Thursday, October 18, 2012

Broken but Getting Better


            I finished the chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince we were reading and said goodnight to my eight-year-old son James. We hugged a little longer than usual. Our fifteen year-old cat Sammy died in his sleep the day before. It wasn’t unexpected, but we were all feeling a little extra emotional.
            A few minutes later while I was trolling Facebook and Twitter working in my office I heard him crying quietly. Of all of us, James took Sammy’s death the hardest. At first, I decided to let him try to work it through on his own. But after a few minutes his cries only became louder. I went into his room, crawled into his bed and held him tightly. Sobs shook his little body as he clutched a picture of Sammy to his heart. “I would do anything to have him back! Why did he have to die?” he cried.
            I had no words to mend his broken heart. For years, James brought Sammy with him when it was time for bed. Unusually patient for a cat, Sammy would purr while James brushed his teeth, clutching Sammy his shoulder like a baby. I held James tightly and rubbed his back. I started to cry, not from grief but from feeling helpless to make James feel better. He continued to keen until it was time for his older brother to get ready for bed. I called down the stairs and told Owen brush his teeth.
            He came into the bedroom and looked at James.
            “Did one of his fish die?” Owen asked.
We have a tankful of guppies that multiply and die pretty regularly.
            “No. He’s still sad about Sammy.”
            “Oh,” he said looking thoughtful. “James, would you like me to say a prayer?”
            His question didn’t take me by surprise nearly as much as the slowing of James’ sobs and his nod of ascent.
            Owen knelt upon the bed. In one hand was the Celtic cross I gave him for his first communion. In the other hand, he held a sword-shaped “amulet of protection” he bought at a renaissance festival.
            “Dear Lord,” he began, his head raised up toward the heavens. “Please watch over Sammy and Rusty in Heaven. Please watch over Grampy and Aunt Donna. Please watch over Thor and Rust and...”
            “Darth,” James added thinking of another citizen of his fish tank whose life was cut short.
            “Yeah, Darth,” Owen said. “And please watch over all the fish we never named. Especially the babies that got eaten by their moms...”
            Owen looked at me to see if he had said the wrong thing. I couldn’t hold it in. I laughed out loud. Then he and James joined me. In the space of a moment we went from heartbreaking sobs to an uncontrollable giggles. In this life there is good stuff and bad stuff. If you can find a way to laugh in the face of the bad stuff, you won’t stay broken for long.

Mama’s Losin’ It

            I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop. This week’s prompt was to answer the question, "What's broken?"