People commonly say that “the holidays are all about family” – the families into which we were born or adopted, or the ones we create for ourselves. All of our relations – of different ages, cultures and species – are special to us in their own way.
Yet upon experiencing a recent death of a family member, close friend or teacher, or when remembering days gone by – the reassuring glances, kidding around or a gentle touch – we wonder: How might our reminiscences and grief coincide with the abundance of holiday cheer?
We are encouraged to be happy, merry and joyful, and we can be, as memories are shared and feelings accepted (and not repressed). Holidays remind us that we are part of the cycles of a living Earth, and for a while we are in sync with those we love. Yet we can do more than just remember – our memories beckon us to be and do better, simpler, kinder and fairer.
Every year, some celebrate Christmas – the birth of Jesus and renewed hope (after some closed their doors to his laboring mother). Some celebrate Hanukkah – the survival of the underdog in the face of political annihilation. Some celebrate Kwanzaa – the freedom and restoration of family and community after centuries of persecution. Some celebrate Pancha-Ganapati – the mending of past mistakes and repairing relationships with family, friends and others. Each of these celebrations remind us of life’s fragility in the face of adversity and loss.
For children who are bereaved, holidays can be especially confusing times. The animated short, The Snowman and The Snowdog, may help. Film director Hilary Audus and colleagues created an enchanting sequel to the 1982 Academy Award winning classic, The Snowman, based on an original story by Raymond Briggs.
[Spoiler Alert] The Snowman and The Snowdog opens by illustrating the tender affection between a boy and his old dog. One scene later, mother and son are seen standing in their backyard beside their dog’s freshly-dug grave beneath a leafless tree (see illustration, above). With a Christmas snow, the boy builds a snowman and also a snowdog. After midnight, both come to life, and the three of them have marvelous adventures. By the film’s end the boy faces death once more when he finds the remains of his snowman melted in the morning sun. The warming sun which chases the chill from our bones also brings the demise of a magical friend.
This film offers more complexity than the first: it begins with death and bereavement, and throughout deals with memory across time and space, expanding vs. replacing relationships, and more subtly, ideas of transformation, resurrection, reincarnation, and love. It further rattles conceptual boundaries between animality and the imaginary as only animation can – it is a cinematic poem without words (except for its theme song).
The Snowman and The Snowdog recognizes that magic can arrive from the sadness in our lives, especially heightened during the holidays. As a gift to our readers, I’ve attached this film below; you may also find it in our video gallery. Please share it with a someone who might be comforted by its charm.
During this past year, the Green Pet-Burial Society has continued to add content to our website, Facebook page and Twitter account, and has been quietly engaged in various scholarly, artistic and advocacy projects as we prepare for big announcements and changes.
Your generous donation, in any amount, will ensure that we continue to offer comfort and support to the bereaved, provide resources to scholars and stakeholders, and advance the option for Conservation Whole Family Cemeteries worldwide.