Describe your first experience with death

Each time I press “publish” on WordPress, some handy little questions present themselves as ideas for future blog posts. This was one that caught my eye:

Describe your first experience with death. Was it with a family member? Pet?

I can think of several answers to that question.

My grandmother died when I was three. I can barely remember her – except that she had blonde hair and I thought she was very glamorous. The one incident that I recall was, shortly before her death, we visited her house around the last “White Christmas” of the 20th century – at least in our neck of the woods. A Shetland pony had wandered into the garden, and I was spellbound by this miniature horse that was barely taller than I was. I ran my fingers through its white fur as it stood among the white snow, utterly captivated. Eventually its owner took it away, I was absolutely gutted, because when you’re three years old a tiny white pony in falling snow looks a lot like this:

She died in hospital. I wasn’t there and don’t remember.


A year later, my grandfather joined the choir invisible. No, you needn’t feel bad – he died in his sleep of a heart attack in the South of France while on holiday with his new girlfriend. For him, I’ll dedicate San Tropez by Pink Floyd from the album Meddle, though I’m not sure exactly where in France he popped his proverbial clogs.

His was the first death I actually remember – my parents came to the school at which I was newly enrolled and did their best to explain to me what had happened. I think I briefly shed a tear though I didn’t have any real understanding beyond that he wasn’t going to be buying me any more toys.


Easily the most traumatic loss of my childhood was that of our pet bunny. I remember it was black, and not terribly friendly. I was about seven.

Our teacher set us some homework – we had to bring a bird’s feather to school the next day. I had a sandpit and saw what I thought was a fairly magnificent feather sticking out of the sand, and ran over to grab it. As I pulled up the sand-covered specimen I realised almost immediately that it wasn’t a feather at all.

I was holding the ear of the severed head of our family pet.

A fox had got it.

I ran screaming into the house and was inconsolable for about an hour.

Consequently, I was one of the few kids not to be monumentally f***ed up by watching Watership Down, because by that time I knew well that it is a cruel, cruel world.


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