“But he’s coming back tonight!”

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My sister brought a kitten home, the summer before my freshman year in high school. Looking for a name, I
open my Navajo-language Bible, and found 1 John, Chapter 4, verses 7-8. The first word was “Ntée,” and we decided it meant “Beloved,” and that's what we named him. (Pronounced “Knee-tay”)

Ntée had a long and well-loved life. We knew he wasn't doing well lately, it was to be expected for a kitty of his age. He wouldn't eat, and my dad would try to coax him into eating; opening cans of tuna or crab, trying to spoon feed him to get something into his belly. He knew his time was coming, and was letting us know too.

Last week, when Max and I were there, I took a few photos of him basking in the beautiful warm sun, and got some photos of him and Max too. Max gave him some gentle kisses and some pets, and we left him to his napping. I'm so thankful I took the time to do that. Max and I both had a chance to say our goodbyes, so it was a little easier for me when he was actually gone.

When I found him at my parents' house on Sunday, I cried. Jamie suggested to Max that he comegive me a hug and a kiss, because I was so sad. He climbed up on my lap and gave a me a kiss and said “I'm sorry you're sad, Mommy. I love you so much.”

I tried to explain what was going on, that Ntée had gone to Heaven, and he wasn't going to be around to play with any more. He looked at me very seriously and said “But Mommy, where's my Chuck the Truck?”

He didn't get what I was saying.

Today, on the drive home after work, he said to me, “I want to make you something so you're happy, Mommy.” (heart melting) and I thanked him, and said I'd love if he made me something at home.

“But why were you sad, Mommy?”

“I was sad because Ntée is gone to Heaven, and I miss him, kiddo.”

“Oh. But he'll come back tonight!” (“Tonight” is the usual answer; “When's dinner?” “When's Daddy coming home from work?” “When can I watch Cars?”)

“No, kiddo. Ntée isn't coming back. He went to Heaven and we won't see him at PapaNana's house any more.”

“Oh. Not anymore?”


And then we cried together.

It's hard. We don't go to church regularly, but we aren't atheist or anything either. A structured church just isn't something  that we currently have in our lives. Not that we don't want it, there are just other things going on that that we haven't been able to fit in at this point… I think Max understands at this point, the whole “Heaven = Not coming back” side of things, and we do have another older cat here at home, Geoffrey. He's about 17 now, so this is a conversation we'll have to have again in the more near than far off future. Any tips for talking to young kids about death and loss? I know there are a million books out there about it, but I'd love to hear what's worked for you. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks. He’s still talking about Ntée, and I don’t want to discourage it, but he’s also using “died” for anything that’s gone, like the kid from day care who isn’t coming in anymore…

  1. The Tenth Good Thing About Barney is a good children’s book to help remember the good things about a pet. Sorry about the loss of your kitty. So glad you got some greast photos with Max.

  2. We have lost quite a few fish. Having a ceremony helps. This is what we do when loved ones die. Getting the family together and writing or drawing pictures of good thoughts for the cat, and sharing them could work. Allow a sense of closure.

    For the fish, we put the fish in a rectangular baby-food container lined with a kleenyx and folded another kleenyx wrapping the fish in a blanket with his (her?) head on a pillow, then we place the fish gently in the garbage can and we all say good bye. Then we empty the trash. It broke my heart the first time, and Peter cried a lot, but the fourth time he knew what to do. A fish is just not the same as a cat, but human creatures feel better with ceremony and closure. It’s like a hook to hang your memories on.

    Ceremonial Burial: lets you build temples, and makes one unhappy person in every city content.


    1. That’s true, Beth… I was really torn about letting Max see him one more time, to really kind of understand, but in the end we skipped that part. He seems to be doing OK, still mentioning him, but not always sadly.

  3. This is so sweet.
    Kiddies don’t fully grasp the concept of death, but understand when adults say that someone/something is not coming back. You handled the situation in a sensitive manner.
    Popping in from WOE weekend linky.

  4. Oh, losing a beloved pet is so very hard. But it certainly sounds as though Max had a beautiful life.

    I am yet to discover the best way to explain death to my four year old. We haven’t had the occasion arise yet thankfully but still, he has asked me about dying and what it means to be gone forever. It’s so tricky to explain. The last thing I want to do is make it frightening. But I find comfort in the idea of heaven and so am passing that on to my kids, too.

    1. That’s where I’m at too (but Max is my kiddo, so he’s fine! The kitty was Ntée)
      We don’t really go to church, so Heaven is especially abstract at this point, but I think he’s handling it OK.

  5. So sorry, Lizz. Losing a loved pet is hard. They give us soooo much and all they ask in return is some food and a few scratches. We lost a kitty (Hubs’ cat….he came as a package deal with two kitties, a brother & sister, he’d had since they were kittens. His best friend had another brother from that litter & just lost him this month. The sister kitty we have is the last of that litter.) two years ago, this December. Our girl was about Max’s age at that point. We just told them Clyde had gone to heaven. They talked about it a lot and still bring it up. And we tell them that’s why it’s important to love the people & animals in our lives while they’re still with us and to give Bonnie (the kitty we still have, but is eighteen yrs old now) lots of love & scratches while she’s still with us. Sending (((hugs))) your way.

  6. I am so sorry for you loss. Loss is so hard. Our memories with our animals are so strong and there are so many that mean so much to us. As painful and awful as it is I do know that it is important to be straight forward with our children. Straight forward in the sense that the animal is dead, which you did. It is soooo hard. He saw you were said. You told him why. I think you hit all the important points. I do agree with a previous comment that drawing a picture or remembering is also healthy. Your doing good momma! -Laverne

  7. Oh. :'(

    I don’t have kids but I’m a teacher and kids do understand in their own way the Heaven/not going to see him/her again at…. combo. Sounds like you handled it just perfectly for your kid. 🙂

    Brings back memories of losing our pets and even as an adult it doesn’t get any easier. Loss is still loss. I do remember insisting that my parents bury and mark with a gravestone (paddlepop stick cross) our fish though. I couldn’t stand the thought as a 7 year old that our beloved “Baby Jaws” be thrown out or flushed down the toilet.

    Found your blog via Write on Edge weekend link up and about to check out your other posts.


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