Radiant (or how not to give a spider a bath)

  It’s Wednesday night, just me and my 7 year-old daughter, and I’m having a hard time settling into the play time I promised earlier when I wasn’t thinking about dinner or checking and signing off on homework, which will probably require a Notary by the time she is a parent. The thought of Candyland exhausts even her, so we browse an extensive movie library of mostly crap and stream Charlotte’s Web, which my daughter tells me they’re reading in class.

This is the live-action remake, not the funky 70s cartoon, which I think we can all agree had a jazzier take on Templeton’s fair binge, but it’s very hard to get kids to watch old stuff without being reminded how boring it is to new people. About an hour in, I realize my daughter has no idea how it ends. We’re heading to heartbreak at breakneck speed.

She innocently asks what radiant means and I offer a rushed definition that does not clarify how radiant could possibly apply to a pig because I’m not sure, and then I casually warn her the movie has a sad ending. Then I wind up spoiling the whole thing because I don’t want her to think the pig dies, which I think would be sadder. When the (spoiler alert!) deathbed scene happens and Wilbur pulls away in the back of a truck while Charlotte takes her last spider breaths, I realize I’m wrong.

In real life, a spider is a terrifying thing you might see in your washing machine after you already added water and the costume clothes you bought at Goodwill and left in a bag in the garage to quarantine for several days (because the only insect scarier than spiders are bedbugs) and you scream a scream even you don’t recognize as coming from yourself and slam down the lid, and later you will make your husband switch out the laundry but will not ask about the limp, spindly carcass the size of a small rodent he must have pulled out and had to bury in the backyard. You do not inform the children their hobo costumes are now haunted by a spider. This is all hypothetical, of course.

The movie version of a spider has fur that looks soft and inviting and pretty eyelashes and a voice like Julia Roberts’, and she has just died poignantly, heartbreakingly.

My daughter crumbles and tells me she needs a hug and I hold her while trying to hide my own tears. She says “I don’t want you to die” and breaks into fresh sobs and I tell her I don’t plan to anytime soon and make a weak joke about being compared to a spider but she forces me to stay with her grief. She says “At least we’ll get to see each other again in heaven” and I wonder when she came up with that because we only recently discussed heaven as one possibility. I like that she thought about it more and made it her own.

This makes me think of my own mother, who is presumably up in heaven waiting for her mother to join her and later, if all goes well, my brother and I. The mother I barely know is a collage of outfits and happy poses from photographs I’ve seen and stories my grandmother told over the years, and yet I’ve felt her love my whole life, especially in the last year, which is interesting but not surprising because I wasn’t looking as hard before.

I start to think about how it might work in heaven, like at what age are we preserved and how do family members find us, presumably not all at the same time since who wants tense family dinners in the afterlife. And what about the cats I’d love to see again, plus my aunt’s golden retriever that used to let us lie on her like a pillow. I don’t care how peaceful heaven is, my old cats won’t put up with other cats, much less a dog. Plus there are possibly spiders in heaven. 

I say to my daughter that when someone dies, their spirit lives on in our hearts and memories and they never leave us. I think to myself that her and I are making a memory right now because we are both 100% in the moment together and crying on the couch (me silently). It reminds me of how I used to hold her in this same spot and stare at her tiny perfect face in the weeks after she was born in an effort to make maternity leave feel as long as possible. Heartbreak is everywhere, but instead of waiting to possibly see someone in heaven again, we get to love the ones we have right now and create and savor new memories, each more delicious than the last.

56 thoughts on “Radiant (or how not to give a spider a bath)

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  1. Some pig. I love that book so much. I haven’t seen either of the film versions. The great thing about a well-told story is that you can get so invested in a character — even a spider — that you are bereft when the character goes to that big web in the great beyond.

    I like your concept of spirits living on in our hearts, which seems like a better place, and closer, than heaven.

    Liked by 13 people

    1. That’s one of my favorites, top 5 for sure. My husband told me the spider bite in the song was really a heroin abscess. (Maybe we’ve discussed this before.) Great song, thanks for sending.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I never read the book because I don’t like to see animals die.
    I would hide behind my chair when Lassie came on!
    My grandmas, grandpas, MIL, and my father, all live with me in my spirit and soul!

