Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NaPoWriMo #29: death

Earlier this month I got a new job at church. In addition to doing my old emergency preparedness assignment, I'm also the adult advisor for "Activity Days", which means I'm in charge of an after-school program for girls ages eight to eleven. We get together every other Tuesday afternoon and have a brief inspirational message, memorize a scripture, and do a project. Right now I have five girls in my group, and yesterday I had an unsettling experience with one of them that I know is going to stay with me for a long time. I had to write about it just to try and make some sense of it.

Snakes in Heaven

I had read her parents as two leaves
of the same sour book so when I
picked her up after school and she asked
are you scared of snakes?
I wanted to seem interested not repulsed asked
what kind? a garter snake
and taking it gingerly from her pocket she
held it for me to see there was something
wrong with it in my car she explained
he choked on a bug but I think if I
get it out he’ll still be alive
when we get to church you’ll have
to keep him in your pocket I don’t
want you to frighten the other girls
knowing full well she would and
so after another girls’ mother exclaimed
how disgusting go wash your hands
I hid the coat away without making
a big deal of it and we moved on to
our counted cross-stitch projects when
we finished and were leaving I gave
back her black and red nylon jacket and
immediately she opened her pocket pulling
it out to frighten a younger girl riding home
with us so once again I intervened kind but firm
that’s enough please keep your pocket
zipped put the coat on the floor
as soon as we dropped the other girl off
she asked timidly if she could take her snake
out again more gently than before I said
I’d like you to keep him in your pocket he’s
got a lot of germs on his body when
snakes die they decompose from inside
out those bacteria could make you sick
she was silent a sideways glance showed
her hand in her pocket tenderly stroking
tiny head with her finger and I saw this
one thing that loved her back would be
missed in ways she could not say
did you know when animals die they
go straight to be with God again?
I’m sure right now he’s slithering in
the green grass of heaven find a pretty
box to bury him in make a grave marker
with a big rock it’s okay for you to be sad
don’t let anyone make you feel bad
if you want to cry
she was still silent when she closed my
car door behind her climbed grim trailer steps
and I drove away trying to remember
everything she had touched.


paisley said...

whereas i understand you had to ,, since you are like a religious teacher there,,, but did you have to tell her snakes go to heaven???

isn't the whole god thing hard enough to swallow without interjecting reptiles into heaven too?? i mean there is santa,, and the easter bunny and the toothfairy and then theres god,, and now we have snakes earning the right to go to heaven,,, which are truths and which are lies,, and do we really know the difference anymore??

i don't know.. i guess since i never deal with children,, i still believe that the truth is always the best response....

i will totally understand if you choose to delete this.... but i had to ask....

chicklegirl said...

I'm cool with your comments, Paisley; you don't need to worry about offending me, and me deleting just because you disagreed with me. I'm actually pretty thick-skinned and I also don't feel compelled to try and get someone to believe as I do or be preachy. In fact, it's always good to have my beliefs challenged because it makes me think through why I choose to believe what I do.

Here's where I was coming from with this poem: I know some other Christian denominations don't believe in animals going to heaven, but Mormon doctrine does hold that animals were created by God for a divine purpose and the resurrection of Christ extends salvation to them, as well. So, I was sharing the truth as I believe it with another member of my faith in an attempt to bring her some comfort I knew she wouldn't be getting elsewhere.

chicklegirl said...

P.S. I hope that last comment doesn't read defensively at all; the internet makes communication difficult, without the benefits of body language, voice inflection and so on. Emoticons are just so pathetically inadequate, no? :)