Yesterday my friend and science-y colleague Heather made me cry.
A few days earlier, we had agreed that she would write a guest piece around science communication for this blog. But then something far more important happened.
Here’s what Heather wrote:
This is not the post I was going to write* for ScienceforLife.365.
But last weekend my son’s guinea pig got sick from pneumonia and died in our arms. It seems like such a little thing in the scheme of things, but it was my son’s first real experience with grief and loss.
As a scientist, I understood all too well what was happening.
My own PhD was on pneumonia in pigs.
I knew Frederick, or Freddy for short, just wasn’t right on Friday night and by Saturday morning I could see that he was working to breathe, and breathing and eating simultaneously was difficult for him. I remembered seeing the same thing in my research.
Off to the vets we went (even though we’d got a clean bill of health at a check up 4 days before) and they said he was quite ‘flat’. After he’d had a shot of antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory, we chose to treat him at home rather than hospitalise him over night. I was warned that little guys like Freddy could go quickly.
As a scientist, I was prepared for that.
Sunday morning I was almost surprised and optimistic to see Freddy still with us, but I could see him getting weaker as the day progressed. I was giving him his second lot of medication when it all became too much for him.
As a scientist, I had known that it was inevitable.
Later that night, after the tears and the quiet sitting together, and the backyard funeral, my son asked if it was too late to see Freddy’s body again.
As a scientist, the idea of my son being curious about death, perhaps even being generally curious about decomposition, didn’t bother me.
But I knew it wasn’t about that. This was that incredibly human disbelief that something you love is gone and will never be seen again. The grief that makes you cry out “I wish I could see them just one more time”.
As a scientist, I can’t explain that.
* The one I was going to write was all about why I don’t think I’m doing journalism when I communicate science and why I put myself towards the education end of the education –science communication – journalism line. I had even drawn a diagram.
A ScienceforLife.365 guest post by Dr Heather Bray. You can find Heather on twitter as @heatherbray6