    Liked by 6 people

  3. And now I’m crying, too. The picture I have in my head of you and your girl makes my heart swell. You know she’ll remember this moment with you on the couch talking about grown up concepts in only the way a child can.
    Loved Charlotte’s Web-I adore spiders (I know…shocker) and I adore you, too.
    Thank you for a sweet peek into your special relationships. Xo

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Usually I don’t murder spiders, definitely not outdoor ones. Why can’t they just build little spider houses (outside) to live in year round? I’d spring for tiny heaters or blankets to make them more comfortable.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I like how you toggle from the movie into thoughts of your mom and back to your daughter, that was really nice. I like that kind of arc for a blog piece, I find it’s the attention span I can grasp online for myself (not sure if that’s a good thing or bad). I was thinking about this notion recently for some reason about seeing people “after” and the fact my mother-in-law, after she lost her husband, was told by her church’s grief group for some reason to get it out of her head that she’d see him again in heaven, like she couldn’t think that way for some reason, and what a hard kind of bruise it left for her, for her feelings about her church. Weird — curious if anyone else has heard such a thing? And perhaps I won’t open a can of worms like that anyhow, should just pretend I didn’t.
    That in-the-moment appreciation is so hard and important, I like how you preserved this time here with you and your daughter. Good to take time for such things, unsure what the Wi Fi connections will be like up there, above the Cloud.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I owe this toggle style to you. You write very naturally this way and it feels like how things really happen, a mix of action and dialogue and a lot of thought. It’s a fun way to write, so anyway, thank you. I wonder about who made that comment about grief. I hope it wasn’t the facilitator but maybe a grieving, opinionated spouse who thought they were doing your mother-in-law a favor. Grief is such an personal thing and I’ve always heard there’s no right or wrong way to do it. I hope she’ll follow her own instincts and heart. And god, I hope there’s no wifi in heaven. Gotta have something to look forward to in the great beyond.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so glad you like ‘the toggle’ and you enjoy it, thanks for that Kristen. You can probably go about anywhere you like in the past and present: a GPS with your own voice, not some other idiot’s?!
        Thanks for the note on the grief thing…we have to let that one go. Enjoy your weekend. Bill

        Liked by 2 people

  5. This story resonates. Just yesterday, the only thing between me and the day being done–kids in bed–was my 3 year old asking to take our dog on a walk. I begrugded it at first. Then we got out there in the crisp night air. I saw my son ask to take the leash for the first time. We went to school yard, let the dog loose and then both tried to run and catch as she sprinted freely through the grass. What an incredible time that was!
    What a great mother you are to be there for your daughter. And what a great thinker (writer) you are to help someone so young through the complexities of life. You are proving that it is bye bye beer, but hello magnificience! I enjoyed this post throughouly.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I love the image of you and your boy chasing the dog through the grass and that you obliged your son’s request (3 year olds can be very persuasive though). Something about that combination of crisp fresh air and the people and pets we love is good medicine.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Love this, Kristen, as usual. I can’t get the image of the spider in the laundry because, well, spiders. But you weave (get it?) a wonderful picture here and I love the ideas of heaven and what possibilities they carry, including all the little details. I am always surprised at what kids come up with and how they process things and how they hold onto certain things and create something wonderful with it – they get me thinking all the time.

    Thank you for sharing this. Awesome.


    Liked by 3 people

  7. Super post.

    I’ve always tried to preserve spiders and regularly try to catch them and put them out in the garden if they come inside. I have a “pet” one too called Boris who lives behind the light beside our front door. He’s been there for years and years (clearly the current incumbent must be at least Boris the 17th). Sometimes when we arrive home his hairy legs are poking out from underneath it waiting for a moth to stupidly come too close to the light. I say “Hi Boris” and tap the light case and he ducks back in. My daughter screams then (she is 20 and nothing changes) to open the door before he comes out with hundreds of his friends to terrorise us!

    You know I love when a film has this effect on a child. It is so important that they get to experience emotions and talk about them and try to being to form some of the biggest questions in life like “What will happen to me when I die”… I really don’t think I was ever encouraged in that kind of exploration and maybe that is one reason why alcohol’s numbing effects as I grew up and had to face this stuff became quiet attractive.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. This a beautiful post. Having a six year old, it’s hard to know when they suddenly become cognitive of death and loss, and then one day they say they don’t want you to die and blow up your whole world. Cherished memory.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Oh my goodness, I’m dabbing my eyes. You have captured motherhood perfectly. My favorite story is Charlotte’s Web even though I’ve never really loved spiders. I love the comment of tense dinners in the afterlife. I think about that too. How does that work? Yay, let’s re-unite with family members that made us nuts on earth! My daughter didn’t have the, “I don’t want you to die,” conversation with me until after she went away to college. i guess it hit her that I might not always be around, just at the time she was pulling away. Life. So complicated and yet so simple. Living in the moment. I love how you lived in the moment with your child even though it was difficult. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 6 people

