Birds twittered in the trees as the soft sound of the ground grated on the metal shovel. The quiet sobs of two children disturbed only as much as the soft breeze blowing through the trees above them, slightly shaded by the gathering clouds.
Jennifer wiped a tear from her eyes, more for the heartbreak of her two daughters rather than the loss of a single pet lasa named Fluffy. They hadn’t even had the animal that long, rescued from the local shelter – like most of their pets – maybe something had been wrong with it from the start. Still, it didn’t lessen the bond that Willow and Sage had made with the animal in that short time.
Whereas to Jennifer, the small furry handful had been just another animal, something to teach the children about caring and responsibility; for the girls, it had been a friend to talk to in difficult times. Someone who understood the pain of a broken home and missing family members… the brothers who lived far over the seas.
Jennifer put an arm around each of the two girls as Jack, her new partner, filled the hole above their cherished lasa. The new life within her fluttered as well, perhaps sensing the distress of his or her sisters. She hardly noticed the long bushy tails that seemed to stroke her arms. Each girl had at least one more lasa on her shoulders, the creatures seeming to form quick bonds with them. Yet, somehow nature had spared the small creatures the need to mourn a fallen comrade.
A less caring parent would remind each of them that they still had other lasa to love and cherish, but Jennifer knew that this was difficult for the girls – especially Sage, who had never lost a pet before… and had been the one to find this one, lifeless, only an hour or two before. Life had such harsh lessons to teach!
Jack placed the final shovel of dirt into the grave and stood, the unshed tears glistening in his eyes. As her eyes met his, she knew that his tears were also more for the girls than for a small dead creature. He had also suffered his share of death in his life and was hardened to it, but the soft tears of two young girls melted the hard shells of experience of both of them.
It was proof again that Jack truly loved them – he loved Jennifer, he loved the girls like no one had ever truly loved them in their lives. She was proud that for some reason, he had seen fit to love them and make them his family – and bind them together with the new life forming within Jennifer’s body. She knew he would be a good father as he’d always wanted to be.
Finally, she broke the silence to talk to the girls.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “The best part of raising animals is getting to see the babies, the new life… the worst part is having to say ‘good bye’ when they die. He was a good lasa. You gave him a good life for the time you had him.”
“Why did Fluffy have to die?” Sage asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe there was something wrong with him that we couldn’t see. Lasa aren’t very big and in the wild they could become prey to other animals if they let it be obvious that they are sick. So, they keep their sickness quiet, they don’t tell us. And sometimes, they just seem to die for no reason. I’m sorry.”
The little one squirmed inside her again as if begging her to give them a reason to smile again. It didn’t seem right to her. A little brother or sister was very different from a furry lasa with a silly child name. The unborn fluttered again.
“I do have something good to share with you two,” Jennifer said, trying to find the right words – ones that wouldn’t diminish the pain the two were feeling.
“What?” Willow asked, searching her eyes for a reason to smile.
“It’s not about Fluffy, but about new life.”
“I think Patches is pregnant,” Willow volunteered.
“Really?” Jennifer asked.
Willow nodded. “New life follows death sometimes, from what I’ve been reading.”
“It always does,” Jennifer replied. “It’s called the Circle of Life. Death allows for new beginnings. I’m not saying that something has to die in order for something to be born, that would be the worst kind of cruelty, but new life always seems to follow death.” She took Sage’s hand and placed it on her slightly swollen belly.
Willow’s eyes grew wide. “I thought you were just getting fat! I didn’t want to say, of course!”
Jennifer laughed. Jack joined her and put his arms around the three of them. “Not a nice thing to say to your mother,” he admonished lightly.
“I know! That’s why I didn’t say anything!” Willow replied, her cheeks flushing.
“I can’t feel anything,” Sage complained.
“Maybe not yet, but you will soon,” Jennifer assured. “Your little brother or sister has been squirming a lot today. He or she seems sad for your loss as well.”
“You think he or she knows?” Willow asked.
“Do you girls have any final words to say to Fluffy before we head back inside? I think there’s a storm about to kick up,” Jack asked.
Willow knelt before the grave. Sage stood beside her. The lasas on their shoulders quickly adjusted their positions, but otherwise looked unconcerned.
“Thank you, Fluffy, for being a part of our lives – if only for a short time. I won’t forget you!” Willow said tearfully.
“We did our best to take care of you, Fluffy,” Sage added.
Willow stood and the two turned around, the tears fresh on their cheeks. Jennifer wiped another tear from her eye as she watched them.
The rain began to fall in a fine mist, the kind that would soak everything to the bone if they stayed out too long.
“We don’t want Patches and Scamper to get wet,” Willow said.
“Or Nibbly!” Sage added. “Mom, I want another lasa!”
Jennifer laughed. “We’ll see, Sage.”
“Not that it can take Fluffy’s place or anything,” she quickly added.
“I know, honey,” she replied.
“But life has to go on… right, Mom?”