Monday, July 18, 2016

On a Mission

I have loved five cats throughout the last 30 years. Two-year-old Tux still lives with us, but the others - Pearl, Jingle Bells, Duke, and Clementine - are chasing mice and eating tuna in Cat Heaven. Interestingly, though all four cats belonged to me (along with my sister or Tom), all four passed away at my parents' house and after I had either moved away for college or moved away for good.

Jingle Bells, who had become ill but with feline leukemia, was put to sleep in my mom's arms. My mom wrapped her in a pink blanket and buried her in a shoebox coffin. Pearl, who had also become ill but with hyperthyroidism, died in his sleep in my parents' basement. My mom built a coffin for him out of pizza boxes - he LOVED to lick the bottom of pizza boxes - and buried him next to Jingles. Duke was hit by a car a block from my parents' home. My mom identified and collected his remains at the Streets Department office, then brought him home buried him next to Pearl and Jingles. And lastly, Clementine, who was until recently suffering from an incurable fungus, was put to sleep in my mom's arms and is now buried next to those who journeyed to Cat Heaven ahead of her.
Clemmy's final resting place and her soon-to-bloom flowers.
The story here is not in the cats' deaths, but in the efforts my parents - and my mom in particular - made to protect me from the pain of losing these beloved animals. It couldn't have been easy for her to hold Jingles and Clementine as they took their last breaths. To identify Duke's remains after his run-in with a car. To tell me these deaths were imminent or had already happened. But she did it - all of it - so that I would hurt less.

Pain is a necessary part of life; after all, without pain we could not know or understand joy. But as mothers - and fathers - we naturally want to shield our children from as much hurt as possible. My mom did that for me, and I will do the same for Will and Hallie in the months and years ahead.

"Every mom has a mission: to love, guide, and protect her family. Don't mess with her while she's on it."
                                                                                         ~ Vicki Reece

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