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.