Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Wall - Tested

This is an unintended third part to my past posts about the wall.  I just finished writing a two-part blog about building walls after Lisa passed away.  Focusing on excuses and outside forces that allowed me to place brick after brick to build my wall and isolate myself from living a full life.  Talking about how I have torn down the wall and letting myself be vulnerable.

Two days after my post, Haley’s brand-new guinea pig died.  Haley, my eleven-year old daughter who was Madison WI with her two other sisters for a week and luckily wasn’t home to see what happened.  We bought a dog last year and it didn’t work out.  Girls were too jealous of the attention I had to give to the puppy.  So we sold it and I was mad at myself that I allowed a poor decision to take something else away from them.  So I went the safe route a bought a guinea pig (see first sentence of this paragraph to explain how that’s working out for us).

Having this happen so close after writing my last post, I took my own medicine.  My first thoughts were to come up with solutions that would minimize the damage (thinking about telling them I had to bring hers back to the store because of a previous ring worm problem and the store said we should get a new one).  With all that she’s had to deal with, I’ll be damned if I am going to give her more bad news.

But I knew going anywhere near that route would just add more bricks.  No, this is a tough world and we are going to try and live using its crappy rules.  I would tell her of this after getting home from me picking them up from Madison – of course on the drive home I get“I can’t wait to get home and cuddle with JJ, I’m sure he misses me!”  Sticking proverbial knife deep into proverbial chest. Ouch.

I took her to the backyard and simply broke the news.  Her face was in shock and I kept talking, “Haley, you’ve been through a lot and this is sad news.  I’m sorry.”

She took it well.  She decided she wanted to get another one.  She also asked me if it was okay if she let her friends know that he died –which I found as a very interesting question.  I don’t know why I found it interesting, but I did.

The one call I did make that I am happy I did, was instead of throwing JJ away, I went to the woods and buried him.  I even carved his initials on the tree by where he is buried – put the little guy in a backpack, went into the woods, found a tree, buried him, carved his initials, stood up, said some words, and headed back home.  I felt like I was in an old western movie.

When I told Haley what I did, her face lit up.  She asked if she could go visit the tree to which I said yes.  Haley has been too afraid to go to the cemetery to see Lisa and I told her I would never make her go until she is ready.  I’m glad she wants to visit JJ, this might be the perfect stepping stone to addressing something bigger.

I told her I was proud of her and I'm sorry. She said, “It’s okay.”  As I put her into bed she said, “Dad, people say animals can’t go to heaven, but we’re animals.  What do you think?”  I wish kids would give us a heads up for the big picture questions.  “Haley, I believe that God loves you and mom is up in heaven.  Why don’t you give them both a little prayer and tell them what you want.” 

Her head lying back down on the pillow, she let out one more thought before closing her eyes, “Yeah, maybe mom can make him understand me so when I get to heaven I can talk to him.”

I’m glad I didn’t sugarcoat this situation.  I was scared of how she would react and fear builds walls.  No bricks today and tomorrow we go get another guinea pig to bring us right back to being vulnerable for something bad to happen.   It's the only way to go.


  1. Great Dad.
    Love the part about the guinea pig burial.
    I think children loving and losing pets are part of the way we prepare in life for the big losses. Like losing a loved one.
    You are wonderful for showing her the way through.

  2. Hi Matt, I follow your blog and can relate well to building "The Wall". After nearly three years I find myself in my first relationship since my hubands death. I have torn down so many walls in the last year and finally have felt ready to open myself up to this type of vulnerability. It feels wonderful to love again. But I am struggling with the allowing myself to feel but another new emotion. I miss my wall of grief that protected me from emotions. Everything has been about death and surving the pain of it. Now its about living and I am petrified. Thankyou for sharing the story of your "Wall" and the struggle you encounter with living in the open. I am so greatful. Cheryl

  3. Matt, what a great post! I, too, can relate to the wall and I am trying very hard now to "unbrick" it. My heart and that of my children will get broken again and again. It is a part of life, as you have so eloquently taught your children. But life is worth taking risks. That is also a very valuable lesson.

    The best of luck with Guinea PIg #2.

  4. Matt, I love this so much. What the two of you might have missed out on if you'd gone the easy route!

  5. Ah yes the guinea pig, been there, done that with the kids. We "shared " one also while in preschool, and one child had the misfortune of dropping him while he was at his house for the weekend. As anon said above, it was a learning experience for all, and actually was a good segway into the topic of death for us.

    My wall is crumbling, and I frantically want to rebuild, but know I really shouldn't....I, too, am petrified of living again. Yes, you are vulnerable of something bad happening again, but look at the positives and they will outweigh the negatives.