I started reading to Andrew at bedtime again. His response to books and reading has become more ecstatic, and he’s been picking up books, flipping through them, and touching the pictures himself. I know reading from infancy is important, but I fell into the trap of believing the stories I read to him were doing nothing for him. Thankfully now, he’s been asking, in his own way, for stories.
We read one of his first books, one of the three stories I read to him before falling into the trap. “The Feelings Book” by Todd Parker has abstract, bright pictures that look similar to child’s drawings. They are simple, clean, and espressive. Back then, I knew that reading the same story to Andrew several times would boost his intelligence, so I read it to him everyday. Sometimes several times a day, trying to get him to touch and see the pictures.
Tonight, I was reluctant to pick it up again. I was tired of the story. I never thought I would feel this way. But I chose it, and read it to him.
As soon as I opened the book, I saw the line, “Sometimes I feel afraid” over the picture of a little mouse beside a large cat. I hesitated before reading the line. I instantly thought of my mouse, April, in her cage by the bedroom door.
She’s aged much worse than my previous five mice. The others became decrepit over time, their backs arching and fur shedding, then one day, laying down in their favorite places to sleep and die. They moved slowly, sniffed more frequently (their little noses and whiskers would jitter), and they spent long hours in the same spot day by day. April, though, is deteriorating. Her eyes are sunken and bruised, her spine turns to one side, and she hobbles on uneven feet. She can barely lift her head, and I have to move to water bottle to her every few hours so she can drink. She remains in her pile on food and feces. To clean her cage, I have to move carefully. To touch her, I have to barely brush the tips of her fur. She’s the last of my mice. She was always the most sweet, the most welcoming and compliant. It seemed so cruel she was the last to die, alone.
Sometimes, I wish she would die, just so she doesn’t have to suffer and live alone anymore. I hope to find her like my first mouse to pass away, Poppy, who crawled into my hand when her time had come.
But I’m sorry to say, I’m reluctant to touch April. I keep thinking she’s ill or infected by the way she looks. I’m nervous to catch something from her if I stroke her to comfort her with a bare finger (I’ve been using cloth gloves, the same ones I used to pick her up when she would squirm and I thought she would nip me).
She used to try to curl up and sleep with three of my other mice, the ones I got (including April) after my first two, Poppy and Misery, passed away. But the females all found ways to fight each other, and April would have to rest with them one at a time, usually with Bandit. When I separated them, and Bandit and Sarset crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I eventually brought aging Vheissu to her cage. April stayed with her until the last moment, when I carried Vheissu’s body from the cage.
Tomorrow, my husband and I are attending the memorial for a friend. I had only met him twice, but he was so kind, genuine, and sincere. We were in a group of mutual friends, and he remembered me from the first time we met among the same group. I saw what a good friend he was. I didn’t know he was dieing until I saw a post on Facebook that he had gone septic and was in the hospital.
I prayed for his recovery, but felt like I was hitting a wall. I prayed and prayed, and my words almost felt stale. Then, I whispered, “Lord, if You Will for him to come Home to You, please make it painless and sweet.” Rest descended onto my soul, and I knew that our friend’s death was approaching.
He had been deteriorating for weeks before the morning he passed away. I met with one of our mutual friends who said the last time he saw our friend, he was in a bed, barely able to move or speak. He was dying then.
How does it feel to know your death is close? Or the death of something, or someone, is close? Almost peaceful, but static with so much lost opportunity. I think of the times I could have seen my friends while I was in school, spending an evening with them instead of picking up more time at work or watching TV alone in my apartment. I could have trained April to sit comfortably in my hand, or gotten her a friend to be with her during this time (I know I can’t have any more mice, and thought April would go quickly and quietly like the others, so I thought a new mouse would outlive April and I would have to continually buy mice to replace the ones I lost). I could have spent the last 5 months reading every night to my son, putting him to sleep with stories rather than overhearing the TV or a song on my phone.
How much more do we gain from life when we realize there can, and will be, and end to it. We don’t have endless time to waste, but an amount to use. To love, to be, to do what we’re meant to do.
And truth, however difficult it may be, is made sweet when we realize it, and accept it to be.