Our family lost a furry member the day before yesterday. It came as quite a shock, too, when Natalie reached her hand into the hamster house and found that Vanilla was not stirring. But that was followed by a feeling of grim relief when we discovered that her immobility was due to her gentle passing — asleep in her bed.
We were all understandably disturbed, incredulous, and saddened by the loss of our furry friend. We felt regret that we hadn’t paid more attention to Vanilla in her final days. And as we took turns hugging each other and making preparations for a backyard funeral, it occurred to me to call Bella and tell her over the phone (since she could not be with us). I was unsure about the choice a little, because I knew we wouldn’t be able to hold her, or wait to do the funeral until she returned. But I texted her and asked her to call us as soon as she could.
It so happened that we were in the middle of the funeral service when Bella called us back. And after I told her what had happened, and answered her questions about it, and processed it a moment with her, we put her on speaker phone so that (like the rest of us) she could say a little something over Vanilla’s tiny grave. As is often the case in very serious situations, Bella waxed philosophical, and gave a sincere, wise, and compassionate eulogy to Vanilla that was moving to us all.
In that moment, I felt how very lucky we were to be together to process the loss. Even though Bella couldn’t be physically present, she was able to join us, and we all experienced a closeness and connection with each other that made me realize how familial tragedy of this sort, though painful, can be an opportunity to nurture familial bonds. I was, of course, still saddened by our loss, and the various ways we were experiencing that loss, and would never want to create family bonding by manner of such a loss. And yet, when I felt what was happening through the grief we were all experiencing, I was actually thankful — not for the loss, of course, but for what we shared and gained from it.
And though I would never wish for death (“hideous death” as Echo called it) to be the messenger of our deeper family closeness, I take this experience as a great example and reminder of the power of our well-nurtured familial relationships, and the manner in which even tragedy can be transformed by (and into) deep bonding and connection.
Vanilla’s passing has also been a poignant reminder (that I would share with you) to seize the moments we have to love. We don’t know when any one of us will be gone for good, we would all do well not to put off anything we want to share with each other. So may I encourage you all to take a moment today with each person, pet, or thing that you love just to love them — just to experience your love together for a moment and be glad that you can.
Be well, my dear virtual village. And be well, Vanilla.