This summer has been bittersweet and full of sweeping change. Casey and I have both put school on hold and are now employed. Miette is a full-blown bookworm, reading anywhere from 5-20 books a week depending on size, in both English and Spanish. Watching her transformation from inquisitive kindergartener, just starting to sound out words and read basic sentences, into devoted and disciplined devourer of non-fiction and picture books, and most recently entering the world of novels, has been so heartwarming, but also a reminder that she is growing up so rapidly. The ability to read and a desire to learn means that nothing is off-limits; she can explore anything in this world. She has the tools and the drive, and that is at once humbling, inspiring, and a touch scary. Ciaran is a lively little spark plug, sporting his dimple-cheeked grin more often than not. He’s wild and mischievous and gregarious, whereas baby Miette was meticulous and sensitive with a heightened sense of empathy (qualities she still possesses). Parenting him has required a degree of athleticism and endurance that I was not expecting. So, now that you’ve had a bit of catch up, I’ll let you know that I’ve been debating this post for a while, because it feels so deeply personal to my family, but I think it is worth sharing, as I feel that being open about grief is an important part of not letting it have too negative an impact on one’s life. This deals with animal death and euthanasia, so if you find such things difficult to read about, please feel free to skip this post.
One of the biggest changes for our family came when our beloved Mo Vox experienced a sharp decline in health. She had been suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder for a few years, and there was no course of treatment. She began having seizures, and I will spare you the gory details, but we decided that the responsible thing to do was end her suffering (a very difficult decision, one that we wrestled with for quite some time).
This wasn’t the first time we had discussed death with Miette, but it was the first time that it had a personal impact on her life. Casey and I debated what was best: should we include Miette or take Mo to the vet while she was at school? Ultimately, we decided that we would be crushed if Miette had wanted to say good-bye and we had deprived her of that opportunity. We picked her up early from school, and when we told her that we would need to euthanize Mo, she immediately asked where she was. I felt relieved that we had made the right choice, even though it was so difficult. We talked about how special it was that we got to have Mo in our lives, and how important it was that we make responsible decisions about her life and health, that that was our duty to her. And we talked about how, in spite of all the pain, we were really lucky that we had the opportunity to say goodbye and be present to comfort her. Miette, through sobs, asked me if I felt as sad as she felt when my mother died. I told her I did, that feeling sadness was part of the process of grieving but it is also a reminder of the fullness we can feel in our hearts for our friends and family, of our capacity for love and caring. I want to share some of the photos from that day, because I find them to be some of the most simultaneously life-affirming and heartrending images of the depth of love and friendship we can feel for our animal companions.
We gave our heavy hearts some time to heal and settle into life after Mo, but we knew that we wanted to open our home to a shelter cat as soon as we all felt able. A few weeks ago we made a trip to the local shelter and after looking at nearly every cat in the place, we found ourselves smitten by the sweetness of one fluffy black and white beauty.
Her name is Calista, she is seven years old, and she was brought to the shelter because her previous “owner” had passed away. She was suffering from heart worms and intestinal parasites (now rectified), and has a bad case of gingivitis. She’s playful, full of purrs, gentle, and tolerant of the baby. She sleeps in the napkin basket on our dining room table, and since she looked so comfortable and at ease, I couldn’t possibly reprimand her, so now the napkins live elsewhere and we eat our breakfast with this beautiful beast snoozing lazily beside us. We are falling in love and becoming family. We are really excited to share our home with Calista Lou (I added the “Lou,” just like I added the “Vox” to Mo’s name). When I told a good friend of mine the circumstances that led to Miss Calista Lou finding her way to the shelter, she said, “You’re meant for each other.” I think we all agree.