three weird little kids who lived smack dab in the middle of Minneapolis/St. Paul. I will call them Danny, Claire and Maggie because those are their names. I will never give up their last names though - both because I want to protect their identities and because they are pretty tight with a very competent US senator who I will call Amy who could probably help them sue my pants off. (I like my pants on.)
One fall day Danny, Maggie and Claire were frolicking in the front yard of the house when they came upon a little critter. This was not an unusual occurrence being that the house was located in a neighborhood some refer to as an urban forest. Critters are abundant around there and come in all forms including raccoons, rabbits, foxes and deer as well as domesticated kitties who roam free.
"Look! A mole!" declared Claire. It was actually a tiny gray shrew with fuzzy fur and a long snout with a little pink nose on the end of it, but I did not correct her - mostly because I wasn't sure if shrew was really the name of it.
"It's sooo cute!" yelled Maggie.
"Cool!" said Danny.
"Get some sticks." said Claire.
"Don't get too close." I yelled from the other side of the yard. The last thing I wanted was to have to rush them to the ER for rabies shots and then explain to their parents that I let a rabid mole/shrew bite them. (Because they know Amy too. She wasn't a senator yet - but she already mattered in the legal world.)
They were poking the mole/shrew with sticks when I got close enough to see that the little guy was dead. They realized it at the same moment.
"I think it's dead, Claire," said Danny.
"You're right. We need to bury him. We need to name him first though."
They stared at the dead shrew/mole for a long time.
"Lance. His name is Lance." stated Claire.
Maggie found a little shovel and they dug a little hole, tossed him in, said some words and then put a stick in the dirt to mark the grave.
They all said "Good-bye, Lance the dead mole." And went on playing.
This is not Lance the dead mole. But this is what he looked like.
I borrowed this picture from Janusmuseum.org. There are a surprising
number of pictures of dead shrews to be found on the internet when
one googles dead shrew.
Lance was not mentioned for quite some time until one very cold winter day when Claire remembered him. "I bet he's just a bunch of bones now!" she said.
"EW. Yuck!" said Maggie. "Why bones?" (She was only three.)
"Cuz that's what happens when you die. You just turn into bones." said Danny. Danny determined death was final at a very young age.
Maggie, who was a strong believer in angels, was heartbroken. She was sure Lance had wings and was a perfect mole angel by then.
"Cami, can we go dig up Lance the dead mole and show Maggie his bones?"
I said, "Sure. But dress warm." I only said yes because I knew the marker was buried in the snow and because I figured the ground was too frozen for their little hands to break through anyway. And I was always looking for good teaching moments. This would be good for a 'how to deal with failure and disappointment' lesson.
They tried and tried but did not find Lance. Danny and Claire resolved to try again in the summer and Maggie went on imagining Lance in the sky with the angels.
I would not be surprised to learn that Claire now has Lance the dead mole's skeleton put together and on her desk at college. She loved him the most. If that is the case, Claire, please do not tell Maggie.
And again with the names, Claire! You actually named a DEAD SHREW. And you named him Lance! You called your five year old male self Jim and the dead mole is Lance.... You really were a weird little kid..... and I love you for it!