November 8, 2010

The Kitty is a Flower

It’s a little after six am and the air is already weighed down by moisture. The sky hangs heavy; gray clouds tying to decided whether to launch a storm or disperse. I am standing in the garden wearing only shorts, short of breath. I have just hurriedly dug a shallow hole into the red soil, clumps of clay are stuck to the shovel, my shoes, and calves. I feel the tension in my shoulders and think about how I really need to start exercising this year. I like the way my thin muscles pulsate and throb. I look beside me and see it.

A underdeveloped pouch of skin and bones, made stiff, emptied, extinguished before any muscles could form. His mouth is snarled open revealing a set of tiny useless teeth. The two eyes encrusted with infection and sealed shut, seem to be miraculously staring straight into the newly dug hole. A mob of ants crawl, uncharacteristically about the hole, out of formation, as if they are expecting the body. I quietly monitor their sinister motives, until I remember their role. I go inside to get Kaia.
I want her to see this. I want her to be a part of this. I want her to understand that death is a part of life. I want her to understand. I will not hide the dead kitten and make up some clap trap about heaven and lie to her about the need of some mythical creator  to have his kitty back. I respect her too much for that. There is nothing scary or sad about death when seen through the eyes and heart of mother nature.

Inside she is still asleep in bed. She is so precious lying amongst the sheets, her porcelain skin flush with life. I rethink my thoughts on the gravity and sadness of death as I see her lying there so full of life even when asleep. I don’t want to wake her. I don’t want to take her into the yard and show her the tiny kitten we rescued just yesterday. I don’t want her to see the lifeless body and process what that means in her tiny brain, but I know I must.

“Kaia? Sweety, it’s time to get up.” Nothing she is motionless.
“I have something important to tell you. Can you hear me? You really need to wake up. Okay?” She begins to rustle. A tight stretch. Rubbing of the eyes. Consciousness.
“Open your eyes and sit up okay? This is serious.” She springs up and releases a massive yawn. Her cheeks are stained red and scarred with pillow marks. Her hair a tangled wildness.
“Good morning Sweetheart! Are you awake? I have to tell you something that might make you sad.” She is instantly awake. Somehow exited by the possibility of sadness or an emotion that may overwhelm her. I am wondering if this is the best idea.
“Remember the kitty we found in the yard yesterday?”
“The one with the hurt eyes that the mommy left behind?” Her voice is pure and uncontaminated by anything that is not innocence.
“Yeah, that’s one. The one we brought inside, fed, and put in the box upstairs.” I try to hold her hand, but she pulls it away and looks to move upstairs. As if her running up stairs will assuage any anxiety that I may be creating. But she turns back, knowing that my explanation will be easier to understand than anything she may see up stairs in the box. I find this strange, because death is still a very foreign notion to her, so what could she possible think could have happened to the kitten.
“He didn’t make it through the night pumpkin.” Silence. I let the idea sink in. She is motionless. More needs to be said.
“Did he died?” She is looking straight at my eyes not for confirmation, but understanding.
“Yes he did. Do you know what that means?” She is motionless. More needs to be said. She shakes her head.
“It means that he will not wake up anymore. He is done with his body.”
“Where did he go?”
“Well that is the most amazing part. Do you want me to show you?” The excitement is building. Death need not be an ending.

We are  standing outside near the hole and the stiff kitten. The shovel leaning against the tree. Her fuzzy white pajamas appear so foreign against the mud, the grave, and the dead animal at which she gazes. There is so much I want to tell her. I want to explain to her the notion of existence beyond birth and death. The power ot letting go of attachments, the beauty of impermanence.

“You see Kaia, nothing ever really dies.” She doesn’t seem to believe me. She looks at the corpse and back at me, as if to say that orange ball of fur looks pretty dead to me.
“Remember yesterday when we were talking about how some animals eat dead thing and poop.” Yesterday in the car we were talking about maggots and insects. Don’t ask.
“You mean the baby flies like caterpillars, but for flies not butterflies.” She is an excellent listener.
“Exactly! Remember we said that they are very important because they help move things through nature.” She is staring at the cat. I need a new approach.
“Let’s look at these roots.” I hunch down and grab a set of exposed roots from the mango tree at the base of which we have dug our hole. She gets down near the mud as well.
“Do you see these roots and these ants? “ She nods her head. Affirmative.
“They are all part of nature. Those flowers, the grass, the clouds, even the sun is all part of nature. Can you show me anything else that is a part of nature?”
“The mud?”
“Exactly, that is a very important part,”
“Are we part of nature?” She interrupts.
“Of course we are. Good one. What about the kitty?”
“But the kitty is died.”
“That is okay.  Things that have died are still a part of nature. They are actually very important parts as well. You see, they help feed everything else. We are going to put that kitty into this hole so he can help feed our garden. His body will slowly become part of these ants and this tree. It will become part of the soil and some of those flowers.”
“The kitty will turn into a flower?”
“Exactly!” She is motionless. Nothing more needs to be said.

