Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Death Isn’t Pretty, and Saying Goodbye

Warning: I’ve been in a morbid mood lately, so as you read on bear with me. As a writer, one way I work through issues is writing about them …

Last week, I missed a blogging date at The Romance Studios Rainbow Room. I simply didn’t have anything bright and cheery to write. Better to focus with reality on my blog.

Over the past few months, we’ve had multiple deaths in my family, and I’m not simply talking of the human variety. The decline started last November, with the loss of my mother-in-law. Although it wasn’t a total surprise with her health, the timing shocked. We’d seen her the day before, and she was “well,” not in the hospital. She passed away in her sleep.

A few days later, my daughter’s male hamster Sherlock died. She was inconsolable. The two deaths combined, pushing her over the edge of grief.

When the year ended, we sighed with relief. A new start: 2013. Then my 14-year-old dog was diagnosed with cancer and given three to six months to live. Six months later, and he’s still holding strong.

Over the past few weeks, we lost my uncle, my grandfather and a dear, sweet woman from my writing chapter. Today, I’ll attend the memorial services for Charlotte Lobb (here’s a wonderful tribute from one of her friends http://craftieladiesofromance.blogspot.com).

“I’ll be happy if I don’t have to attend another funeral for a long time,” my 10-year-old said. I can totally relate.

My aunt’s 15-year-old black lab, a gentle soul and her daily companion, also died in the last month. I was so thankful to have seen him only weeks before, and I know she’ll mourn him for a long time. Day by day, we continue to push on … for the living.     

Then last week we woke up to find the second hamster dead of natural causes. With a lifespan of two to three years, it’s heartbreaking to fall in love with a little animal, and then lose them. This one was the Momma to a litter we had two years ago.

The night before, my daughter stayed up until 1 a.m. sewing makeshift blankets out of unmatched, cut-up socks. She soaked dried carrots in water to entice Mist into eating. She knew the end was close.

How quickly my mind jumped back to my cousins and I sitting around my uncle’s hospital bed, waiting for him to take his last breaths, and say goodbye. Death is not pretty.

A colorful home burial for a loved pet.
When we woke, I asked my husband to go check on the hamster first, and she was gone. She lay in her cage, at peace. I reached in and petted her soft fur. We decided to bury her in the evening. After everyone left for the day, I wrapped a small box in my favorite Florentine paper, and went to place her inside.

Her teeth gripped the green running wheel, and I tugged to remove her. Dry blood lay crusted on her mouth. Tears streamed down my face. I was so glad my daughter saw her from the side, and the restful pose and didn’t know this bitter truth. I tucked the made-with-love blanket around her cold body, and sealed the box.

Death is not pretty. But we continue on, capturing and cherishing those moments of joy.

A few days later, we brought two new pets into our home – guinea pigs. With a five- to seven-year lifespan, hopefully they’ll be with us for a while.

Our new housemates -- Princess and Rebel
Enjoy one special moment today,



  1. I'm so sorry you've lost so many around you :( Strange that something that's such a huge part of life can be so hard to accept. I had (and still have) the hardest time with my grandmother's death. She was diabetic and in her seventies, but her death was a shock anyway. We'd been arguing over my marriage, and she'd left a message, which I ignored over the weekend. The following Monday, my brother called to say she'd passed away. She had been in the hospital and had called me to apologize. I don't think I've ever gotten over that, the missed chance for a goodbye, nor have I forgotten the harsh lesson on forgiveness. You never know when or if you'll get another chance.

    Pets hurt just as much. They're family, after all. You must have done right to have a daughter who'd be so thoughtful and caring of the little critters. And I think it's a good, healing thing to do something special to memorialize their lives.

    I'm glad all of this didn't deter you from moving forward, and I hope you can find something uplifting to get you through the grief.

    1. Oh Angela, those moments of regret are so very hard. I'm sorry you learned that lesson. Yes, we never really know. The last night my mother-in-law stayed over, I thought about taking a photo of her. It was Halloween and she was sitting by the door to hand out candy. She was upset, because she wanted to be on the couch, but we were headed out and she had some mobility issues. (Couldn't get up very fast to answer the door.) So we suggested she sit next to it.

      So I didn't take the picture because she was upset ... and now I wish I had that moment captured. *sigh* she passed away a day later.

      Thank you for stopping by, and your kindness. I appreciate it very much. And every day is filled with small moments to lift us up -- we just have to be open to it.

  2. Wow, Louisa...I so sorry for all of your losses. Blessing and positive energy to you all.
    As a child I also had a hamster (Goldie) and it was heart rendering to lose her. I knew the life-span and went ahead and bought one for my daughter when she asked for one. AND, we had a similar experience. She lost her hamster first and then the next two kitten/cats in a matter of three months.
    It's a tough way to learn about death...and yet, it is a lesson we all must go through at some point.
    Doesn't matter the lesson...it always hurts.
    Hugs, my friend.

    1. Thank you ... I'll take those hugs! It's definitely a hard lesson to learn about death, but I also think it can be a good thing in a weird way. My youngest didn't seem too sympathetic toward animals "instantaneously." But, it's certainly changed as she's gotten older, and grown to love, and lose, some pets. So maybe that helps later in life.