Chubbles

A couple weeks ago it was my intention to get back into the blogging. It had been since before Christmas that I had last gotten into the rhythm of it. After Christmas, we had family, kids were home, and the home was active. I took advantage of the time together and didn't really feel like writing.

Then we got back into the swing of things. But then, my son's cat got sick.

Chubbles was a beautiful cat. His deep black fur lightened into shades of grey as you dragged your fingers more deeply into the downy fur under his coat. He was a mixed breed, but included a strong line of Maine Coon, a species of cat that can grow up to 25 pounds. Chubbles was 19 pounds, and still growing. When he placed himself in your lap, you knew it! As a Maine Coon, he also had the ability to play catch. It was as if he had an opposable thumb and could grab at toys like a human hand. And like all cats, he had a slightly domineering nature that, at least on the outside, communicated nobility, independence, and self-reliance. On the inside, however, he loved to be close, especially to Nathan.

We are grateful to God that such a simple beast could be in our lives, and especially our son's life to teach about love and acceptance.

Initially, my intention was to use this blogging space as a place to contemplate on the shared realities of life. Realities we share regardless of our politics, our religious convictions, and our status in life. Issues of driving on icy roads, having to figure out who to vote for, the appearance of snow, life lessons from sports, etc. All those things we share by virtue of humanity.

I wasn't ready to reflect on teaching my son about death.

Last week we took our cat, Chubbles, to the vet for a strangely swollen ear. While the procedure was simple, we didn't plan on doing to then. It was expensive, and we just didn't have the money. Then, over the weekend, Chubbles was sick at his stomach. Then he became listless. By Monday, it was apparent that this was not a simple stomach problem. When we got Chubbles into the vet, he was treated as an emergency. This was not a stomach problem, nor an infection related to his ear. He had a blockage in his bladder and his kidneys were in danger of shutting down. Over the next two days, Chubbles was loved and cared for by our vet and his team. Nathan was able to visit in the animal hospital. But then on the second night, Chubbles died.

Chubbles was a loveable cat. He had the habit of landing in your lap, crawling up your chest, and then placing a paw on each side of your neck. He would in that way give a gentle hug. He, of course, did the cat kinds of things, like clawing at the carpet, trying to tear at wall paper, and sometimes, just getting under foot. But more than anything he did, he kept teaching our son about the reality of love and acceptance.

Every night, as it was time for my son to go to sleep, he'd call our old dog, 14 years old, and his young cat, just 3 1/2 years old, into his room. When the lights went out, Chubbles would cuddle with Nathan and purr. Now for the past few nights, Nathan has deeply missed his friend, Chubbles.

Even our dog, Neenah, seems to look around, standing still in the living room, turning her sad brown eyes (her eyes always look melancholy) around looking for Chubbles. On Wednesday afternoon we found a place in the garden for Chubble's body to be buried. We had a simple funeral service for him. After it was completed, Neenah was eager to come outside. I thought she needed to come out, but instead, she just wanted to. Neenah came to the place when Chubbles was buried and just sat there. She sniffed the ground a bit and just sat there. I don't know how, but she knew that Chubbles was there, and that Chubbles would stay there.

Now we are teaching Nathan how to grieve. He's never deeply done this before. He is learning that there is a hole in his life that will never be filled. The contemplation is taking hold that life is filled with good-byes that come way too soon. Good-byes over which we have no control. Nathan is also learning that in grief, not only are we overcome by the loss, but we are reminded of the loss over and over. The torn wall paper, the clawed at carpet, and the lack of a warm body purring each night makes each day end with some tears.

The hardest part for us, as parents, is watching our son grieve. We know that he needs to, and that he needs to participate in the processing of his own grief. So we will work together to put away the cat-toys, put away the food dish, and set aside the litter-box. Over the weekend, we'll get more photos of Nathan and Chubbles and find a way for Nathan to display them. Then in some "fullness of time" we'll look for another kitten for him to care for. But not as a replacement for Chubbles and the hole he's left in Nathan's life, but simply as a creature in need of care who will give its own brand of love back.

Thank you to our friends who have shared their condolences with Nathan. While he's learned a great deal about loss and love from Chubbles, he's also learned about care and compassion from people.