Friday, November 1, 2013

She Went Gently Into That Good Night... But I am Still Alive

Our week started with some sorrow. Remember our cute little hamster, Fluffy? Well, she'd been ailing for the last few weeks. We first noticed a small bald patch on her side the week we were moving into the new house, around the first of September. It looked almost like she'd cut herself somehow. That bald spot and sore area grew gradually, until at last she was about a third bald. And then she started to slow down. When she ran on her wheel, her legs no longer made a blur. And when I cleaned her cage each week, she was easier and easier to catch.

A few weeks ago, I looked up the lifespan of Russian dwarf hamsters and was disappointed to learn they only live about two years. We don't know how old Fluffy was when we bought her, but we got her two years ago in February. I began to prepare the kids. "I think Fluffy's dying," I said several times.

This last Saturday when I cleaned her cage, I got teary eyed. She toddled around like an old man, and she mostly sat still in her exercise ball while I worked. But the worst part was when I put her back in the cage, where I'd laid out her favorite treats (carrots, oatmeal, and bits of torn spinach) on the upper level of her cage. She headed straight for the food, but she couldn't make it up the ramp! She kept sliding backward. I tried to give her a little boost, but then she toddled for the safety of her house.

I moved the upper level as low as it could go, and then she could make it up the gentler slope, but she was unable to pull herself through the hole at the top of the ramp. I finally moved her food bowl and water to the lower level.

"Oh, Lord," I prayed. "Please let little Fluffy pass peacefully. I don't want her to suffer. Please ease her pain."

Over the next few days, she was pretty quiet, and we had to check several times a day to make sure she was still alive. I did notice that she had managed to drag herself up that ramp after all; all of the carrot bits and spinach, and most of the oatmeal, were gone. I had to admire her tenacity. Maybe she was going to rally.

On Tuesday night, Allyson opened the cage and lifted up Fluffy's house. "She's not in here!" she exclaimed.

For a moment, I wondered if she could have escaped. I thought back to the one time several months ago that she somehow squeezed through the tiny bars of her cage and wrought havoc in my living room. I don't think I ever told you about that. One morning, I woke to odd bits of fluff all over the living room. They seemed to have come from under the couch. Suddenly a flash of fur caught my eye, and I jumped. A mouse! No, it was Fluffy. I glanced over at the cage, which was securely closed. "How did you-?" I muttered.

And then I crept over and knelt down, holding out a hesitant hand. No way I could catch her, I figured. But she sat still and let me scoop her up. I bet she'd worked up an appetite after a night of exploring and nesting under my couch.

"Could Fluffy have gotten away again?" Allyson asked.

"No, she's too weak to crawl through the bars," I answered from the kitchen. "I'll come look for her when I finish the dishes."

Indeed, the cage appeared empty. I pulled out her little igloo house, and then I spotted her curled up in the corner, her tiny form barely visible in the cedar chips. She almost looked asleep, except I could tell she was stiff.

"Fluffy died," I said softly.

Ethan and Allyson hurried over to see. "Aww," Ethan said. Allyson said nothing, just slipped an arm around my waist. A moment later I was surprised to feel her sobbing quietly. For a couple of weeks, she'd been talking about getting Fluffy's replacement, so I hadn't expected the tears. She cried for a few minutes, snuggled in my lap on the couch next to Ethan.

I prayed, thanking God for the time we had with sweet Fluffy. I thanked Him for letting her pass so that she didn't have to suffer any more, and I asked him to surround her with her favorite things up in heaven. I thanked God for always being close to the brokenhearted, and I asked him to let Allyson feel His love through my arms.

After her sobs had faded, she asked in a tiny voice, "Can we bury her tomorrow?"

"Of course," I answered, wondering how I would manage this. Burying things had always been Bill's job.

Yesterday we borrowed some gardening tools from our new friend Jenny, and Allyson dug a little hole in the soft dirt in our entryway. The timing was perfect because a neighbor had just dug out some greenery that the home inspector identified as a termite hazard, and it had rained afterward.

"Should we pray before, or after?" I asked.

"Can we pray while I dig?" she asked.

