LIFE'S LESSONS: DEATH
by Tracy

Edinburgh,
July 22, 1780

Elizabeth rocked little Archie to sleep, then carried him to his crib, kissed his forehead and gently laid him down for the night. She tenderly stroked his beautiful hair, then blew the candle out and left the room, closing the door behind her.

Only a few moments after Elizabeth closed the door, little Archie let out with a scream. Elizabeth ran back into the room, to find Dorothy trying to calm the terrified toddler, who was attempting to climb out of his crib.

"Som'pin cwawl on me!" Archie cried hysterically.

Richard had hurried in the room behind Elizabeth and, pulling the blankets out of the crib, found a frog.

Constance and Maria ran into the room, followed by Henry. Only Stephen stayed in his room.

Stephen Kennedy. Richard sighed heavily, The guilty party.

"What is it, father?" Constance asked.

"A frog." Richard picked it up, "Does anyone know who this belongs to?"

Poor little Archie nearly climbed over his nurse trying to get away from the frog.

Henry looked at the frog and Richard raised his brow, "Is this yours?"

"No, sir." Henry said.

"Who does it belong to?" Richard demanded.

"Stephen found it in the garden this afternoon, Father." Henry answered.

"Thank you." Richard said, "Now all of you go to bed."

Elizabeth took her frightened little son, "You can sleep with Mama and Papa tonight, Archie."

 

Richard opened the door to second son's room.

Stephen sat up, rubbing his eyes as if he had been asleep, and asked innocently, "Is something wrong, Father?"

Richard held out his hand, presenting the frog. "Yours, I believe?"

Stephen hung his head.

"Why did you do that?" Richard asked.

"It is only a frog, Father." Stephen told him, "I have put them in Constance and Maria's beds."

"And you were punished for it." Richard said sternly, "Archie has never seen a frog in his life. And now, thanks to you, he is terrified of them. Why are you so cruel to him?"

"It was supposed to be funny, Father." Stephen protested.

"Frightening your babe brother is not funny, Stephen!" Richard told him, "You will be punished." Then called, "McGuire."

When the servant came to the door, Richard handed him the frog, "See it to the door, please."

McGuire smiled, trying to keep from laughing, and said, "I will, sir."

"Father, it is mine!" Stephen jumped out of his bed.

"Do you really believe I would allow you to have it after you frightened poor Archie with it?" Richard asked, "We will be fortunate if we can get him to calm down enough to go to sleep, tonight!"

"If I promise never to do it again," Stephen asked, "can I keep it, Father?"

"Sir," Dorothy asked, "may I have the frog? I want Archie t' see that he doesn't ha'e t' fear it."

"He is too frightened!" Richard shook his head.

"O' course, sir," Dorothy said, "I was planning t' show him t'morrow. I'll not frighten him, I promise."

"Very well." Richard gave a nod to McGuire, who handed the frog to Dorothy. Richard, McGuire, and Stephen were surprised that Dorothy did not even flinch as must women would have at having a frog put in their hand. Richard turned to his son, "I will deal with you in the morning."

Stephen hung his head again, "Yes, father.

"And I want you to think about how cruel that was of you to frighten your babe brother that way." Richard told him, "He could have hurt trying to get away from that frog." Richard sat down on the edge of his son's bed, "Stephen, your mother almost died while giving birth to Archie. And the doctor said, that because he came almost two months early, he could become sickly. You could have caused him to have a serious injury to his heart. You could have killed your babe brother, Stephen. I want you to think about that." Richard tucked his son in, but was still very angry with him. He left the room, then made certain the other children were in bed.

After seeing all the children tucked in their beds, Richard went to his chambers and found his little son in his mother's arms, still sobbing as his mother sat on the bed rocking him.

After several minutes, the frightened toddler cried himself to sleep. Elizabeth and Richard lay down in their bed, with the little one between them, and went to sleep.

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The next morning, Elizabeth woke her little son, "Good morning, my precious."

Archie blinked and smiled, "I hungwy, Mama."

"Well," She smiled, pulling the blankets down, "you need to get up then. Nurse Dorothy said she has something she wants to show you after breakfast."

"I wan' a see, Mama!" Archie jumped up, "I wanna see!"

"Wait, my little angel!" Elizabeth caught him as little Archie tried to jump off the bed.

"I wanna see a s'pwise!" The toddler tried to get out of his mother's arms.

"I will take you to her." Elizabeth picked up her very excited son and carried him to his bed chambers, "Nurse Dorothy? Archie would like to see what you have to show him."

" 'et me see it, Nuwse Dowfy!" Archie said excitedly, "P'ease, 'et me see it!"

"All right." Dorothy walked into her room and came back out with a box.

As Dorothy knelt down with the box, Elizabeth knelt down with her son, standing him on the floor. Dorothy did not open the box, though. She took Archie's little face in her hands, trying to capture his attention, "Do ye remember when we went exploring and found the bugs that can't hurt ye?"

Archie nodded.

"Well," Dorothy said gently, "there are all kinds o' creatures that seem as if they're terrible, but they won't hurt ye. Like frogs."

" 'ike a fwog dat cwawl on me 'ast night?" Archie asked, becoming frightened again.

