When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A sad goodbye

Yesterday was really difficult day for our family, as we had to say goodbye to our sweet little guinea pig, Butterscotch.  We had noticed the evening before that she hadn't touched her vegetables (usually her favourite treats), was drinking very little, and was hiding in the back corner of her cage (a real departure from her usual social behaviour), so after a night of much worrying, I called the vet first thing in the morning.  As the boys left for school and I left for the vet's office, we were all hopeful we would find some treatable cause for our still-young piggie's symptoms and that she would soon be back to her normally cheerful self.  Sadly, the news I received from the vet was much worse than that, and I had to make the very difficult, but most humane, decision to have Butterscotch euthanized as there was nothing anyone could really do to make her well again.

I cried the whole way home, and off and on for most of the day as I waited with a heavy heart for Noah and Will to come home from school.  I worried about how they would react to such unexpected sorrowful news, knowing how much they loved their little pig. They were both shocked when I gently told them, and it's been clear in the hours since that this loss has been hard for them.  They are both deep thinkers and feelers, and the maturity they've gained since the last time they experienced such a loss has allowed them to have a more profound understanding of death.  It's difficult knowing that all I can really do for them is to support each of them as they express their grief and search for answers in their own ways.

In the past twenty-four hours, I've hugged my boys, been a good listener, gently answered their questions as best I can, and reassured them.  I've shared with them how I held Butterscotch close to me one last time yesterday and rubbed her back the way she liked, and how she purred and knew that she was loved, so they would know that she was happy at the end.  I've told them that it's perfectly okay for them to be sad and angry and to cry, and I've let them see me cry, too.  I find myself still wishing I could somehow make all of this experience hurt less for both of them.

This feeling of heartbreak over losing a dear pet might make some families question whether it's worth ever having pets to love in the first place.  But when I think about it, I believe there are important life lessons to be found for kids (and everyone, really) in these sad moments of being touched by death.  We learn that the deep pain of loss is inextricably tied to the great joy of loving; our hurt is simply a reflection of the beautiful connection we were lucky to have had with another living creature, and so we must accept it with an open heart as well. We realize that we don't always get a chance to say goodbye, and so we should strive to treat all those whom we care about well, so that they will know without a doubt that we love them. We come to see that life doesn't always work out in ways that are fair, but the potential for finding beauty and happiness through our striving makes life a game worth playing with all our might, anyway.  And we discover that sometimes all the prayers in the world don't make things turn out the way we want them to, but somewhere within our hearts we can find the strength and the peace to be okay with whatever comes.

It's so hard to say goodbye to you, sweet Piggie Wiggie.  We will really miss your cheerful chatter and your enthusiastic "wheeking" for your vegetables every night, your funny little run, the way you smiled at us with your cute little mouth and your chocolate brown eyes, the soothing feeling of your soft, rumpled fur under our fingers as we held you on our laps.  We wish we could have had you with us longer, but we are so glad for the happiness your life brought to ours.  We hope that wherever you are now, you're singing and munching carrots to your heart's content.