"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Laying things to rest

I read recently that two of the top ten things you should never blog about are your cats and your kids. Yet, it just doesn't seem right to let the misfortunes of Friday go unnoticed. And so, since it's my journal, I'm making mention because it will be one of those talked about things when the kids are grown and we visit together and retell the events of our lives.

Friday morning, unable to be in two places at once, I got kids up early, dressed and mostly ready for school so that I could jet up to the middle school for Celia's honor roll presentation. The plan was to let the kids finish their morning routine and return just in time to drive them to the elementary school. All was on schedule until I re-entered the house calling time to go and found all of the children in tears in our living room. "We found Snicker's", they said.

And sure enough, there was his body perfectly curled up directly beneath the kitchen window next to the railing where his brother has been sitting for the passed four months. We were astounded, if not saddened, that all this time we had not known. All we could surmise is that he must have ingested a neighbor's poisoned rodent or been hurt in a tangle with a predator and limped home injured only to perish in a spot where we would have had to actively look to see him. Yet we had navigated around that same spot multiple times since December and never taken note.

Some of the children insisted it was better not knowing. Celia said she'd rather have continued picturing him leaving us for a girl. Christian said he'd prayed every night for his return and felt as though his prayer had finally been answered, albeit not as he'd expected. For him it was comforting to know that our cat considered our home a place of safety to come back to.

Thank heavens for dad's who are willing to come home from work and bury family pets. Worth their weight in gold, they are. No one really wanted any sort of service for Snick. They agreed, for the most part, that they had accepted his loss over the course of the last four months.

But being the kind of mother I am, I couldn't just let them sigh and walk away. Newel gathered us around for nightly family prayer and I asked to say a few words. The kids listened solemnly as I expressed some feelings I needed to share.

Some say a cat is just a cat, or a chicken is just a chicken, a rabbit is a rabbit and maybe they are right to feel that way. Animals will come and animals will go through our family but I don't ever want my children to take them for granted, to be desensitized to life and it's purpose. I asked each child to relate a fond memory of our brown cat though his body was just a shell and his spirit long gone. Each took their turn and then it was mine again.

I doubt I have or ever will see a stronger love than those two had for one another. When the gray one disappeared for a few days on a neighboring roof, the brown one paced. When one came over the hill, the other ran to greet with enthusiasm. Neither could sleep until the other was in. I expressed my hope for each child to feel that way about their siblings. To know such love. To live such loyalty. It is what it means to be a family. If they could learn just one thing, that being each other's best friend is my greatest hope in building an eternal bond, then Snicker's time with us had been fulfilled.

And so, never taking for granted the littlest of creatures, we learned so much from a cat ... even if he was just a cat.

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