"Yes, laddie." Dorothy spoke seriously, "Frogs won't hurt ye. Unless ye're a bug." She looked into little Archie's beautiful sapphire eyes, "Are ye a bug?"

"No." Archie shook his head as Elizabeth pressed her lips together, trying not to giggle.

"Then ye should not fear o' a frog, lad." Dorothy told him, "Frogs ha'e no teeth, no nails, and no stingers, so they can't hurt ye." She released Archie's face, picked up the box, and in tone trying to make him excited at the thought, she whispered, "Would ye like to say it!"

Archie's eyes widened and he nodded.

Dorothy opened the box. The frog was sitting still and Archie frowned, looking at it. Then it jumped out of the box startling the three of them. Elizabeth started laughing and Archie squealed.

"Oh, good hea'ens!" Dorothy tried to grab the frog, but it jumped away from her.

Giggling, Archie squealed, "Cats' it, Nuwse Dowfy! Cats' it!"

"I'm tryin' t', lamb!" Dorothy chased the frog across the room only to have a pair of small hands snatch it up.

Dorothy knelt upright to see Maria holding the frog, "They are hard to catch, are they not?"

"Very hard, lass!" Dorothy retrieved the box and Maria put the frog in it. Turning to Archie, Dorothy said, "After breakfast, we'll take the frog out an' let him go."

"He go home t' his Mama?" Archie asked, cocking his head as he looked up her.

He is such an adorable child! Dorothy thought, "Yes, laddie. Now, let's get ye ready fer breakfast."

" 'es, Nuwse Dowfy." Archie let Dorothy dress him and then went to breakfast.

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After breakfast, Dorothy and Archie took the box out to the garden. Dorothy opened the box and Archie looked at the frog, which was not moving. Dorothy turned the box to get the frog to jump out, but the frog tumbled out onto the ground, landing on it's back and did not move.

Archie frowned, "Why he 'aying dewe?"

"Oh, no." Dorothy sighed, "He's dead, laddie."

Frowning in confusion, little Archie looked up at his nurse, "What dead?"

Dorothy quickly closed her eyes, How do you explain death to a two year old? Leading the little one to one of the stone benches, Dorothy pulled Archie onto her lap and took a deep breath, "The frog, the bugs, all the animals, even people, are alive. Everything breaths and their hearts beat. But when the heart stops beating and they stop breathing, that means they are not alive anymore. An' that is called death. It's when somethin' that was alive is not alive anymore."

" a fwog not gon' a hop no mowe?" Archie asked with tears in his sad eyes.

"No, my little lamb." Dorothy said softly, "His life is over."

Archie looked down at the frog and pouted a few moments. Then the little lip quivered more and Archie began to cry.

"Oh, laddie!" Lovingly embracing him, Dorothy kissed Archie's head, stood up and carried him into the house.

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September 17, 1780

"Why I hafa get dwess up?" Little Archie asked his nurse, "We not go a chuwch."

"We are going t' yer grandmother's house." Dorothy said.

"My what?" Archie frowned.

"She's your Papa's Mama." Dorothy explained as she slipped Archie's little arm in his shirt, "And that makes her yer grandmother."

Archie looked surprised, "Papa habe a Mama?!"

"Yes, laddie." Dorothy laughed, "Everyone has a Mama."

" 'ou habe a Mama?" Archie asked.

"Yes, lamb." Dorothy told him as she put his other little arm in his shirt, "My mother died last year."

" 'ike a fwag?" Archie asked, apprehensively.

"Yes, laddie." She began to button his shirt.

"I sowy." Archie sounded hurt.

"Ye are such a sweet little boy!" Dorothy kissed Archie's cheek, "Don't ye e'er change!"

"I a good laddie." Archie nodded, his expression serious.

"Yes, ye are, my lamb." Dorothy smiled, "Ye are very good boy."

She finished getting him ready.

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London
September 24, 1780

Little Archie sat on his mother's lap for the coach ride to his grandmother's house, and his eyes grew wide as he saw Kennedy Manor, "A ca'tle!"

"This is Kennedy manor, children." Richard told them, "It has been in the Kennedy family for the last four hundred years."

"It is that old?!" Stephen's eyes widened.

"Yes," Richard told them, "And one day, we will live there."

"We are going to live there, Father?" Maria asked, not understanding.

"My father is a lord," Richard explained, "Lord Kennedy. And when he dies, I will become Lord Kennedy because I am the eldest son."

"We will live there when grandfather dies?" Stephen asked.

The coach came to a stop and a woman ran to the coach, "I'm sorry, sir! I'm so very sorry!"

Richard closed his eyes, then slowly climbed out of the coach, "Where is mother, Mrs. Allen?"

"Barnaby is sitting with her." The woman said, "He died in his sleep last night. He did not suffer."

"Thank God." Richard sighed and started for the door.

Elizabeth and Dorothy gathered the children, and Elizabeth knelt down on one knee, "Children, your grandfather has pass away."

"What dat mean, Mama?" Little Archie cocked his head.

Dorothy knelt down on both knees and took Archie's little face in her hands, "To pass away is another way of saying that someone has died."

