Dubious Milestones no. 723: Sasha’s First Death

August 2nd, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  3 Comments

Meta Mulcahy is dead. Now, to most people, this probably doesn’t mean much, unless you’re a fan of Catholics for Choice, the abortion-rights organization I believe she helped found in 1973, but to me she was simply my neighbor. I’d often see her on my block, usually with her little dog, and if Sasha was with me, Meta would greet her by name. It wasn’t much, just one of those simple neighborhood interactions, but it was nice, something to look forward to whenever I took Sasha out.

Anyway, Meta died a couple of weeks ago, at the age of 74, so that’s that. I don’t know any details beyond the barest facts: she was and is no more.

Sasha, of course, will remember none of this. She’s just two and a half, and her memory of family members is still a little hazy. She’ll respond to the idea of Grandma and Grandpa, but yesterday, when my sister, Nell, called, I could see that the idea of “Auntie Nell” didn’t exactly trigger a strong emotional response. (Hey, Nell, we’ve gotta have you guys hang out more!)

I can’t get too worked up about this myself, either. What can you expect of a toddler? That she’ll remember the minor characters who passed in and out of her pre-sentient life? Characters like Meta and Sun Ayi, her first nanny, who moved back to China and then to Seoul?

Of course, there’s some kind of chance as well that some memory, some image, will linger in Sasha’s developing consciousness—something she’ll cling to as a first memory, however warped by time and by other people’s recollections. My own first memories go back to when I was just 18 months old, but are so generic (getting a cookie from our upstairs neighbor) as to be unreliable (who doesn’t have such memories?).

Last night, when I picked Sasha up from preschool, I considered for a bit whether to bring her to a remembrance ceremony for Meta Mulcahy, held in a garden two blocks from our street. But then, the father of Sasha’s best friend, Katerina, invited me out for a drink—it was my birthday—and I said yes. As with Sasha, Meta will remain a hazy part of my own memory, the old woman next door who always said hello to my daughter, and nothing more.

But I’m left with one last question, this one unanswerable: In which child’s memory will I be but a cameo, a half-seen minor character? Whose Meta am I?


  1. Jane says:

    August 2nd, 2011at 11:39 am(#)

    Interesting. Also a relief because from the title I thought you meant that your daughter has nine lives and just lost one. Phew.

  2. Matt says:

    August 2nd, 2011at 12:13 pm(#)

    I was very tempted to headline that one “The Little Death,” but figured I’d save that for another time.

  3. BloggerFather says:

    August 2nd, 2011at 6:02 pm(#)

    My wife’s uncle died last year, when my boy was 2 and a half. I still don’t know what I was supposed to do. On the one hand, I felt a good man deserved to be remembered, but on the other hand I thought it would just confuse my boy. Eventually we chose a mix of the two. We didn’t sit the boy down and explain what happened, but as we live across the street from a cemetery, every now and then, when he asks about it, I say it’s a place where people’s bodies are put in the ground after they die, like when Mom’s uncle died, and then people who loved them go to visit the graves and remember the good times they had together. It’s all matter-of-factly explained. Like in most cases, I have no idea what I’m doing, but my intuition tells me it’s a good balance between confusing the boy and hiding stuff from him, you know?

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