Friday, January 18, 2008

That's My Boy

Our cat, Hamlet, died last night. He'd been in poor health for some time, wasting away before our eyes, so his death came as no surprise. Hamlet lived far longer than we had expected, did not seem to suffer a great deal, and remained with us to the end. Dignified, graceful, and well-loved, in life and death alike! A fine cat, our Hamlet.

I broke the news to the kids soon after they woke, making for a rough start to the day. After we had worked through our first bout of bawling, Kai started asking questions. He already knew that people and animals died when their brains stopped working, so he asked me what had happened to Hamlet's brain. I explained that the nerve cells in it had stopped sending electrical signals to each other.

"I have an idea!" Kai announced. "I can take some of his brains cells and rub them against my pajamas' top. It shocks me when I put it on, so I know it has electricity. Then Hamlet's brain cells will have electricity, again!"

I praised Kai for his ingenuity, but explained that Hamlet's brain had stopped working because his body had fallen ill. (A slow-growing mass in Hamlet's intestines had caused his digestive system to gradually fail.) Kai thought that through a while and came up with yet another solution: "We could go to Mars, take the alien's ray gun, shrink a submarine, go into Hamlet's body, and fix it!"

Just for the record, Kai has not seen any movies about Frankenstein's monster or "The Incredible Voyage." He has probably picked up some cultural clues from cartoons, granted--Spongebob Squarepants, in particular. Still, it heartens me to think that my little guy might someday bring his fierce intelligence to bear on the problem of kicking death's butt. It won't be too long, alas, before I, too, will need some nano-subs cruising my bloodstream, patching up my creaky cells. Coming out of cryonic suspension, and back to more than life, would prove all the sweeter if I woke to see the face of my son, Dr. Kai, smiling in triumph.

In the meantime, we continue to pay death's toll as best we can. To help the healing, I tonight took the kids to Fired Up, our local paint-your-own-ceramics store. Together, we decorated a little box shaped like a cat, adding little messages like, "We miss you, Hamlet." We plan to put his ashes in it, perhaps with a photo nearby, so that can in some measure continue to enjoy Hamlet's company.


Anonymous said...

Why didn't you have Hamlet placed into cryogenic suspended animation? Wouldn't you like to have him back with you again? Instead, you turned him into ashes. Oy vey iz mir!

To be or not to be, that is the question.

Larry Sheldon said...

My condolences. Do what you think best.

Anonymous said...

It's wonderful you thought of a way for your children to remember Hamlet.

amaduli said...

Heavens, is there something I haven't heard? Let's hope your demise isn't too quickly approaching.

Tom W. Bell said...

Slings: Some folks *have* signed their pets up for suspension. I think that a cats' identity relies so much on genetic make-up, though, that that game isn't worth the candle. Cloning might have been an option, I suppose, but, as much as I loved the special little guy, I'm not convinced that another Russian Blue would be noticeably different.

Larry: Thanks. It proved an interesting study in grief, at least. I learned that the disjunctions between what I expected and what I experienced proved most wrenching. His immobility didn't faze me, for instance; he's was a cat, after all. But finding him cold to the touch and not purring--that shook me up.

Anon: Thanks. It's not like I have a lot of experience in these sorts of things, so I was glad I thought of something that seemed to help the kids cope. They've done really well.

Amaduli: Naw. I face nothing more than the usual march of time. Seeing death so close at-hand does make a guy reflect, though.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Larry as far as doing what you think is best. We do not have pets, but our children have been to funerals at very young ages. Some people would disagree with their exposure of death at a young age. I think every family needs to deal with death in their own way. Children understand the cycle of life and are able to accept it much better than adults; when it is explained to them appropriately. Sooner or later, in one way or another, they will need to work it out in their own way. Parents seem to be the ones in angst over children's reactions more than anything!

dgm said...

I agree with Anonymous Jan. 22, 2008 9:14 a.m. Our kids are dealing with Hamlet's death just fine (although Kai doesn't want to say "When Hamlet died"--he told me he prefers "When Hamlet--you know" and then he makes his eyes widen with the 'you know' because otherwise it makes him sad). Me, however--I get weepy every time I expect to see him where he no longer is.

Milkbuff said...

Speaking of deaths, and Hamelts, and etc, Heath Ledger died, and, just so I can fit this in here, some reporter for the IHT claims that neo-liberalism has killed the hopes of an economic/social utopia for poor:
I'm looking for some economic rebuttal to this article, and would like to also point out that the article wraps itself up within a nice paragraph consisting of three sentences. It leads me to imagine whomever writing this quickly finishing up their morning journal and adding his/her own slick, yet unfounded thoughts to a widely fought-over topic. Essentially, the article does nothing more than re-hash a bunch of history.

Charlie said...

Hamlet probably was happy to be free of discomfort and although the notion of being fixed and not having to pay the dealthy price seems fun, I for one will live my life to the full and happily end it before it gets all long and hard.

May Hamlet live in your memories forever!