We had a small personal tragedy last last week. My poor, devastated husband was returning late Thursday night from a rehearsal, when I noticed him wandering all over the driveway. He stuck his head in the house, dropped off his laptop and grabbed a flashlight.
"What's wrong?" I asked, confused by the nighttime searching.
"I think I ran over Tabi." Tabi, the cat we'd had for a whopping two weeks. The cat that my darling daughter adored. The cat that was forever trying to get into our home and cars.
In fact, he had hit and killed Tabi. And he was devastated. Completely convinced that he was going to scar our children for life. Poor guy couldn't sleep, he was up at 3:45, disappearing from the bed for the rest of the night.
We decided that it would be a bad idea to tell the kids before school/daycare in the morning, so he had placed Tabi in a box and set him in the garage to wait until we returned home for the night for a time when we could explain about cats not really knowing how to stay away from cars. At my insistence, we decided to tell them that Tabi was hit by a car, but not tell them who was driving.
Although I helped at Milo's Halloween party, most of my day was full of dread. To be honest, I was pretty sure that the kids were going to be OK, but less sure that Scott was.
Finally, the hour was upon us. I picked the kids up from the sitter's and we drove out to the house. They were happily chattering about going out for pizza and getting excited to trick-or-treat. We pulled into the driveway and Scott was standing there, nervously swaying and near the cardboard box with Tabi arranged gracefully to spare the kids a gory death-pose.
Scott helped me get the kids out of the car and said, gravely, "Something bad has happened to Tabi. I found him after he had been hit by a car. He is dead."
The kids blinked. Milo took off for the road, "Where is he?"
"Over here, would you like to see him?"
They peered into the box. Violet's head tipped quizzically to the side, "Is he dead in there?"
"Yes, sweetie. Cats don't understand how cars go, he didn't know how to get out of the way."
"Oh," she said, then sweetly, "Good bye, Tabi. We'll miss you."
"Yeah, " Milo agreed, "You were a good cat. What do we do with him now, Dad?"
"Well, we can bury him under the apple tree, if you'd like."
"That's a good idea. Mom, we should call Grandma and let her know so she isn't sad."
And the children and I went inside to let grandma know about Tabi. I had called her that afternoon and told her already, but it was very important to Milo that he let her know.
The cat funeral was quick, we said a good bye and Milo and Scott scooped the dark soil onto the small cat. Violet shrugged and said, "I will miss Tabi. But it's OK."
Milo confessed, "I almost cried, but I'm OK."
And, just like that, it was OK with both kids. Maybe they understood more than we thought they did when we explained upon Tabi's arrival that farm cats don't always live long lives. Maybe they weren't nearly as attached as we thought. Maybe some of the lessons we've tried to teach them about how life works have taken root. Or maybe they were so distracted by Halloween that poor Tabi's unfortunate end was less significant than it could have been.
Or maybe the pleasant black cat that wandered onto our property Saturday night, following us up to our door after trick-or-treating was enough of a Halloween surprise for all of us. He's been hanging around since then, coming out of the garage to greet the kids, weaving between our legs and purring. Unlike Tabi, he has a healthy respect for the car and keeps much distance when it is moving. I guess we'll just have to see if the Halloween cat works out for us...