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The Dominic Effect - 2



 One day Miss Pawson came into the classroom looking sadder than usual.  She insisted that the class quieten down, and we all obeyed.  We all feared Miss Pawson; her anger was very intimidating when compared to the gentle approach of Mrs Paige the year before.

            “I have some bad news,” she told us.  We all looked at each other, unable to predict what she was going to say to us.  “You’ll notice that Dominic Austen isn’t with us this morning.  His father called this morning to tell us that his mother passed away last night.”

            “What does passed away mean?” I asked with my typical eagerness, not ascertaining the macabre nature of the situation.

            “It means she’s not with us any more,” Miss Pawson answered, much more kindly than normal.

            “Is she dead?” I asked.

            “Yes, Daniel, I’m afraid she is.”

            I felt a familiar rush of excitement that I could only associate with the news that someone had passed on unexpectedly.

            “How did she die?” I asked bluntly.

            “She was involved in an accident.”

            “What kind of accident?”

            “It was a car accident,” to this point, Miss Pawson was showing much more patience than usual.  I guess it was the situation.

            “What happened?”

            “I don’t have any more details, I’m afraid Daniel.  Not that it’s polite to ask too many questions at times like this.”

            For once, I knew when to shut up, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t completely fascinated.


Playground talk all day was about death and in particular the death of Dominic Austen’s mother.  Many mistruths were being passed around about either what happened when car’s crashed.  The children in older years were spreading more graphic rumours, introducing us to terms such as drink driving and decapitation.

            I had a lot of questions for my own mother when I got home.

            “You’re not going to die are you, Mummy?” I asked her.  “You’re not going to visit my grandparents soon are you?”

            “I certainly hope not,” she said, not really liking discussing her own demise.

            “Does that mean you’re not planning on visiting them and leaving me?”

            “It’s not something you choose to do.”

            “But I thought your Mummy and Daddy chose to go to heaven.”

            “No, no.  It’s not like that.”

            “Does that mean I could die at any moment?”

            How do you explain that to a six year old?

            With difficulty.  Mum tried to explain things but I was more confused than before.  I now knew that death was definitely a bad thing and that my Mum was not happy that her parents had died.  I knew that it was possible for me to die, and I knew for sure that no-one was happy that Dominic’s mother was dead, even if she was in a better place.  But I still didn’t grasp it as much as I wanted to.

            By the end of our Q&A session I was suitably terrified of death.  Mum must have been concerned by her performance because Dad sat me down for a longer discussion the next day.  He made more sense.  He explained that at some point we would all die and that although it was a sad thing, it was a fact of life. 

            “Why do people get all upset when they hear that someone is going to die?” I asked him.

            “Because we don’t want other people to die.  We don’t want to die ourselves.”

            “It’s very exciting, isn’t it Daddy?”

            “That’s one way of putting it.”

            “Were you upset when your Mummy and Daddy died?”

            “In a way,” he replied, and he too shut up.

            I realised at this stage that it was alright to talk about death providing I didn’t mention my grandparents.