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 Brennan 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 Brennan’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.

Brennan’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 over her.

At circle 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. Time. What I truly own is love and time. 


  1. Great post! So glad to be participating in Flying Lessons with so many talented and remarkable women!

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    1. What a lovely moving post. You are a good writer! So sorry to hear about the loss of your son and your kitty. I wish you peace and healing and love.
      Shelly Jack (fellow flying lessons flyer)

    2. Thank you Shelly! So happy to be flying with you. Heading out to find your blog.

  3. Great post! I am not a parent but I can relate to
    your posts since I spent my first career as a teacher.
    I also have two studio assistants ( five year old
    Wheaten terriers) so I understand the loss of a pet.
    I love the quotes from the kids about the gerbil.
    Priceless. Out of the mouths of babes!
    I am a fellow flier from Virginia.

    1. Thank you Kandy. I just sent you an email. I looked for your blog and facebook page on Flying, so I wasn't sure. Thanks so much for your comment and connection. Absolutely delighted to meet you.

  4. (Hmm... I'm a longtime follower of parental gleanings but I dunno about the flyers reference yet.)

    This is such a truthful tale! I learned that it takes time to recognize loss from a childhood friend of my son's. The two boys were great pals in early elementary. One school day Ted's father came home from an afternoon run and went to rest. Unbelievably, he had a massive heart attack and never got up. His young, brave wife made the decision to go ahead with plans for Ted's 6th birthday party on Saturday. Timmy went to the party and came home happy saying mom, I bet you were wrong about Ted's father dying! He was happier than ever today. I held him and quietly wept at the poignancy of that day, and the sure knowledge that Ted would have to come to recognize his loss, even as the celebrations of life went on.

    1. Belle,

      Thank you for telling this. xo. The story about Timmy going to Ted's birthday party and finding "happier than ever" joy within one of life's biggest losses--of a parent--and the courage of Ted's mom to "go ahead" reminds me of human potential while in the midst of difficulty and loss.

      Flyers references my classmates in Kelly Rae Roberts eCourse. I'm studying with others about stepping fully into my creative life. The course is called Flying Lessons.