" 'ou mean 'ike a fwog?" Archie asked.

"Yes, lamb." Dorothy said.

Archie frowned in thought, then asked, "Papa sad?"

"Yes, he is angel." Elizabeth told him.

Tears came to little Archie's eyes as Dorothy picked him up and he lay his head on her shoulder, wrapping his arms around her neck.

Elizabeth went to find her husband, while Mrs. Allen took Dorothy and the children to the nursery.

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That evening, Richard sat alone in the library. He had not even had a chance to say farewell.

The children wondered around the manor with little Archie following, until the came to the library. The children quietly left the room alone and went on, except for little Archie. He walked into the library and over to his father, "Papa?"

Richard raised his head, blinking the tears from his eyes, "How did you get here?"

"We 'ooking 'wound a castle." Archie told him, "But I not wan' 'ou be sad."

Richard leaned down and picked up his little son, sitting the child on his lap, "Thank you, my little laddie."

" 'ou cwying, Papa?" Archie reached up and wiped his father's face with his little hands.

"Yes, Archie." Richard said, "I miss my father."

"He not gon' a hop no mowe." Archie frowned.

"No, lad." Richard smiled at the little one's understanding of death, "He will not hop anymore."

" 'ou gon' a die?" Archie looked up at his father with tears in his beautiful eyes.

"Oh, Archie," Richard kissed his little son's forehead, "you do not have to worry about that for a long time. My father has been ill and was very old. I will not die for years, lad."

"I not wan' 'ou a die." Archie wrapped his little arms around Richard's neck, "I lobe 'ou, Papa."

"I love you, my sweet little laddie." Richard embraced the toddler, "And I am not going to leave you."

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September 25, 1780

The children were crying as they took one last look at their grandfather. Elizabeth carried little Archie to the coffin, "This was your grandfather, Archibald Seamus Kennedy."

Archie quickly looked at his mother, "Arshie what?"

"You were named Archie after your grandfather, Archibald," Elizabeth told him, "and Nicholas after your grandfather, Nicholas."

"I habe two gwan'fadwews?" Archie was surprised.

"Yes, precious." Elizabeth smiled, "Grandfather Archibald was your Papa's Papa, and Grandfather Nicholas is my Papa."

" 'ou habe a Mama too?" Archie asked.

"Yes, I do." Elizabeth told him, "And someday I will take you to meet them."

"D'ey die 'ike gwan'fadwew, Mama?" Archie asked.

"Someday, my angel. But I do not want you to worry about death, Archie. Because your grandfather is now in Heaven with God."

"He is?" Archie blinked in surprise.

"Yes, precious," Elizabeth kissed his cheek, "he is. And we will see him when we go to Heaven."

The men stepped forward and closed the casket.

While Dorothy led the children, Elizabeth carried little Archie to the grave for the funeral. The priest stepped forward followed by a piper.

Archie became fascinated with the loud instrument, "Mama, what dat!"

"Shhh, Archie." Elizabeth whispered, "Those are bagpipes."

"Why he weawing a dwess?" Archie asked.

Elizabeth had to bite her lip to keep from laughing out loud, but could not stop her body from heaving with her stifled giggles.

Little Archie cocked his head, frowning at her, "Why 'ou 'aughing, Mama?"

Elizabeth took a deep breath and forced herself to stiffle her mirth, "He is not wearing a dress, precious. That is called a kilt."

The toddler looked back at the piper, then frowned even more and insisted, "Mama, dat 'ook 'ike a dwess."

Trying to stifle her giggles, Elizabeth kissed her son's temple, "I know it does. But it is called a kilt. Now hush, Archie."

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After the service, everyone returned to Kennedy Manor.

Little Archie wondered around with his nurse until he found his Papa sitting alone in a quiet room. Knowing that Archie's presence could help Mr. Kennedy, Dorothy let go of Archie's hand, knelt down, and whispered, "Go t' him, laddie."

Archie nodded, walked into the room and cocked his head, "Papa?"

"Come here, son." Richard reached out an arm and Archie hurried to him. He embraced the little one, "I love you so much, Archie."

"I lobe 'ou, Papa." Archie kissed his father's cheek, "P'ease not be sad." He cocked his head, looking at his father so concerned, that it almost overwhelmed Richard to see the depth of emotion in so a small child.

"You are such a sweet little boy!" Richard said softly, "I do not deserve such a child."

"I 'ou 'ittle 'addie?" Archie asked.

"Archie," Richard held him tightly, "even when you grow into a man, you will always be my little laddie."

Archie looked up at his father, "Papa, why dat man wif a noisy pipe weawing a dwess?

Richard started laughing. "Archie, my lad, it is not a dress! It does look like one, but it is called a kilt. It is worn by Scotsmen."

When Archie frowned, Richard explained to him about the Highlands, kilts, bag pipes and Scottish traditions. Little Archie fell asleep listening to his father. Richard carried his little son up the stairs to their room and put him down on their bed. Then just sat there, looking at him. He was such a lovely little babe! Richard lay down next to the toddler, pulled the child into his arms and kissed little Archie's forehead, "Pleasant dreams, my precious little laddie."

 

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