I am sick of death, fed up with up with things dying.
It feels like the rain that just won’t stop falling in TinyTrainTown right now; as though it leaves a sad, restrictively dull lens-flare over the whole world.
Enough is enough. It’s time for it to stop.
My brother opens the door and it’s my neighbour. He asks me for me, and in a melt of time Kristabelle has distracted my kids, taken them into the back lounge-room so they don’t have to hear this, whatever it is, in real-time. My neighbour is saying something about about a black, fluffy cat; and I’m out in the darkness, my brother following. There are two people standing by the road, the headlights of their cars and the glow of the street lamp illuminating my fluffy black cat, stretched out the gravel. My neighbours jacket is covering him.
“Oh mate”, I say, leaning down beside my DimSum, who’s been my friend for almost thirteen years now. I stroke his silky black face and he’s still warm. I gently push his eyes closed. Ask my brother to get towels from inside the house. Ask him if he’ll bury my cat.
The woman who stopped, who knocked on my neighbours door, wasn’t the person who hit DimSum on that long, lonely black stretch of road I’ve now lost three cats and a dog to. It was the person in front of her who hit him, and they just kept going. The woman behind him considered how very difficult it would be for us, coming out in the morning to the cat splattered all over the road.
I didn’t thank her enough for that, I don’t think. It was only the next morning that it hit me how absolutely horrible that would have been.
My brother returns and wraps my big lump of a cat up in a few old bathroom towels. He takes him to the backyard, to dig him a hole. That’s when I make a snap decision that I’m still not entirely sure about.
This time, perhaps, it was only fair to let my kids say goodbye to their pet.
I find them inside, playing with Kristabelle, blissfully oblivious to any of the drama that’s unfolded.
“Guys”, I say, “I’m afraid I have some very bad, very sad news…” They both freeze, their game forgotten, and stare at me. Two identical sets of blue eyes, filled with the kind of trepidation that only children who have heard that phrase many times before could project.
“It’s Mr DimSum…” I don’t hesitate, not much– this is like ripping off a band-aid, best to do it quickly and stoically. “He got hit by a car. I’m so sorry, babies… He died.”
The Bump drops her cherubic bottom lip and it quivers. “But… Mr DimSum is my friend!”
And all I can do is hug her. It feels as though I say that so often, in regards to my kids… I guess I do.
But the Chop, his reaction is different and again it sends icy, warning fingers into my belly. “Oh.” He says, and turns away from me. “It’s okay. I’m not sad.”
“It’s alright to be sad…” I tell him. “I’m sad.”
The Chop nods, and again, he looks away.
I take a deep breath. “Would you like to see DimSum? Uncle Grog has him out the back. He looks okay… Just like he’s sleeping. You don’t have to see him. But if you would like to say goodbye, you can.”
This has never been an option before– my kids have been too young or too asleep, or the pets simply in too much of a mess, for any physical goodbyes to be experienced. I’m not sure if this is right. But it feels like the thing that should be done, and that’s all I’ve got to go on right now.
Neither of them hesitate in saying yes. I ask if they’re sure, and again, they don’t hesitate. I remind them gently on our way outside that the cat is dead, he won’t be moving and he can’t wake up.
DimSum is laid out on the concrete, a light blue towel covering most of him. There doesn’t seem to be much damage to him, physically, but I spot a few bright red spots of blood on the corner of the towel and pray my kids don’t notice. I think all kids freak out at the sight of blood. Mine do. My son especially.
Neither of them appear to see it. “Poor Mr DimSum”, says the Chop, and we murmur in agreeance. I give my mate one last caress on his face– he is colder now, and doesn’t feel quite like himself– and ask the kids if they’d like to do the same. The Chop says no, and that’s fine. The Bump wants to, and I sit with her while she does.
“Bye, Mr DimSum” says my Bumpy girl as we return back inside.
The house feels weighted down with what we’ve lost.
My daughter is devastated by the loss of her ‘special friend’. Almost a week later and she’s still telling me, six times a day, that she misses DimSum and wishes he hadn’t died. She sleeps with a picture of the two of them next to her bed, and carries it around with her during the day.
My son, though, says nothing. It’s a wall of silence that’s deceptively easy to miss completely. Any silent grief he carries is veined with the shiny golden sunshine of his personality.
Losing a pet is a funny thing. It’s so distressing, yet its compounded effects are few. The implications of the deaths of even much-adored pets rarely spread further than the house in which they resided.
This is the experience my children have had, at five and almost four years old, with death.
It’s too much, and it’s not fair.
I just want it to stop.