The hardest lesson we teach our children is loss. I have two daughters and my youngest is 8-years-old. In the last three years, she has felt the weight of the loss of a sibling, her beloved dog, a cousin and a goldfish. She has a great grandmother and a great-great aunt who are both in their late 80’s and we know more loss is on it’s way but I want to protect them for as long as possible.
Yesterday morning before school, we had the girls say goodbye to Teddy just in case the vet could not save him. I was a nervous wreck. My daughter collapsed into my arms and whispered through tear stained cheeks, “Mommy, please don’t let him die.” I knew in that moment, I was going to fight as hard as I’d ever fought to keep this little guy alive.
I found the best exotic pet vet in town, begged to be squeezed in as soon as possible and drove across the city with the weak little guy strapped into the front seat in a box, I gingerly seat belted him in as to not disturb him in his weakened state. I felt sick to my stomach. A million what ifs ran through my mind and they all ended with me breaking my daughter’s heart.
At the veterinarian’s office, Teddy was thoroughly checked. I was told that it was pneumonia. The remedy? Antibiotics and IV fluids. I was given more liquid antibiotics to give him twice a day until he was well. I left there feeling like I had dodged a major bullet. I had saved him and spared my daughter, yet another loss.
We spent the day holding him and talking to him. He quietly chirped and nuzzled into my chin. At first his breathing was labored but soon it quieted and he lay, softly against me where he stayed for hours before doing the same with my daughter.
This morning, she held him while she ate breakfast. The Big Guy and I took him briefly to administer his meds. He chirped loudly, which at first I thought was an improvement from his listlessness yesterday but then I began to consider that maybe it was pain that elicited his reaction.
My daughter kissed him goodbye and told him that she loved him before she went to school this morning. Then she said, “See you after school, Teddy Bear.” Only she won’t.
I came home and cleaned up the house a little bit and then I checked on our little Teddy. I picked him up and he was completely limp but warm. A first, I thought maybe he was fine just still because of the pneumonia and then; I realized he wasn’t breathing and he was not responsive.
I can’t even explain the reaction I had. I sobbed and lost my breath because I don’t want to be the one to break my daughter’s heart. I can still hear her whispering for me to save him. It lingers in the air like the faint smell of perfume after someone leaves the room.
Today, when she comes home, I am tasked with the unfortunate duty of telling her that her beloved longhaired Guinea Pig, Ted Koppel, has died in my arms from pneumonia while my daughter was at school. I hate teaching my children about loss because it is one that they will learn over and over in this life.
Now, it’s pick up time. Time to be there for my girl, after I have to break their tiny hearts and tear their world apart. I hate this part of parenting.