Monthly Archives: October 2013

A Hamster in Heaven

HamsterMy daughter’s eighth birthday was approaching and I had the perfect idea for a gift. A hamster. I suggested it to my husband and he wasn’t so sure. “The kids are so young,” he pointed out. “What will they do when it dies?”

“That’s part of life,” I answered. “They have to learn about it sometime.” That might sound calloused, but I didn’t mean it that way. I just remembered that some of the deepest things I learned about life and love were intertwined with loss or death. Maybe because it’s times like those that we realize how deep love really is … and how enduring.

We got the hamster. Jessica named him Buttercup because at first she thought it was a girl. (Well, at first it was a girl but that’s another story.) Her birthday gift was a winner and it took a few days for her brain to wrap around the fact that she had a little pet to care for and love.

Buttercup became a part of our family. His bright, inquisitive nature fit in just perfectly. He was very friendly for a hamster and the kids had a lot of fun with him.

You probably noticed I’m writing in past tense referring to the little critter. Buttercup died last night. You know how it is when you know something is bound to happen eventually yet you assume it never will? Yeah, me too.

Jessica was doing homework in my room while I was in their room at the computer. While I was editing, I heard a strange recurring noise somewhere behind me. Finally I tuned into it and realized it was coming from the hamster’s cage. I peeked inside his little sleeping spot and he was breathing hard, labored. His body was unresponsive when I picked him up.

I called Jessica and she cried as she asked me if we could take him to a vet. I knew there was no hope for such a little thing so obviously taking his last breaths, but I wrapped him in a warm cloth and tried giving him water and then ground-up pellet-porridge with an eye dropper. I held him until he stopped breathing less than half an hour later.

Then I held Jessica as she said goodbye to her little pet. I told her about a hamster I had when I was 12, and that I cried when it died. She asked what we should do with the body and I told her we could bury him in the backyard. Then she asked if she could sleep with me, and I said sure.

We prayed for the night and Jessica fell asleep quickly, waking up from her half-asleep state to say something about Buttercup with angels and happy in Heaven. I told her I’m sure he is.

Life on earth. Followed by death. That part of existence we feel will never come and often live as if it won’t, yet still it does. Death. Another beginning, yet so often seen as the final act. The end.

But nothing truly loved is forever lost. And though we cannot see it, the end is the beginning.


Time for a Lesson

Allen Practicing PianoMy daughter, from the age of four, wanted to learn to play the piano. So at the beginning of last school year, she started taking lessons. The novelty wore off quickly and the tedium began. Some days it was a struggle to get her to practice at all.

Then my son, Allen, starting asking if he could have lessons too. My husband and I were sure it would eventually be worth the cost, but with my daughter’s reluctance, I wasn’t sure I wanted to face that daily struggle times two.

My son assured me that wouldn’t be the case. He promised that he would practice every day without complaining. So at the start of this school year, he began taking classes as well. Guess what? He also began to grow weary of the daily practice. Every time he would sit down at the keyboard, he would get up within a few minutes to find me and ask if time was up … at least three times each practice session.

The other day he had been putting off piano time until finally, after dinner, I told him he couldn’t wait any longer if he wanted us to have story time before bed.

“Can you listen to me practice?” he asked.

My to-do list flashed in my mind, displaying in mental neon lights all the tasks I still had pending. “Sure, Allen,” I told him as I willfully pushed that list to the back of my mind.

As I sat on my bed, he haltingly beat out a couple of tunes I didn’t know and then got to one I recognized. (Who doesn’t know “Mary had a little Lamb,” right?) He kept playing the song nicely until he got nearly to the end, and trip up on those last few notes.

“That wasn’t quite right,” I told him.

“Should I do it again?” Allen asked me.

“Do you think you should?” I answered, not wanting to sound like a nagging mom.

“I’ll do it again,” he said. After trying half a dozen times, he got it right. And it looked like he was having fun. So much fun, in fact, that I wanted to try.

“Can you teach me how to play it?” I asked him.

The broad smile he wore when he looked up at me told me the answer. “Sure!” He began to patiently explain to me what every note was and how to read it on the music sheet. I not so patiently listened. Finally, he must have thought I had all I needed to start off. I tried it. I didn’t think I did too badly. I flubbed near the end. After trying a few more times (more than half a dozen), I figured it out.

“You need to hold that last note,” he told me, and launched into a detailed explanation about how you can tell the length of a note.

I played it again. “That was better,” he said encouragingly. “Let me show you a few more things.” He eagerly flipped through the book, explaining more concepts (probably with more patience and interest than I show him when I need to explain things to him).

“Okay, you take over now,” I finally told him. He sat back down and kept at it for ten more minutes without stopping or looking at the time.

When I told him that he had been practicing long enough, he asked, “Is it already time up? The time passed so quickly!” He ran out the door, off to his next activity.

Time did pass quickly. I wonder what he’ll teach me when it’s time for my next lesson.