Death is something that happens all of the time. There is no hiding from it, no running and no bargaining. First you live and then you die. The end of anything can be seen as the death of everything. My children have seen death a lot more frequently than I would have liked. Depending on how you view things you may or may not agree on the importance of the death they have seen.
I love animals. All kinds, doesn’t matter if it is a mammal, amphibian or a reptile. Heck it could even be a bird. Growing up I was only allowed one cat for the longest time. Then we had some dogs and some other cats along the way. I felt deprived. Honestly I did. Guess who made up for that when she had children? Any guesses? Yep I sure did!! And I have absolutely NO regrets.
When me kids were younger we went to get a kitten. Just one for the three of them to share. Of course we came home with three. Those kittens soon grew into cats and on one of the visits to the vet one escaped and was never seen again. Then we had to move and find new homes for the other two cats. In about a year we tried for a different kind of pet. This time we did hamsters. Three fun little hamsters, little bundles of furry fun. I was not a fan of these guys. First of all they bite, second they are not very smart and third these guys did not use their hamster ball. I believe this was our first round with death and my children. One day someone was cleaning the cage and didn’t latch the cover correctly and one of the little escape artists got loose. We assume this one died. He was never found again. We know where he was a few times as we seen evidence of the chewed cords and small piles of chewed paper. Lucky for me hamsters do not live for ever. I am not even sure that my children noticed the other two were gone.
Flash forward a few more years and another set of cats. This time I can say the cats lived out happy lives and again the kids didn’t notice when they were gone. One disappeared, later found in a wood shed years later and the other was struck down by a school bus. Thankfully the neighbors seen what happened to our second cat and took care of him and let us know later. During this time there were some ferrets that the kids got to visit at their grandparents house. Sadly this was the first animal death that they probably remember. The brown ferret was not nice so they didn’t have a lot of interaction with it. Therefore they didn’t notice when it wasn’t there like they did the white ferret. The white ferret had an allergic reaction one day and come home from the vet in a box. There were tears and a funeral was planned.
Then came the third set of cats. Two orphaned babies whose mom died right after birth, my children did not know the mom cat. These little angels had to be bottle fed and cared for in every way. The kids were older and up to the challenge. These babies grew and then found a sister in my youngest daughter’s cat that she saved from her cousin. About three weeks later my oldest daughter was hanging out with her cat and her uncle went outside and her kitten tried to follow and the front door slammed into her. This was heartbreaking for my daughter and myself. There was nothing that could be done for the kitten and another funeral was planned.
My youngest daughter also faced a small animal tragedy when her rat passed away the day after Christmas. She loved this rat more than you can even imagine. Even more than she loves her cat that currently lives in the bathroom. She was between 6 and 7 and cried for days. She is 18 now and will still cry over her long lost rat, Ord.
All of these animal losses created conversations about heaven and hell and possible afterlives. They each have their own opinions now that they are older. Their own views on what they think happens after death. My views are different from theirs as well. At times those views and opinions clash into very loud family discussions. An outsider may think we need an intervention yet the reality is we just need space to communicate and share.
Four years and four months ago my children and I faced our biggest loss with death. My very young mother passed away after a month long stay in the hospital after a battle with many illnesses that had been plaguing her for over a year. Every treatment created a new set of problems health wise for her. We had to make a very hard family decision one I still wonder about sometimes in my darker hours of sadness. This death is the one that has had the most effect on their young lives and mine. Redefined who we are and who we want to be. Has turned their young minds and hearts toward their current beliefs. Gives them pause to make impactful decisions about their own lives.
My children now mark time by before and after the death of Nana. Even now, over four years later, the stars are not as bright, the water not as clear and the grass not as green. We keep on keeping on though. With each passing day we take the time to appreciate each other and work on making an impact in the world around us. Death is an end, but only for the person or thing that has died. Whether it is a person or animal that death has taken from us time keeps marching on and we need to find our rhythm again.