Pets die. When they do, we practice feeling, letting go, and learning about the cycle of life.

Nesta says hello to snowcat, Susan Michael Barrett, photographer

Maybe Brennan’s response to my question this week, “How do you know your Dad loves you?” was preparation. I sat on the rocking chair in the backyard at Starr’s House while Brennyn skipped a circle, hopped over a rock, smiled broadly and replied, “Because he died and now he’s in my heart."

I stood up and walked over to Starr and asked, “Did Brennyn’s Dad die?” “Yes,” she said. I didn’t know. I asked the question with curiosity about how a child feels a parent's love.

Brennyn’s response reminds me of the day Carly, a class gerbil, died. Team teacher at Dublin Montessori Academy, Sue Metzger, found her when we arrived for class and had placed a polka-dot-patterned doll blanket the size of my hand over her body. Carly looked like she was tucked in for sleep.

We told the children what happened and that we will take time to say goodbye to Carly. We invited them to gather around her house. Carly’s face peeked out from the cover.  The children took turns looking at her.

“Carly, you were a nice pet.”

“Tell God hello.”

“I liked watching you exercise.”

Then Tomas threw up. One of us helped Tomas. The other children simply accepted this and continued.

“I thought you were hamster Carly.”

“I’ll always love you.”

“Now you’re in our heart, Carly,” said Maxwell.

Pets provide opportunities to practice loving, letting go, and accepting the cycle of life. After all of us said what we needed to say, we went back to circle. After all of us said what we needed to say, we went back to circle. One of the children suggested we sing “I love my Montessori Classroom.” We sang. The next day, together, we buried Carly outside our classroom window. 

My kittycat Nesta passed peacefully today. I know what Brennan and Maxwell mean when they say we carry those we love in our heart. I feel that about my son who died 6 years ago, and since that experience, understand better that I carry all the love I have for others with me, whether they are here physically or not. This is the ultimate gift. Real love. What I truly own is love.