  10. I am the spider killer in the family. The other day I went to kill one and made the fatal error of missing on the initial squeeze. It jumped at me and I freaked out. I scrambled to knock it off my shirt and commenced a rain dance style stomping to kill it. Anyways, enjoyed you story. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. I love how children get you in the moment. How they analize things in their young minds. You are right to savour every precious moment like this one. They grow up far too fast. Great writing

    Liked by 6 people

  12. I like the part, when your daughter were able to recognize the uncomfortable feeling resulted by the concept of death in the movie, and apply it to the death of her mother. Then, she said she’ll meet you again later in heaven. It means, your daughter somehow, she understands the uncomfortable of the concept of separation. Which is I’d like to know, did anyone taught her that separation is an unpleasant thing or sad? Otherwise such feeling is truly is natural in us. Thanks

    Liked by 5 people

  13. What an absolutely beautiful post. Your concluding statement, β€œHeartbreak is everywhere, but instead of waiting to possibly see someone in heaven again, we get to love the ones we have right now and create and savor new memories, each more delicious than the last” is positive and it completed your post in such a powerful way as well. I look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. The moments that we live today will be the memories that will always remain in our hearts and it’s wonderful that she will with that in her heart and mind. As they say, living is for those who are alive.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Love the cartoon version, plus the recent one. But death, loss & Heaven always a tricky subject to tackle with young ones yet alone older ones. Cherish all those wonderful tender times x We lost our 20 year old son Jacob last October & I pray with all my heart we’ll see him again when it’s our time to cross over. In the meantime I will continue to see him and feel him in all the beautiful things in the world like the stars, nature, rainbows, butterflies, the sun shining on the ocean…thanks for sharing x

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Time moves so quickly. Yesterday, I was still being driven to school in an outfit my mom picked out for me.
    Currently, I’m a high school graduate (2016, whoop!) who’s soon to leave for college.
    I think about this all the time. When you’re young, you think you’ll stay young forever, until woken up one day by the screaming kids and while you fastening your husband’s tie for work.
    This was such an interesting metaphor to explain this. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Ah, so beautiful! I hope your daughter will be able to access your blog in the distant future, so she can relive these precious moments that you’ve recorded for her (and your) posterity.. or until you meet again in heaven πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 4 people

  18. “Heartbreak is everywhere, but instead of waiting to possibly see someone in heaven again, we get to love the ones we have right now and create and savor new memories, each more delicious than the last.”

    This right here is absolute perfection and profound truth. πŸ™ŒπŸ»πŸ™ŒπŸ»πŸ™ŒπŸ»πŸ™ŒπŸ»πŸ™ŒπŸ»πŸ™ŒπŸ»πŸ™ŒπŸ»

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Beautiful thoughts. I think that heaven will be a place beyond anything that we can imagine. C.S. Lewis described a place in his novel “The Magician’s Nephew” called The Wood Between the Worlds. It is a place where time stands still, and you never want to leave- you never realize how long you’ve been there until you decide to jump into another puddle (read the book- haha). Now, I don’t think that this is exactly an analogy of heaven. If anything, it is likely an analogy of Purgatory, since Lewis was Catholic. But, I do think that the passing of time in Heaven, or the lack thereof, will be something like that Wood. And yes, it will be great to see our loved ones again. I believe this life to be a proving ground for the life to come, otherwise we would simply all stay down here forever. Anyway, many thoughts. It is cool that such a beautiful story, as something so seemingly absurd as the relationships between a bunch of talking animals, turned out to be so poignant and timeless and thought provoking. That is the power of a well-told tale. . .

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Even when sensitively handled like this, it is a defining moment that we remember in adulthood. I recall exactly where I was and what I was doing the moment I realised how all life ends – including that of my own parents. I am thankful that the moment was similarly well ‘handled’ by them. It is admirable that you and your child will have a positive memory of this moment. It is so important to discuss it with children as being a normal part of life – whether it be the life of spiders, pigs or parents! A thought-provoking read – thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

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