loss in waves

Last October we lost my cat, Louis.

It was an incredibly painful journey for me since he had been my best friend for 17 and a half years.

Eddie was only two when Louis died.

the last picture we have of Eddie with Louis. Sept 2011

Louis’ health was going downhill quite rapidly and we had an appointment to put him down on a Monday.  We just had to make it through the weekend with him.

Unfortunately, Louis had other plans.

Early Saturday morning while Cort was gone to class and Eddie and I were still sleeping, Louis had a stroke near the island in our kitchen.  He was lying there unable to get up when Eddie and I wandered into the kitchen after snuggling in bed watching cartoons.

Eddie sat on the couch and watched TV while I texted Cort, called my brother and his wife, and called the vet.  In the meantime, I wrapped Louis in a receiving blanket to preserve some of his dignity (he had pooped in his fur) and to keep him warm (he was shaking).

When my brother and his wife arrived, my sister-in-law stayed with Eddie while my brother and I took Louis to be put down.

When we got back, Cort was home from class and we placed Louis in a box to be buried at my parents’ house by the rest of our childhood pets.

And that was it.

It’s been over a year.

We have not avoided talking about Louis.  In fact, we talk about him frequently–especially when cats come up in conversation.

Eddie has asked lots of questions over the past year about where Louis was and how we don’t have a kitty can anymore, but I was not prepared for what happened last night.

Around 9:30pm, long after Eddie should have been sleeping, we heard a thump and a couple minutes later we heard Eddie sobbing in his room.  I mean SOBBING.

I thought maybe he hurt himself, so I hurried down to him.

When I opened the door, he was sitting up in his bed, tears streaming down his face, trying to catch his breath through his sobs.

“Honey! What is the matter?” I asked expecting him to say he bumped his head or something.

“I MISS YOUIS*!!!” he wailed.

It’s like time stopped.  My heart fell down to my feet and tears welled up in my eyes.

“Oh buddy,” I said as I sat down on his bed and pulled him into my arms. “What made you think about Louis?  Did you see a kitty cat?”  My mind raced trying to think of what in the world we had done that day that could have possibly made him think of Louis this late at night.

“I was reading dat book ovah de-ah,” he sniffed as his little finger pointed to a large book on the floor next to his closet.  A book that had clearly been tossed (the thump we heard).  A book that was published in the 50′s and that my grandma used to read to me at her house.  A book that was held together with tape.

A book with large pictures of cats and dogs.

A book with a picture of a group of kittens that look identical to Louis.

“It has a pi-tuh that yooks jus yike Youis!”  He leaned into me and started crying all over again.  “I miss him, Mom. I miss him a yot. I want he come home. come back hee-ah.”

It had been a whole year.

I didn’t think he could possibly have that much connection to a cat he only knew for the first couple years of his life.

But he was crying like it just happened.  Like a wave of loss and sadness had collapsed on him and he was fighting to stay afloat and understand.

I didn’t know how to comfort my little boy.  Louis was one thing I couldn’t bring back to him.

So, because I was crying now too, I pulled the blankets up over us as we held on to each other, and I told him the story of how Louis came to be my kitten.  How he took care of Eddie by laying on my tummy when I was pregnant.

How he paced and meowed whenever Baby Eddie would cry and cry, and wander the house meowing at Eddie’s toys when the baby was sleeping.

How he would find a spot just out of Baby Eddie’s reach to sleep…and keep an eye on Eddie.

or you know, ON the sleeping baby.

How Eddie was the only child in the entire world who could touch his face and pull his fur and tackle him and yet he wouldn’t bite.

and Louis gets away again!

“You-is nevah evah bite me,” Eddie agreed, “but sometime he bite daddy.”

And we giggled.  Because it was true.

“And he run and run in duh house, member, mom?  Member dat?”

“I do remember that, Eddie. I do.”

“Why he can’t come back?  Why he yiv with my Papa and God? Why God want a cat?”

I explained to him that Louis was so awesome, he is the perfect cat for God…who loves awesome stuff.

He had stopped crying by now and was asking some pretty big questions about heaven and God and forever.  In a moment of thoughtful silence he asked me, “Mom? You yay by me for a yittle bit?  Just a yittle bit?”

And I did.

He cuddled into me and told me, “I yike taw-king a you, mom. I yuv you, Mom.”

“I love you too, Eddie.  And you can talk to me anytime. about anything.”

“Tanks, mom.”

As we cuddled and both processed our conversation, I couldn’t help thinking about this mom thing.  Just when I think I have it handled–that I know the in’s and out’s of momming a little boy–he throws something new at me to remind me that I am still new at this.

With each stage, milestone, and new question, I will be newb with Eddie.

From the minute he was placed in my arms, I started to learn, and until one of us is gone, I will always be learning.

I hope I am doing right by him.

I hope I am giving him the comfort he needs.

Have you dealt with a loss with your children?  How did your kids handle it? Was there anything that seemed to make the process easier on them?

I am all for suggestions.

*words are written just like they sound when Eddie says them.  If you need a translation, let me know!

