We are strange creatures, of that there is no doubt. We spend our entire lives speeding toward death, yet we refuse to give it any but the meagerest of attention. We find so many ways to ignore it; yet, in the end, ignored or not, acknowledged or not, we must embrace it.
I’d hoped to spare Namine the talk about death until she was a little older – although in retrospect, at what age is the “death talk” appropriate? It is an awful thing, no matter what the age. But in bringing up the subject with her, I am of course forced to think about it in a larger perspective.
My mom’s cat, Mischief, died yesterday. She was old and sick, and we knew the day was fast approaching. But no one was ready: not my mom, my dad, nor my sister; certainly not Namine, who loved her so much for having known her for such a short time. Namine’s love is perhaps only outshone by her thoughtfulness and caring, and last night, she was unable to put into adequate words the overwhelming sadness she felt in her heart.
She played quietly in the bathtub, seeming content but rarely smiling. She talked to her Little People as she always does, but the conversation was not loud and animated as it usually is. Instead, she spoke reassuring things in hushed tones. “It’ll be all right, I’ll take care of you. You’re safe. Come here, let me hold you.” Namine did not speak of Mischief’s loss unless I asked her directly, but when she did respond, I knew she understood the finality.
“I will never ever see Mischief again. That makes me sad.” But then, the hope that defines our reason for living: “Mischief is in heaven. I will see her again when I die and go to heaven too.”
Our lives are punctuated by pain. We are born in pain; we often die in pain. Namine’s life, especially, is certainly not lacking in that regard. For even as hard as she works in therapy, it is still painful. Her strength is born of pain, and working through it. With all that pain and, yes, misery, to what end is living? What is the point, when there is all this pain, and until the very end, even more pain?
Love. My daughter shows it in her everyday: the attention she pays to her friends, her toys, and even us, her parents. Her reason for living is love. Is there any less a reason? So simple a reason can fuel the firmest resolve, and thus, her reason to fight and fight hard.
So exist the two extremes, as I see them: love, and with it the hope and light of life; and death, the darkness of permanent loss and despair. In life, as in art, we have both light and dark. Without one, we would have a shallower understanding of the other. A pet’s death may be a small thing, but to a child, a world has ended. That world will be sweetly remembered, never forgotten, and held in the gentle embrace of our hearts.