Tiger: Our Beautiful, Painful Sacred Goodbye

img_2007

Tiger, the day before he passed, still so handsome.

Last night, my kids got to experience a right of passage most kids do, and few ever forget. They said goodbye to their beloved pet. Tiger died in my arms as Elle, Johnny, and Brett circled around us and spoke love, adoration, thanksgiving, and blessings over him. It was sacred, it was painful and it was beautiful.

Unfortunately, my kids are not new to grief and death. They vividly remember our two late miscarriages from 2015. However, this is the first time they have watched a living being pass away and lost someone they knew well and dearly loved. As a parent, I couldn’t be more proud of them for keeping their hearts open and experiencing the grief, but I also could not be more heart broken for their loss.

Friday, we noticed Tiger was looking really skinny and hadn’t been eating well all week. He is young and healthy, so we assumed we’d have him for 18-20 years and pictured him dying after we sent the kids off to college. It never occurred to me that he could get sick and pass away now. Needless to say, the past two days have been a shock.

Saturday, we took him into the vet for an annual checkup and walked out three hours later with a terminal diagnosis of kidney failure. We could have run hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars of tests to get more answers, but the simple X-ray and blood work they did confirmed his kidneys were far enough gone that it would be nearly, if not totally, impossible to reverse. “A few days to a few weeks” was the best they could tell us. We decided to take him home and give the kids time to process a goodbye since he didn’t seem to be in pain. The doctor gave him IV fluids and a B12 shot and told us to call if/when we needed anything.

Sunday, we came home from soccer to find a weak kitty that didn’t want to move. He purred every time we pet and snuggled him while the kids continued to cry a river and process all their questions. We knew we might be looking at euthanasia in the coming days if he continued to decline this fast. To our shock, at 9:30pm, Tiger walked over to the corner of the room, laid down, and began to cry out in pain. I couldn’t bare to let him suffer so we woke the kids and headed to the emergency vet for a merciful euthanasia. As we headed out, Johnny gave his beloved baby blanket to Tiger to comfort him in his last moments. Elle asked to hold him on the drive wanting to be close enough that he could hear her profess her love. For the 30 minute drive, I watched my kids deny their fear of his death and choose to press into love and pain of loss in order to comfort their beloved kitty as he cried out. It killed my heart to see my kids and Tiger hurt that way, but it was also an incredibly beautiful and sacred moment.

I think that too often we run from pain. We numb, hide, avoid, detach and shrink back from anything that threatens to hurt. I get it. Loss and heartbreak are horrible. But when we do this, we also close our hearts to love. Last night, I witnessed my nine and eight year olds choose love. They pressed in to the very last moment and it was beautiful. Tiger took his last breath in my arms as we walked into the clinic. He was surrounded by our family speaking love, adoration, thanksgiving, and blessings. The vet swooped him up and checked for a heartbeat to confirm he was no longer suffering. As we waited I told the kids I was sorry they had to go through this. Through all our sobs, I validated Johnny that this sucked huge and I was so sorry he had to feel this pain. His response was simple but profound, “It was worth it mom. I’m thankful for the five years of love we got with him.”

Love is worth it. Opening our heart to love leaves us open to pain and hurt, but it is worth it. This morning, a sweet kiss from Jesus came in the form of a small snowfall that resulted in a late start to the school day. We went out back in the cold crisp sunshine, it was beautiful. Elle picked the spot, Brett dug a hole, we all decorated Tiger’s burial box with love notes, and Johnny carried him out to where we said goodbye forever. Johnny asked to say a final prayer and we all walked back into the house full of peace and appreciation for it all: the beautiful, painful process of having, loving, and saying a sacred goodbye to our beloved Tiger.