March 04, 2012

The Black Rabbit of Death

It was Movie Night in the Kern/Petrey household, so Mel's parents brought home some frozen pizzas and we tries to pick out a good movie for Mel, Matthew and I to watch. We have hundreds of movies on Netflix to stream, hundreds on DVD, but very few in that magical middle section of the Venn Diagram of movies that all of us would like to watch.

Then Matthew picked up "Watership Down" and my eyes went wide. "NO." was my instant reaction. While the nice-looking cartoon rabbits on the cover and the pastoral setting may look innocent enough, we all know this is NOT a movie for kids. There's death, blood, subtle socio-political commentary and the uncomfortable explanation why an all-male rabbit warren would be unsustainable in the long term. Some scenes were very upsetting to me, even in college. Melissa, however, insisted. She loves this movie (thus her moniker "Fiver" and email address), and I finally gave in.

Oddly enough, the blood didn't bother Matthew as much as it did me. I had to explain a few things, like what a wire snare was, and why pulling against it was making one rabbit bleed, but he took it all in stride. Then, five minutes to the end of the film, he gets seriously wigged out by "The Black Rabbit of Death"-- essentially the Grim Reaper for rabbits. But it isn't shown in some grisly, scary scene, it's in a pastoral setting, when a character is old and tired, and this shadow of a rabbit asks him to come with him (SPOILER WARNING):

first, Hazel doesn't recognize him, so he shows himself as a sort of "Tribal Art" depiction that Hazel would know from folklore. And at THAT Matthew flips out and asks why he is turning evil. This... took some explaining:

"He isn't evil. He is just... death. Death isn't evil in itself, that's just what he DOES. He is a guide that takes people's souls to heaven. Sure, no one wants to MEET death when they aren't ready. But after Hazel has had a long life, when his body is failing him, he's tired, and so when death appears to him as this shadow rabbit, he goes with him willingly, to free his spirit from his body and continue on to the next stage of life."

Matthew still had more questions, and insisted that he would still have nightmares of the two seconds of black-faced bunny (instead of the bloody fights and death scenes), and as you can imagine, Melissa wants him to get the right meaning from this film.

We didn't anticipate this movie night being the time that brought up this line of religious/metaphysical discussion, but it just may have helped Matthew understand some truths we have been trying to figure out how to explain, about his mother and what will eventually happen.

I still can't think too far down that line without getting angry and sad and choked up, but I know it is coming. Not anytime soon, mind you, she's fairly healthy still, but it is something that we will have to deal with in the next few years. Even after so long of knowing, I still don't know how I'll ever be ready to lose Melissa. How could I ever?