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.