Tonight there are torrents of tears at our house. Zachary had asked for a pet for nearly three years, and finally three weeks ago we were able to bring home two cute little kittens. They were so tiny–only five weeks old. They had been rescued by someone else who posted a “Free Kittens” bulletin on an electric pole close to the pool where we swim.
And so Panther and Snowball joined or family. Because they were so tiny we fed them with medicine droppers. By the end of the first week Panther was drinking milk from a dish and Snowball graduated last weekend. They could not have been more loved [by the boys].
For the first 1.5 days I thought they were the cutest things ever. Kittens are adorable, but I find ever present fur tickling my feet both startling and annoying. I will happily put up with the nuisance though for how much the boys love them.
Zachary is a natural nurturer. He took such great care of them I wasn’t even helping with feedings after the first few days. Caring for his pets has been perfect for his extra time this summer since he’s not doing school.
Living close to the street, I knew it was only a matter of time until we would lose one or both of them. However, I never dreamed that I would kill one of them within weeks. Yes, I feel like a murderess tonight.
We got back home from swimming for two hours and were tired and maybe just a little grumbly as we loaded our arms with things to carry inside. I had just finished loading my arms, grabbed the keys, closed the door, and turned to pick up Paxton.
As the door slammed shut I heard a thump and gasped because I thought I had slammed it against Paxton’s head or hand. But when I opened it, Panther tumbled to the ground and he scampered under the van. I felt terrible! I thought I had probably broken his leg!
Zachary had come back outside and I asked him to check if Panther was okay. (Why? Why? Why? did I ask him to do it?) I was halfway up the walk when I heard Zachary’s wail. I turned to see him holding the kitten in his arms and crying from the depths of his soul.
My stomach churned. “No, no, please don’t tell me I killed it.” As much as I wanted to comfort Zachary I couldn’t even bear to go over and see the kitten with its crushed body. I ran inside to get Steve.
By the time I had unloaded my armload of things they were sitting on the front porch. Zachary was holding his kitten and sobbing his heart out. I was inside the house shaking with sobs, too. Steve stayed with Zachary a long while praying with him, telling him about losing his kitten when he was a boy, and trying to comfort him.
I have cried with Zachary when his bike was stolen–twice. I’ve cried with him when he was really sick and in pain. But seeing him face the death of something he loved so much broke my heart like never before.
And I wondered how do we teach our children to grieve? How do we show them that God is good when horrible things happen to us?
After awhile they lay Panther, who was still breathing a little–but in a very sad state–on a soft towel on the porch and came inside. I held Zachary this time and we cried together and prayed together.
I was sick for the poor kitten. I felt even more sick for my little, big boy who lives life with his whole heart and feels it just that deeply. Death is part of life and facing it can be a good growing experience, but as a mom you just never, ever want to see your children hurting in that way.
Ian was sad because he saw Zachary was sad and came in for a cuddle. Paxton was watching all the crying and wanted to be like everyone else. He came and lay his head on my shoulder and fake whimpered–one cute part of the evening. :)
Zachary gained his composure and started to go upstairs to change out of his swimming trunks. But after only a few steps he was just overtaken with sobs. I kept wishing he would want to talk through it, but even before mentioning it I realized that was kind of a girl thing that I needed not him. :) Sometimes boys just need hugs….and that’s what we did. I hugged him and held him and we prayed some more.
Zachary was praying that Panther would be healed. At first I was skeptical, but soon joined him in faith. But when we went downstairs Steve whispered that the kitten was dead. A little later he broke the news to Zachary.
Ian was sad that Panther was hurting and was offering to share Snowball with Zachary, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t grasping death. He’d say he was sad that Panther was hurt and it was boring that Panther was hurt and he’s tired of Panther being hurt. When I explained that dead meant the kitty could never walk, never purr, never eat….that it was “all gone,” then his whimpering turned to sobs, too.
And that was our evening–a story. sobs. trying to eat a little. tears. more stories for distraction. sadness. Not to make things any easier, we soon had a thunderstorm with blitzing lightening and loud cracks of thunder that would scare any child.
Then it was bedtime and Steve lay with Zac and Ian until they fell asleep. He is such a good dad and at times like this I’m kind of overwhelmed by how well he takes care of them.
Even though I still feel sad and don’t really know how well we’ll deal with life tomorrow, I’m not sure I really need to teach them how to grieve. A child doesn’t need to be told that it’s okay to cry when he experiences a loss; he cries with pure sorrow. And for tonight he cried as much as he needed.
Saying that God is sad about the kitty, too, or that God feels sad that they are feeling sad may sound a little hollow or distant tonight. But when they have a daddy who will cry with them, love them, comfort them, lay with them at night so they don’t have to fall asleep alone with tears….well, I’m sure that’s a pretty good way to learn what it’s like to be comforted by God.