When my son was born, our cats were already considered senior citizens in the lifespan of the domesticated feline. My cats, Lizzie and Rosie, were nine-years-old and Grant’s cats, Scotty and Spanky (yes, my husband named them after The Little Rascals characters, even thought they are both females!) were eleven. My goal was for Tyler to at least be able to remember our beloved kitties, which was how Grant and I met, so you could say that they were responsible for Tyler even being on this earth.
Rosie died when Tyler was only three. It took him months to grasp that Rosie was never coming back and he broke down with grief about four months after she died. I told him that Rosie was up in Heaven and that Grandpa Joe was taking care of her and that in Heaven she wasn’t sick any more, that she was running around playing and Grandpa Joe even had interactive kitty toys that he played with with her. She was our “Play Kitty” once more up in Heaven. (Giggle if you might, but I really believe this because what is Heaven without our beloved pets, and I have seen too much evidence to NOT believe that my father is…somewhere)
In July of last year, Spanky suddenly died, with no warning. She died in the morning, I hid her from Tyler and when he went to daycare, I dealt with Spanky, as my husband was absolutely bereft from her loss. I had to tell Tyler that Spanky was also up in Heaven with Grandpa Joe, Rosie, etc. He did not like Spanky as much as he liked Rosie and the feeling was mutual so he did not grieve as much as he did over Rosie.
A few months later, my now four-year-old and I were reading in bed and he asked if one day Lizzie will die (Lizzie is his favorite and she feels the same way). “Well, yes, but, hopefully not for a long time. But Lizzie IS an old kitty. When you’re sick and old you die, right? Grandpa Joe was sick and very old and so he died.”
“Does that mean that WE will die someday?”
“Well yes, honey, it does.”
And that was my Mom Fail Moment.
“What? What? You and me and daddy are going to die? NO! NO! It’s not true, say it’s not true! Say we will never die!”
He was hysterically crying, inconsolable. I could have kicked myself in the ass with my hypermobile leg. What the Hell was I thinking, believing that Tyler could handle our mortality?!
“Okay, okay, Tyler, it’s not true! You are right, you, daddy and I will NEVER die! Okay? We are never going to die!”
“Really?”, he sniffled. “Yes, really.”
Yes, honey, the rest of the world, your grandparents, your animals, everyone else is going to die but the three of us will be the one trio who defies the odds.
It was not the truth, but he was not ready to hear the truth, just as he is not ready to hear that there is no Santa Claus (WHAT?). I realize now that in time, it will just come to him and right now we have left it that only very sick and very old people and animals die. Being a disabled mom with some very serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses, I am constantly stressing that even though I may be in a lot of pain and sometimes very sick, I am not dying.
And when that time comes, just as we did the deaths of our kitties, we will all experience the grief and shock that any death brings, and we will all deal with it in our own ways.