**************

Don’t forget to enter my Babies R Us gift card giveaway here.

And I totally did a craft with Eddie.  And it didn’t suck.  You can read about it here.

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About Katie Sluiter

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a high school English teacher, college adjunct instructor, freelance writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. Aww bless his heart. Kids remember stuff sometimes we think they couldn’t possibly. Made me almost cry reading it.

  2. I love that you write Eddie’s words just as he says them because I like imagining him saying them. He is such a sweet boy, isn’t he?

  3. You are doing right. So many children experience deaths through their pets. It’s when they learn that death is forever and that the animal is no longer in any pain. Once they stop crying over the loss of their pet, they come to the terms that it’s a good thing that their beloved animal is no longer in any pain, which is something they can decide also happens with human death. It’s comforting to learn that at a early age, because it actually makes death a little easier on us as we grow up.

  4. Oh, what a gorgeous post. I’m supposed to be making breakfast but instead I am in tears reading your blog! Eddies sounds like such a switched on kid :)
    xx

  5. What a sweet little boy! I cried. Losing a pet is so difficult. Give him a hug from me.

  6. I remember my sister, at 15, breaking down two years after we lost our cat.

    Dealing with loss is difficult — we just had to have the discussion about death after two goldfish, won at a fair, died. But, there was minimal connection to Nemo & Belle.

    But we now have three elderly pets (a 12 year old cairn terrier, a 12 year old cat, and an 11 year old border terrier) that are “family.” And I worry about the kids’ reactions, when something happens to one of them.

    So, in short, I don’t have much in the way of advice . . . just offer the snuggles & comfort when it’s called for.

  7. *tears* how sweet, and sad. *hugs* to you all.

    we haven’t really had to discuss death much yet with Goose… my MIL passed away 2yrs before she was born, so although she knows that “Papa’s Momma” is in Heaven, she hasn’t dealt with personal loss yet. I cringe at the thought of how it might happen… our dog is almost 7yrs old… and my sister’s is close to 10… I know it probably won’t be too far in the future, I just hope I know what to say to her & Gator, and how to comfort them when it happens…

  8. How crazy cool that Eddie remembers him so well. Big hugs to you both & kutos to you for stepping up for such a sweet, serious conversation.

  9. This is so freaking adorable. I have tears streaming as I sit here on my prep. What a sweet little guy.

    I haven’t dealt with the loss of a pet. But I would think, since it’s been a year, maybe you could think about a new kitty? One that Eddie could pick out and name? I would think that might help him build a new friendship.

  10. Amazing how deeply he feels at such a young age. From years of teaching elementary school, I learned that young children can grieve at the most random times. I remember often consoling a sobbing child who remembered a pet or grandparent that died years before. Something, a story at lunch, a quick memory, brought all of the pain and loss rushing back. At first, I didn’t understand this grief since it had often been years ago. But when I think back on my own loved ones that have been gone for years, it often catches my breath. And that helps me remember that it happens to everyone – especially children that have a little less understanding of why it happens and where their loved ones go.
    I think you had a great response to him. Talking about the memories is what helps the most!

  11. Kids will smack you in the face with their grief when you least expect it. It always catches me off guard. I am never prepared and will end up in a puddle mess.

    I think that in their own way, they help up remember. They have these moments and then share then with use so that we can remember our grief and know that it’s ok to still miss and loves the ones that have passed on.

  12. Awww this was such a lovely but heartbreaking post to read. You are an amazing mum
    And Eddie sounds adorable. I’m
    So sorry you lost your cat Louis. I have a pet I adore and when that time comes I can’t imagine how sad and gutted I will feel.
    I think you did everything spot on with Eddie and then some. Really well done.
    There is a book though you may fancy a look
    At, I used it when my nieces lost thier dad (my bro) and I plan to use it in the future with Addison when he starts to question. It’s called ‘badgers parting gifts’ and we love it. Gently explains death x
    Lovely family you sound to be x

  13. Oh and also I love the way you write how he sounds!

  14. I cried when I read this. My first cat love was named Token. She used to sit with me at the bus stop and wait for me to come home when I was in kindergarten, and she was with us until my junior year of high school.
    I got my own kitty babies the year I got married, and have fallen in love with them, my babies Caramel and Kaluah. They were my first children, and they sat on my belly just like your Louis when I was pregnant. I can not imagine losing them; they are such an important part of my life.
    I love that your sweet Eddie loved your cat so much. xo

  15. Oh this made me have the sads.
    I don’t even want to think about Champs departure. Although he is a giant asshole, he is Chunky’s best friend.
    Ok mine too.
    Even if he did eat half of my kitchen floor and an entire box of kleenex today. Dick.

  16. This post crushed me inside. Louis was such a beautiful cat.

  17. Oh my gosh, this post made me cry.

    Mason the other day started asking where Daisy was (our dog that passed away in May 2011) and although I’m pretty sure he only knows who she is because we have pictures of her all over our house, it still broke my heart, especially since he kept asking why she wasn’t coming back.

    This parenting gig? It’s hard! Especially when coupled with the heartache of loss. Ugh.