Lessons from kids and cats

Thank you all for your love, support and kind words about our sweet Smokey. We are all doing okay, but I am sort of hazing through today. Hmmm…I may have just made up a new use for the word “hazing.” You know how you are kind of going through the motions, but feeling a lot like you are in a haze? That is me today – hazing through.

I wish I could channel the amazing resiliency, innocence and naivety of my kids. Last week Addie’s teacher’s mom passed away. We (the parents) were organizing a gift for Miss C., but I hadn’t said anything to Addie, I just wasn’t sure if they were going to say something to the kids in the class or not, so I kind of (mercifully) avoided the subject. But Addie came home from school and just sort of matter-of-factly blurted out –

A: Miss C’s mommy died.
M: Uh…um. I heard that. Yes. Did Miss M. tell you that in school today?
A: Yep. Miss C. is probably going to be a little sad for awhiles, but that’s okay – her mommy is in heaven.

And she just walked away and continued on with her play.

Now, I know that she just doesn’t understand the permanence of someone passing, the not being able to ever see or talk to them again. But to just be so certain, and have that faith that yes it happened, it happened for a reason, and that the person is someplace better. I wish that I could have that.

We have spent a lot of time the past two days talking about all the funny stuff we remember about Smokey. The girls like talking about the other animals that we think are up in animal heaven with Smokey; their fish, Tuck – Em’s turtle, Nana & Papa’s puppy.  I told them of my cat and dog I had when I was growing up. We had a big old tomcat who was all white and named Casper (after the friendly ghost, naturally!). I think he had many more than nine lives, and used every last one of them up.

After, when I thought we were on a completely different subject, Addie just piped up with “Mama? Do you think Smokey is playing with your ghost cat in heaven?” After we laughed, we all agreed that Smokey and Casper probably were having quite a frolicking time up in a big meadow filled with all-you-can-eat tuna and whipped cream. But Tuck and the various fish probably have their own safe pond to swim around in.

The talking about it all seems to be what the girls need right now. Several times today Addie would just sigh and say “I miss Smokey.” But no tears, again just sending a little offering up. And Emma was determined to “share” Smokey with her class for share day today. So I found a bunch of photos and she went in and talked about what had happened. That, too! I can barely write about it, let alone get up in front of a bunch of my friends and talk about it. Kids are just amazing creatures and I think I have gained much more strength from them, than I have offered to them.

As for me, I just feel sad. And I keep telling myself that she was just a cat, but I know she wasn’t just a cat. She really was a part of our life. And of course, that leads to a panic with the thought of losing someone really close to me. I’ve lost older aunts and uncles and grandparents, of course. But they all seemed a little bit “circle of life-ish.” I grieved, but was able to get through it and now just remember them fondly. But…ugh, I can’t even type it. You all know those fears, and it is just too dangerous to even say aloud.

And besides the sadness, I have been feeling so very guilty. How many times did I say to J. – “Smokey is just so skinny.” Why didn’t I take her in sooner than her yearly checkup? Would it have mattered? And how many times did I curse the cats while I was cleaning up one of their “misses” near the litterbox? Or push her away as she is lying on my arm as I’m trying to work?

Another life lesson learned. Well, I guess it wasn’t really learned – I certainly know that life is not certain, and you can’t take anything or anyone for granted. We just don’t know how much time we have here. We need to make every moment count, because I want to make sure when I am looking back and remembering – I am looking back and remembering way more good stuff than bad. No regrets or “what ifs.”

It is sad that it took this to remind me and make me truly start living like I know it.


10 Responses to “Lessons from kids and cats”

  1. 1 Bill March 5, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    I am so sad about Smoky, and totally understand how you and Jamie feel. The last couple of times Debby and I were out to L.A. for a visit Smokey always jumped up in my lap for some attention, which I was more than happy to give.

    Our Shadow is getting on in years, soon to be 15 I think. While Shadow has a reputation of being a less than friendly cat she is my dear friend and I will be devastated when she passes and goes to kitty heaven some day.

  2. 2 Jen March 5, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    What a great post Carrie.

  3. 3 carey March 5, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    beautifully written post.


  4. 4 Aunt Laura March 6, 2009 at 6:22 am

    I can really sympathize with all of your feelings. Some people say, it was just an animal. They are wrong. They are part of our families. When we lost Dusty and Beaurigard our dogs, we were devastated. They really were like our kids. We have lost many more pets over the years, but those two stand out to me. They were special as all of them are.

  5. 5 Stacy March 6, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Oh, Carrie, so sorry about Smoky. 😦

    That’s the problem with pets…they can’t tell you when they are hurting. 😦 Our cat, Sable, was sick, too, and I didn’t catch it early enough. She started getting skinny, but then her tummy was bloated. I just wasn’t paying enough attention. Now I guess I learned from that and will take my pets in if they are showing signs of internal troubles.

    I agree kids are so, I don’t know…blase, unaffected…by death. Brian’s dad died before we were married, so the kids never met him. It is hard to explain why I have a daddy and he doesn’t, and they are so matter of fact about it. It bothers me a bit that it doesn’t affect them more, but I guess I should be thankful we don’t have tearful discussions about death.

  6. 6 Dawn March 6, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Smokey’s gift to you~

    Be well, friend…I know it’s hard.

    Hugs from us~

  7. 7 killlashandra March 6, 2009 at 10:50 am

    It is amazing how kids have such a different perspective on death. It’s also amazing to watch how that changes as they grow older too. I still think you’re doing all the right things focusing on the good parts of life and enjoying life. Don’t blame yourself, that just leads down a dark road.

  8. 8 Christina March 6, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I ache for you, Carrie…but I appreciate the beauty of this post. Kids are so full of incredible strength and faith. Our kitty is showing his age more and more, and I hope he still has a long time left. Even just thinking of it devestates me…and reminds me to not get so frustrated when he noses at my book as I’m reading and paper as I’m writing!

  9. 9 golightly March 7, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    See my last comment, I understand how you feel. Guilty, sorrow and all. by the time my little dog passed away, I was out on my own living in California. I received her for Christmas in the 4th grade while we still lived in Denver. She made the move with us to South Dakota; and when I moved out of the dorms my 3rd year of college she joined me. she made the move with me to L.A. Her health started deteriorating and she was old. I finally had to make the hard choice to let her go.

    I cried all that night – in a bathroom with a close friend near by at a small party. Wasn’t I fun? I still dream of her. She was my family when I was so far from home. as for losing people near me…let’s just say I’m an orphan with no grandparents. I’m sure you can figure where my brain goes some days.

    Hope you’re doing better.

  10. 10 armywifeforlife March 8, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I’m so sorry about Smokey. I know everyone says they are “just pets” but they certainly become your family & having had the cats before you had the girls they were your little pre-baby-babies and that does kind of bond you to them even more. I don’t know what we’ll do when something happens to little Buddy. They aren’t really just animals, they’re cute, loyal and adoring little creatures we adopt and become part of the family. Glad to hear the girls are doing very well grasping the life moment though. It must be hard to teach children about all the awful things in ilfe.

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