Speak Eagle

Farewell to Cookie

This morning,  my oldest son came running through the house to find me, eyes wide with worry.  “Cookie can’t walk anymore!”  I followed him into his room.  He pointed, “He’s just lying on his food dish!”  I reached inside the cage and felt the soft, black fur of the little hamster.  His heart was still beating, and his eyes still twinkled life, so I picked him up and gently transferred him to my son’s hands.  He held him close.

“I think he’s dying, buddy.”  I pulled my brown-haired, blue-eyed son to my chest.  His shoulders shook as his tears dripped onto my shirt, the reality of losing his little friend hitting him hard.

I had been telling him that hamsters only last a year or two, and since we didn’t know Cookie’s age when we got him, his time with our family might be rather…limited.  (It was actually a sorry guilt-induced way of getting him to play with the forgotten little guy after Minecraft took over our world.)

Cookie was a surprise for his 9-year old birthday, almost one year ago.  We had hidden him in the laundry room with a sheet over his cage, and then at the perfect moment, when all 10 little birthday guests were gathered excitedly in the living room, I made my entrance.  As the birthday boy took off the sheet, he squealed, “My hamster!”

He had been asking for a hamster for weeks, and when asked what he would name him, he had always said, “Timmy.”  So, only for the sake of his friends, I asked, “What’s his name?”  He thought a moment and answered, “Cookie!”  And so it was.

But over the past few weeks, perhaps traumatized by 3-year old brother love-squeezes, perhaps deep in a clinical depression from a lack of attention from his owner, perhaps merely suffering the effects of age, Cookie had started ignoring the call of his favorite running wheel and sleeping most of the time.  His ears, which once stood up happily, now drooped.  I told my son he was becoming a little old man hamster.

Yet, even with warning, imminent death is still tragic.  I watched my little buddy holding his little buddy.  He asked me to take his picture.  A tear slipped down his cheek.

His three brothers gathered to say their goodbyes.  My husband led us in a prayer, thanking God for Cookie’s life, thanking God we were saying goodbye to a pet and not a person.

We laid Cookie back in his cage in a soft spot in the corner and put his blue, plastic shelter over him.  I promised my son I wouldn’t check on him until we did it together after school today.  And if he was gone, we would have a family ceremony in our backyard tonight and lay him to rest.

At breakfast, my son asked the question I knew was coming, “Will I see Cookie in heaven?”  I assured him that heaven would be more wonderful than we could ever imagine.  And if God determined that we needed our much-loved pets, they would be there too.  “But if Cookie is in heaven,” my mind raced as I tried to think of a way to lighten the mood, “maybe he will look different!  Maybe he will be dog-sized, or boy-sized!  Who knows?”  The boys all laughed at the thought.

My son grabbed his backpack.  I hugged him.  He headed for the door and then turned back.  I thought he was going to say something deep, stirring, perhaps about eternal life or heaven.  Instead, he cocked his head to one side and looked at me, “Mom, when Cookie dies, can I get a lizard?”

I won’t tell Cookie.

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