Friday, July 17, 2009

My 10 year old son lost his beloved rat today. Her name was Cheese-ball. She was an old lady rat, closing in on being 100 years old in ratty years. She was frail, and weak. Too tired to climb anymore with success, too weak to chew seeds out of their shells. My son nurtured her each day, careful to not bump her sore arthritic feet, giving her raspberries, yogurt, and little soft tidbits from each of his meals. He held her close to him, not minding that her fur was thinning, and that she was no longer firm and round, but had been reduced to a bony little pile of love that eagerly awaited his gentle hands caress each day. Her eyes were bright, and still shiny, and our vet proclaimed that her heart was in great shape, though it was clear that she would not live much longer simply due to her advanced age.

My son came to me this morning, and bravely announced that Cheese-ball had died in the night. He had known this day would come. She had lived longer than most rats ever do. He expressed that he was grateful that she wasn't suffering anymore with her ancient body. Then, he burst into tears.

I held my little boy, and stroked his dark silky hair. His body quivered with the racking sobs that were the result of losing his best friend, his constant companion for the past 3 and a half years. I thought about how lonely his little boy body would feel without the warmth of his lady-rat cuddled up under his shirt, and about how strange it was to hold him so tightly...knowing she wasn't there. Most of the time, it was wise to hold my boy a little gingerly when bringing him close for a hug, least his ratty be in his shirt...but...not now.

I also thought about loss...loss of pets, so dear and funny...loss of people we love. The grief we feel, those of us left behind, it is all so painful because we know we can never hold our loved ones again. We know that we will never laugh with them, or play with them, or care for them again. I thought about the people who might grimace and say to themselves..."It was just a rat after all..." Just a rat. Just a dog. Just an elderly man or woman. Just an addict. Just a (fill in ethnic choice of the day). Just a fetus. Just a baby. Is there REALLY any valid reason to diminish a loss of life? We do it all the time..."It's only a cow." as we chew up a burger; As if there is some sort of validity to shrugging our shoulders and labeling life as more or less valuable.

I prefer the ancient model of valuing life, of understanding it's importance and thank an animal for it's life if it is to be honor a families grief when a family member, no matter how young or old, dies. To allow the space and embrace for that process. To honor a wonderful animal that lived as a pet and died as a friend. To some people, the fact that my twins were unborn...that they were tiny and not ready to be born...makes it somehow acceptable, less important. To others, a full term baby lost would be justified as "Gods will" or something else that makes it seem acceptable to them. When we lose a beloved elderly grandmother, we understand it as "their time". When we lose a pet...we know others are thinking..."It's just an animal."

My sons rat wasn't "just" a rat. He loved her. She filled his heart with love every day of her life.
My babies weren't "just" 5 month old aborted products of conception (as the doctors bill so lovingly put it). They were LOVED...and we felt their love in return. Tangibly. In Miracles. Love is priceless. There is no limit to it's depth. When you have love it no longer matters how big the object of your affection is. Love can be huge within a small being. Our hearts do not respond to logic. Our hearts bleed with loss. Understanding from others is what helps heal that wound. Being allowed to feel the depth of your pain without being told there is a logical reason to feel better is to allow someone to FEEL the loss that IS justified. My son knows his rat was old...but it doesn't stop him from feeling the deep loss of his dear friend. She wasn't "just" a rat. My babies weren't "just" premature fetus's.

We will bury Cheese-ball in "rat forest"...the place where other rats that she lived with have been buried in years past. My son, lover of all things soft, furry and small, lost his last rat today. The cage in his room will remain empty until he decides he is ready to love another rat with shiny black eyes and an amazing capacity for love in it's tiny body. An empty cage... Just like the little empty bed in my room that will remain until I am ready to let it go, or fill it.

My son looked up at me, his cheeks red and damp from crying. "I really AM glad she isn't suffering anymore mom...I'm just so sad that she's gone."

"Her body is gone baby...her body is gone, but she was deeply loved by you..and that love will never die." As I said this to my little boy, I realized I was saying it to myself as well. My love for my babies is real...strong...and will never die. I can love them whenever I want, for as long as I live.

I can feel them in my heart.
They are my forever babies.

I cannot hold them with my arms, but I can reach out with my spirit and love them forever. It doesn't mean I won't miss them doesn't mean I won't be sad...and it doesn't mean that I am happy, or even content with the reality that they are gone. It means that love is a powerful enough entity to cut through the barriers of death expressing itself through space, time, and circumstance.

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