As parents we do what we can to protect our kids, steering them clear of sadness, hiding them from cruelty. It’s true they are vulnerable, more so than us, and we want to preserve their innocence, hold off on tainting them with skepticism, doubt, and fear that we as adult seem to know all too well.
But some things you cannot hide from your kids, like the death of a pet. One of our family cats became very ill within the last few days. We had lost two other cats recently to the same illness but that doesn’t make this loss any easier. It was obvious to even the kids that Tick (our cat) was not well and really struggled with her disease near the end. We all tried our best to make her comfortable and pay her extra attention but her condition quickly worsened.
We were hoping Tick would make it past Monday since it was my oldest daughter’s ninth birthday and having one of your favourite animals, a member of the family, die on your birthday isn’t something you would wish on even an enemy. But all hope and prayer aside, it would have been very unfair to Tick to prolong her discomfort and sadness. We hated seeing her in a constant state of depression, unable to walk or even stand on her own, so my husband and I decided to ease her suffering at the vet’s office.
I don’t believe in lying to kids. Some truths are painful and have to be faced but the degree of truth can be adjusted. We told the kids that Tick has passed away in her sleep during the afternoon, when they were at school, so they wouldn’t feel as though they missed saying goodbye to her. I did make sure they all visited her in the morning before heading out but I didn’t see the need to send them to school heartbroken and distraught. Some might disagree with what I did but I can live with my decision.
Of course my kids were devastated, especially my oldest. I think she was also angry that Tick has died on her birthday. Of course she wished Tick had held out a little longer but my daughter also knew that Tick was in pain and really, any day is not a good day for a friend to die.
I don’t know what tore my insides up more, the fact that Tick was gone or that my daughter was so upset over her passing. And although it should have been me, the mother, who offered the reassuring voice, the person to bring comfort to a difficult situation, it was my daughter. It was her and her Heaven Cats.
Heaven Cats is an imaginary world involving, you guessed it, cat spirits. It use to just be made up cats, living wonderful lives free of want and suffering, but with the passing of three of our five cats, Heaven Cats took on a whole new meaning. The cats were no longer imaginary but rather the spirits of our cats. They lived their days enjoying anything and everything they wanted. Sometimes they would visit us, walk with the kids to school, hang out and listen to a story, sleep on a pile of pillows in my daughter’s room.
My daughter was indeed update by Tick’s passing, but somehow knowing that Tick wasn’t gone, that her spirit lingered or could be called on when comfort was needed, was reassuring to my kids (and to me). I don’t think this avoids the fact that our cat had died – my kids knew Tick was gone – but it made thinking about her passing easier. This was especially important since Tick seemed to be in so much pain near the end, not able to do the things she use to do. Now as a Heaven Cat she was hanging out in a jacuzzi tub, eating ice cream, chasing butterflies and visiting the kids for a walk home from school.
I guess sometimes kids are more resilient than we give them credit for.
We’ll always be sad and miss Tick but it’s nice to know she’s out there, hanging around, keeping an eye on us (between milk baths and back rubs of course).