I broke her heart

When you’re 8, you shouldn’t have suffered any bigger loss than
perhaps losing a favorite toy or having a friend move away. You deserve
to live your first decade (at least) with your heart intact. Tonight, I
broke Lauren’s heart when I told her about Sunny’s death.

I had to do it. Her dad was going to leave it up to my mom to
explain where Sunny is next Wednesday when Lauren goes for a three-day
visit. He was too chickenshit to take this on. He didn’t want to be the
one to cause her heart to crack. But I thought that was wrong, and not
my mom’s responsibility.

Tonight after dinner, I called her up to my room. My stomach was in
knots. I didn’t rehearse. I didn’t blurt either–unusual for me.

“Are you mad at me Momma?” she asked, her forehead wrinkled with concern.

“Oh, no sweetie. Not mad. Nothing like that.”

I had her crawl onto the bed with me. I asked her if she remembered
how tired and sad Sunny had been at her birthday party, and how Papa
had told us that the vet said Sunny’s heart was sick. She stiffened and
got a smirk on her face–the same smirk her dad gets when he knows he’s
about to hear something he doesn’t want to hear. I rubbed her back. I
caressed her hair. I told her that on Tuesday, Sunny got very, very
sick and wouldn’t stand up, so Papa took him to the vet again.

“The vet said he was incredibly sick. And Papa decided that it was time to put him to sleep,” I told her.

She said nothing, did not react. I asked her if she understood. She shook her head.

“Well, it means Sunny has died.”

The sobs. The heart wrenching sobs. I held her as she cried, saying
his name over and over. “No!” she said. “Why?” she asked. “I miss you
so much Sunny!” she cried in between wracked breaths. She didn’t want
tissue. She clung to me and used my T-shirt to wipe her nose. I felt so
sick to my stomach, because I just killed a bit of my little girl’s
innocence. I rubbed her arm, and petted her hair, and kissed her
forehead. I wished she was still small enough for me to gather in my
arms and rock the owie away like I used to when she was a toddler and
had fallen down. I wished I could be a sponge and soak all that grief
out of her. But I couldn’t. Some things in life, like loss and grief,
are impossible to protect your children from. They have to experience
it. It is part of being human.

Later, when the sobs turned to silent tears, we talked a little
about the fact that we love our pets so much, and it’s so sad that they
don’t live as long as we do. “But why did Papa have to kill him?” she
asked.

Oh my.

“Oh honey, Papa didn’t kill him. Not like that. Sunny was in a lot
of pain. He felt very very sick and his heart was very tired. The
doctor gave him some medicine that made him go into a very deep sleep
that he will not wake up from. It was very gentle and very peaceful.
It’s good, honey.”

“It’s just so sad because he’s part of my baby memories, and I’m
afraid I’ll forget if I keep growing up,” she said, looking up at me
with wet blue eyes.

I told her that she will always love and remember Sunny because
he was part of her baby memories. And I told her some funny stories
about him, like how he’d cuddle my belly when I was pregnant, and how
he was such a bad fetcher, and how he’d say hi to all the dogs at the
dog park. I reminded her that Sunny loved her very much. Finally she
stopped crying.

I fully expect her to break into tears randomly over the next few
days. And it will be OK. Because even though it was tremendously
difficult to break this news to her, I’m glad it was me who did it. I
shared an incredibly intimate moment with my daughter, got to hold her
in her sorrow, to be there for her. I will always remember this moment
as one in which I felt such immense, overwhelming love for her, I
wanted to carry her in my mouth like a small stone, to hide and protect.

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