It was not the easiest way to start the weekend.
Miss Innocent One kept telling me Thursday night there was something wrong with her gerbil, Daisy. I was tired and there was nothing I could do, so I did my best to make light of it, to remind her that Daisy sometimes had weird times, like the night she had a dead leg and flopped around her cage, but was fine the next morning. I wasn't convincing and my daughter went to bed fighting the tears, knowing things were not right.
The next morning as I went to wake her up, I peeked in the gerbil cage to find Daisy belly up and her buddy Maizy gnawing at her leg. Miss Innocent One saw me staring at the cage and her eyes asked the question. I didn't know how to tell her so I raised my eyebrows and bit my lip.
"What?" she asked.
"I'm sorry, honey, Daisy died."
And the tears poured.
She is twelve, on the cusp of adolescence, yet retains so much child-like innocence. When you're the oldest in the family, that's no big deal, because everyone else in the family is there with you, but when you're the youngest, and your siblings are teens or older, no one sympathizes much anymore with childhood woes. They've grown up and don't see life as you do. As we told Miss Innocent One's siblings of the untimely death, they reacted to the live gerbil eating the deceased one, but didn't offer much comfort. When we lost other gerbils years ago, they were all children, all wanted to see the burial site, but with this one, they had more pressing things to attend to. As we laid Daisy to rest, only Miss Innocent One, her dad and me participated.
I sense Miss Innocent One knows if she openly grieves her little pet, she'll catch it from her siblings. It's not that they're insensitive, but they're teenagers, wrapped up in their own lives right now, forgetful of how it feels to be a kid. I've watched my young daughter buck up, keep an actual stiff upper lip, her eyes ready to spill at any moment, but her resolve determined to wait until she's alone.
And something about that, the loss of being able to be a little girl, strikes me as a greater tragedy than the passing of her precious Daisy. She feels a need to be strong, tough. She's decided it's time to grow up.
It says in Ecclesiastes, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven" and I sense we're coming to a new season in our family, a season without the wonder and innocence of children. While my youngest mourns her beloved pet, I grieve the passing of my last kid feeling free to be a child. Every stage brings new joys and this one will too, but today it makes me a little sad.
Rest in peace, little Daisy, and be still my soul.