I place the kitten into the hole and quickly bury him beneath the dirt. We stare in silence as I pat down the mound with my foot.
“See, the kitty is not gone, he has just entered nature.”
“What does entered mean, daddy?”
“He is now part of our garden.” Silence.
“But I really wanted to keep him Daddy.” Her lip is quivering and her eyes tear up. The lesson on attachment and impermanence will have to wait.
“I know you did, sweetheart. I know you did.”


  1. Jabiz, this is beautiful. and sad. and beautiful.

  2. Jabiz, I love this story because of the story itself, but also because my kitty's name is Flower. :)

  3. The pain of death comes from the selfishness of the living. We want them back...

  4. Parenting requires bravery, in order to help our children learn difficult lessons. It's tempting (and easier) to shelter them, but it does them no favors. Beautifully done.

  5. Wow, I am so conflicted, relieved, hopeful, excited, and astonished. I have buried many turtles, horses, calves, people, etc. I am conflicted because this can't be right. Why do so many parents give the lines, "they're in a better place now," or "ask Jesus when you get to heaven," instead of this so simple tangible explanation. I a relieved because of the peace that came with the simplicity of the message. I am hopeful and excited to share these little excitements and truths with my kids and see them turn into balanced, rational thinkers and appreciators of logic. I am astonished because your story about your daughter's understanding of a dead cat was better than anything I have seen on t.v. all season.

    Thanks for sharing.


  6. Flower is beautiful part of enviourment.Every one likes their sweets smell.
    The knowledge about flowers is very well that will given in this website.

  7. Thank you everyone for appreciating and commenting on this post. It means alot.

    A special thanks to Anthony. The concept of their being no birth and no death is rotted in the basic tenets of Buddhism, so I would recommend a look into that. It is also basic life cycle science which is nice. I like to be up front with my daughter and tell her how the world works as best I know. I don't believe in death, just the passing of energy from one form to another, so that cat is not dead or gone, it truly is becoming a flower. Nothing can be simpler and I hope she understood that.

    I would recommend anything by Thich Nahn Hahn especially Living Buddha Christ (Great connections to Christianity, if that is your culture)

    Thanks again for your kind words and support.

  8. "She is instantly awake. Somehow exited by the possibility of sadness or an emotion that may overwhelm her."

  9. Julia's mum2:37 PM

    Very poignant, brought back memories of the premature birth and death at four days old of Julia's sister, Rachel. Julia was five at the time, we didn't hide it from her. Julia helped the nurse to bathe and dress her little sister after death. We buried her in the ancient English country churchyard across the road from our cottage, although we are not religious. It was easy to be honest in our explanations about why and where, the cycle of returning to the earth in order to give life to nature. Literally, stardust. A favorite book is "Unweaving the Rainbow" by Richard Dawkins. So glad Skylelar is okay now, what a scare for you all. Yes, once you have lost a child the world is not the same and you certainly always know what the important things are. Good luck and take care.
    Julia's mum.

  10. Thank you Julia's Mum. It makes me so happy that you read my blog, or at least this post, and feel comfortable enough to leave such a personal comment.

    I have such a respect for anyone who has gone through what you have, and your strength and commitment to life is inspiring.

    I wish we could have met years ago when I actually taught Julia. I know we may have briefly at a school function, but I mean met like sit and talk about Richard Dawkins, but schools have a knack for seldom allowing teachers to really meet their students' parents.

    I hope I will write something else that will draw out a comment from you.

    Who knows maybe some part of your Rachel has made it into my girls....Thanks again for opening up and sharing

  11. Julia's Mum6:50 AM

    Thank you too for those words - I look in on yours and Kaia and Skyelar's blogs regularly, thanks for sharing. Regards,
    Julia's mum

  12. Anonymous2:39 AM