It has been said that the Good Lord doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Well, that may be so but I do so wish He would quit continually overestimating me. I’m a slacker. It’s time He admits I’m not his best work.
Loss. You see, I had this great column all set to go – it was all about a girl (me), two goats (ours) and, well, something else funny. It was a stitch, I tell you. An absolute hoot.
But you’ll never read it because, well, because the goats have both died.
I know, I should have warned you before I put it out there like that, but, honestly, why should you have any more warning than I had?
It hurts. I am an animal lover and as such – and I’m sure fellow animal lovers will relate – I feel the loss of a pet is the loss of a family member. It hurts. You get angry. You mourn the loss of your loved one – be it furry, feathered, finned or otherwise.
There are certainly those among us who can reduce a lost pet to a shrug and “it happens,” as if referring to a burnt out appliance or lost sock. I’m not one of those people and, frankly, I don’t trust ’em.
In my time I’ve lost a pet or two and I’ve felt the pain. I thought I’d experienced it all. I was sadly, sadly mistaken.
For as any parent knows, the only pain worse than your pain is that of your child.
Not easy. Contemplating having to tell the children that “Boots” and “Dexter” had gone to the great pasture in the sky, I suddenly understood the urge for a stealthy dash to replace a deceased pet with an exact replica.
Like the families who have had five dogs in succession all masquerading as one. Their children’s willingness to believe that “Rover” lived for nearly 30 years. The goldfish that never (seem to) die. The cat who not only had nine lives but, inexplicably, was a completely different gender in the fourth one.
Unfortunately, there is no all-night express delivery on goats made to order, or I certainly would have tried.
Telling our 3-year-old daughter that her goat had died was hard. No, scratch that. Hard is scaling Everest, giving up a kidney, or working on a chain gang. Telling her was worse.
She trembled. She crumpled. She fell into her daddy’s arms sobbing – begging him to make Boots alive again. If a child can tear our your heat and stomp it to bits – she did.
When the second goat died shortly thereafter, it was not one bit easier, despite the earlier, heart-wrenching, gruesome rehearsal.
And so our children learned about loss. And, as parents, we lost our mystique.
We’re not all-powerful. What was lost, beyond their pets, was the conviction that their daddy and I could fix anything. The security that is the belief that grown-ups are almighty. That a kid could be protected from sadness, bad things, and pain.
That the worst thing that could happen in an otherwise happy childhood is an early bedtime, the cancellation of a favorite cartoon, or a sibling who bites.
It was my belief, for a time, that the loss negated the good. That pets bring only inevitable loss and pain. That if I had a “do over,” I would skip the experience entirely.
It was better, I thought, if we just forgot. We would not speak of the goats again.
Resilience. Yet, in the time since the loss, the children began to reminisce.
“Remember when Boots jumped over me?”
“Remember Dexter in the wagon?”
They giggled and they remembered, and they laughed harder still.
And in accentuating the positive, they taught me that our energies are best spent on remembering the journey, not dwelling on the final destination. That we gain most from giving up all hope of being all powerful.
We would be better served in living well, laughing often, and, perhaps most importantly, not letting the hard times get our goat.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt hopes her dog will live to be 30. She welcomes comment c/o P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)