So I prayed about Fluffy returning to the dust and becoming part of God's good earth. Again, I prayed for Allyson's comfort and asked God to help us remember the good times with her. Allyson sobbed again, harder than she had the night before. I held her close, and we swayed silently.



After she'd placed the tiny toothpick cross she'd made, we each recounted our favorite memories of Fluffy. I talked about how she ran so fast that she went upside down on her wheel and fell off. Allyson talked about the fun of showing her to friends, and playing with her in the bathtub. We both laughed over the way Arwen liked to lean up against the bars, nose to nose with an oblivious Fluffy. (She had just started to make tentative swipes with her paws, and I think it was a mercy that Fluffy passed peacefully in her sleep, that she went "gentle into that good night.")

After the funeral, Allyson dried her tears and enjoyed the rest of her afternoon.

Other than losing Fluffy, we had a really good week. On Saturday, and then again on Wednesday, we made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and handed them out to our new friends in the neighborhood. Allyson did all the measuring on the second batch, which turned out even better than the first.

I had just met one of the recipients this past Saturday. Her name is Amanda, and she was the best friend of our house's former owner, Jackie. It turns out that both of us are total hippies. Like me, she grinds her own grain and bakes bread, and she's into making her own cleaning solutions out of Dawn, vinegar, Borax, etc. The four cookies we brought her netted me a dinner invitation for next Tuesday. Reminds me of the time we got a homemade pumpkin pie after we brought our old neighbors candy canes.

Even better, we finally got to meet the people who bought our first dream house. One of our other neighbors wasn't home when we tried to drop off some cookies, so I told Allyson, "Why don't we take these cookies over to the new family?" (They'd moved in about a month after we moved into our house.)

So we traipsed right over there and knocked on the door. A pleasant young woman answered, and Allyson held out the cookies. I explained that we were handing out cookies for Halloween, and we wanted to welcome them to the neighborhood. Beaming, she invited us in even as she apologized for already being in pajamas at 5 in the afternoon. "I'm eight months pregnant," she explained, "and the first thing I do when I get home from work is get in my jammies."

"I understand," I said.

I learned that her name is Amber, and her husband's name is Dayton, and they are expecting their first child, a baby girl. They have a cute little Dachshund who loved playing with Allyson. Unlike me, Amber has a green thumb, and she said I can come over any time I want to tinker in the lush vegetable garden I fell in love with when we looked at the house.

She told us that the timing was perfect when they bought the house. They'd just paid the earnest money on another house, but she had cried as she remembered this house. It turns out that Dayton loved this house, too, so they withdrew their first offer and made another offer that same day. "There was just something about this house," she said with a smile.

"Yes, I know," I said. And then I told her the story of how we'd tried to buy it but then the deal had fallen through.

"So you're the first buyer!" she said.

I asked her about the foundation damage, and she said that they'd consulted a couple of structural engineers, who had disagreed about how bad the problem was. She and Dayton had decided to buy the house as is and deal with the foundation later. "Around here, every home is going to have a problem eventually," she said. I nodded in agreement; that was just what the foundation repair person had told me when he'd examined the house.

We both marveled at how everything had worked out. I told her how crushed I'd been, but I said I was happy now because I realized that this house was meant for their family, and my house was meant for mine. Because the house had been tied up for a few weeks with me, it was available for them when they were ready to buy. And the house meant for me had come into my price range at just the right time.

I don't know how God works out all these details, but aren't you glad that He does? And I love how he lets our paths cross with others who can bring such joy to our lives. Just a week ago I was feeling isolated here. Although my neighbors had all been quite friendly, what I really wanted was a close girlfriend on my street. Now I have four!

As you can tell, I'm in much better spirits this week. That may change tomorrow, but that's okay. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but today I feel very alive. And so blessed.

And now, a few pictures I must share before I call it a night....

Today at school, and tonight during trick-or-treating, Allyson became a blonde Cleopatra.



Jack O' Lanterns on Daddy's Porch
Allyson's is the Witch.

Here's my handsome boy on center snare during the halftime show at a football game a couple weeks ago:
Ethan and Jeremy
And here he is at Allyson's school yesterday, for Red Ribbon Week. Allyson was very proud, though she wouldn't admit it.
Can You Believe the Resemblance? 


1 comment:

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