After Kor Am Tae Kwon Do class, Antonio, Jody, and Crystel bustle inside. Soon I hear, plop, plop, boom as workout bag after workout bag bounces off the basement steps and lands on the bottom. Antonio walks over to where I’m sitting, my hand lying on Spirit.
“Did you brush Spirit?” Antonio asks.
“Yeah, I forgot she was dead.”
He laughs. It helps to have a sense of humor when your pet has just died.
This is the first time Antonio and Crystel been old enough to understand the death of a pet.
JoJo died on Crystel’s 4th birthday, but this was after Jody and I visited the vet for the sick cat. While burying JoJo in the backyard, I told the children that animals and people don’t die completely, but their spirit lives on, so you could pet their energy. I thought all was going well for the 4-year olds, and I was especially touched when they asked permission to pet JoJo. I said, yes, and had an image of them floating their small hands in the air, caressing him above his grave. Fortunately, I looked out the window before they had shoveled JoJo back up. My spiritual talk flew right up to heaven past their little heads.
Now that they are 11, they could participate in Spirit’s death. Two hours earlier, all of us including our two dogs and other cat, were surrounding Spirit as Dr. Rebecca from MN Pets talked about the process. Earlier in the day I had asked for referrals. MN Pets as well as Animal House Call Service were recommended.I didn’t want Spirit to go one more day in pain.
My morning routine with Spirit was for her to sit on my lap. She’d crane her neck to give me a head butt. I’d brush under her chin where she liked it the most while listening to her purr. Jody had an evening routine that involved Spirit curling between her legs as she brushed her teeth. Between morning and night, Antonio and Crystel visited Spirit in one of her many hiding places.
Dr. Rebecca made us feel good about our decision to let Spirit go. She pointed out the signs as Crystel lay nose to nose with Spirit. She told us about the sleepy drug that she would give Spirit and then the final injection that would stop her heart.
I noticed that I was trying not to cry, but then I realized that wouldn’t help the children at all if I didn’t show that it was okay to cry. So I got a box of Kleenex and let my feelings eek out.
Crystel lifted her head. “Can I have one of Spirit’s whiskers?”
“Let’s talk about that later, Crystel.” I said. I didn’t really have a problem with this but the cat wasn’t even dead yet. Seemed like we were getting a little ahead of ourselves.
“Yes, let’s wait on that one, Crystel,” Jody said.
Spirit’s heart had stopped beating before Jody, Antonio, and Crystel left for Tae Kwon Do but I assured them that she wouldn’t be buried until they got back.
While they are gone, I continue to pet and brush Spirit until the warmth leaves her body.
When they return, I ask, “Antonio and Crystel, are you going to carry Spirit outside?”
They negotiate how they are going to manipulate the cat bed out the patio door without dropping Spirit.
Spirit still looks like herself. She isn’t cold. She isn’t stiff. She doesn’t look like a ghost or a cat skeleton.
After placing Spirit in the hole, I ask, “Who wants to be first to shovel dirt on her?”
“I do,” Crystel says.
Tears and soil fall on Spirit.
Because we didn’t rush Spirit into the ground, death was not scary for the children—especially, since they came home to find Mama Beth brushing a dead cat. It wasn’t even necessary to give them a talk about how our spirits still lives after we die. They were living it.