in the 12 years that we have had children, we have lost several pets. there was pinky the pound pup. she went crazy. no kidding. we had someone break into our home when we were here. she defended her territory and then spent the next 8 months on hyper-alert. she bit the goose. she shook our other dog, charlie, like a rag doll. she would patrol the house all day long. we tried doggie downers, but finally came to the conclusion that the intruder took her sanity when he took my purse. there was the violent death of the goose’s gerbil at the hands of our cat, walter. we lost two pet rats to tumors. yet,the loss of our 13 year old cat, zoe, seems to be the first that really affected them.
zoe passed in the evening. we only had the faintest glimpse that she was unwell. so, when the kids went to bed, they had no idea. as a mother, i preferred it that way. if this was going to be the first time that they truly dealt with death, i wanted them to see the side of death that is quick and painless. i woke them up the next morning and crawled into bed with them both, one at a time, and told them that zoe had passed away. i made it sound, as i hoped it had been. i told them that i had told her that we loved her and she didn’t needed to stay here for us. that if she was ready she could go.
i watched my children breakdown and walk, zombie like, in their preparation for school. the bug’s eyes rimmed with red. he gave me his final hug before going to the bus stop. he looked up at me with his BIG brown eyes, eye lashes that any woman would kill for, and said, “i think we should have a ceremony for her.”
the vet at p.e.t.s. was kind enough to make paw prints in clay. one for each kid. when they got home from school, they painted them. we gathered in a circle and shared our fondest memories of zoe. we got out old photo albums and found pictures of her through her life. in closing i told the kids, that though this loss hurts, i am proud of them. i explained that in order to feel this pain, they had to have risked enough to love another. i asked them that when they felt sad because zoe wasn’t here anymore, they should try to think of a nice memory of her. that in time, they would be able to think of her, not with saddness, but with joy. joy that she was ever in our lives at all.
being a unitarian, faith is something that we discover in our own journey. i understand the comfort that the concept of heaven has for people, even if i’m unsure of it’s existence myself. i told my kids that some people believe in heaven. that if they wanted to, they could imagine, that zoe isn’t really gone. that she will be here to watch over us forever.
for me, the loss of zoe, became a teaching moment for my kids. i was somehow able to suspend the feelings of my own loss, because i needed to be whatever my kids needed me to be. i needed them to see that death is just part of this cycle. that though it hurts to loose, we must carry on. i also know that she lived a nice long life. that we provided well for her. that in her own way, she loved us.
i take this as a gift.