Friday, May 21, 2010

Goodbye Friend

Una drew this picture of our family today in tribute to Snappy the turtle, who passed away this afternoon, apparently peacefully, on his log. The girls found him and were devastated at the loss. Snappy has been part of our family for two years, we inherited him from Zoe who inherited him from her brother.

Snappy was a beautiful, peaceable, intuitive pet. He would always swim to the end of the tank we were, and once when out for a walk, he laid his head on my foot, like a puppy. In summertime Martin and the girls would build elaborate worlds for him and the girls to be in together, using pot plants and the paddling pools and various rocks and things. Fred would check in on him every day when she came home from school and both girls would sit by his tank and chat to him. He was a confidante, and knew how to keep a secret. On sunny days during a break in writing I'd take him out of the tank and hang out in the sunshine with him for a while and watching him explore was a mind cleanser. Martin fed him most of the time and cleaned his tank often and so probably spent more time with him than any of us, but we all loved him. He was a part of our family identity and now has entered family lore. He is buried in a box filled with flowers. His grave is marked with stones from his tank and planted up with new plants. Una and Fred cried for about two hours this afternoon. Una cried while she drew, and the catharsis has seemed to work for now, she has cheered. Fred has settled, but she is small and dewy and quiet.

It sounds a bit soft of us but we kept Fred home from school today because she was plagued by nightmares last night. She is in the last clutches of a pretty mild cold, so we justified it that way. Now I wonder if those nightmares were a kind of foreshadowing, as death brushed past the house.

Una was terrified that Snappy wouldn't go to heaven because his eyes were open when he died.
He was a good turtle, I told Una. I don't believe in God but I added, God loves little creatures.
His eyes were open because he didn't need his eyes anymore, Fred said. He has left his body behind.
I say, I think death is peaceful. I think it is peaceful to die.

I have to confide in you now, he didn't look peaceful the way they found him. He looked shocked, aghast, his eyes open, his mouth open. But then Martin curled his neck into his body, and peace found him, and I stroked his neck and said goodbye.

He will be missed. Goodbye Snappy. Good luck on your next big adventure.

Snappy 2 by you.


  1. I only met Snappy but twice, and in light of that brevity of acquaintance what I'm about to write may sound silly or dramatic but: my eyes are welling up at the moment. I am quite saddened.

    I told the children the news and there was a silence for about five seconds. "But why?" was all Riley could say.

    I am sorry for you guys. And what a sweet picture of Una's.

  2. Eyes also welling here. Vale Snappy.

  3. Shit, Pen, I'm about to bawl here. I felt kind of casual about it when you rang me last night, but now I can see what a huge impact he had on you guys. Animals are truly amazing for tapping into our basic humanity.

  4. Oh, poor old Snappy. That is awful. But glad to hear you're all dealing with it so well (you know what I mean -- properly).

  5. Oh, Snappy.
    Having read your post, I'm now quite glad it's raining outside my window. Feels right and fitting.

    Have you read My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell? If you need some parrallel literature it contains a wonderful bit about the life and death of Achilles - the very sociable family turtle. (Also sun-drench Corfu is a nice place to escape to from melancholy Melbourne)


  6. very exciting Penni - congratulations!!

  7. It's very sad, losing a pet. I'm sorry about Snappy.