I gazed out the front window at the two girls standing forlornly in my front yard. Their backs to me, they stood at the faded and peeling split rail fence, gazing at something in the road. Overhead, above the leafless trees across our road, dark clouds threatened more rain. I thought about where this moment might be heading, how I might make it softer, perhaps maybe even meaningful in some way. Still not sure, I grabbed my coat and and put on my garden shoes. My daughters had now traveled to the backyard, so I exited out the back door. While outside, I learned a squirrel had been unable to escape an encounter with a speeding auto. A search had now ensued for a suitable burial location. After a few minutes, I heard my oldest daughter suggest, “How about here, Papa?” She pointed to a patch of moss in a neglected flower bed.
“Sure, honey, let me grab a shovel.”
As I dug a small grave for Mr. Squirrel, my two oldest worked together to transport a medium sized granite stone from a far location in our yard, expertly lugging it about 30 yards across the rather pathetic April grass. “Oh, a headstone,” I commented. They both nodded.
It was then time for me to retrieve the body from the road, which I did.
After patting down dirt, deep and brown, my daughters began to adorn the site with small, decorative stones. Using acorns, they spelled a single word: “Squirrel.” I considered the possibility of gathering us all around the site, saying a few words on the animal’s behalf. But it never happened.
Later, inside the house, I watched the girls cut a daffodil and make a precious sign to place at the gravesite. And I suddenly thought about other animals lost: my first pet, the first pet I knew, a poodle killed by a passing car. I thought about other pets. And other people. And of course, my mom.
Life seems to have a way of creating strings of connected moments of loss, separated by time. I felt grateful this one didn’t pull too hard on our hearts.