Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

Today, April 14th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

I buried our family cat this week.  It happened this way: I had just sat down at my desk and switched on the light.  A few minutes earlier, my wife and I had spoken briefly, softly in the early morning light.  “I’m a little worried,” I’d said. “She wasn’t at the back door this morning.”  The moon had been full the night last, and I had been unable to coax our cat, Melon, back inside for the evening hours.  Not unusual, though.  She had spent many an evening gallivanting.

“I’ll look,” my wife had said.

Opening my laptop, I had barely settled into my chair when the frantic tapping from outside my home office window began. I looked up.  The look on my wife’s face through the glass, tears streaming down. She pointed to the yard below. I knew.  I burst outside, following my wife’s direction, moving wildly through the grass, toward the little orange heap.

And then I found her. Head on her front paws, she could have been asleep.  I placed my hands on her striped fur and met my wife’s pinched, questioning gaze, as she stood at the top of the yard.  “Is she?” she asked, sobbing.  I nodded.

Once inside, telling my little girls felt almost harder than finding Melon.  We all wept together.  My oldest daughter wrote a letter to say good-bye, we will miss you.  The rain began to fall outside.

It is April.  The month my beloved mother passed away nearly three years ago.  Loss. I know many are experiencing unspeakable loss right now, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.  As I dug a makeshift grave in the garden for my deceased pet that morning, I tried to keep things in perspective. Aside from this sweet animal, we remain healthy.

And for that, I am grateful.

Loss, a poem

Loss

Now a familiar
stranger
pushes on my 
chest with
gentle hands
Leaves indelible
images, meaning
to ponder.

Author: Lanny Ball

For more than 27 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy specialist, working and living in the great state of Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on this blog, as well as on Twitter @LannyBall. Lanny is also a co-author of a blog dedicated to supporting teachers and coaches that maintain classroom writing workshops, twowritingteachers.org.

18 thoughts on “Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge”

  1. Your pain (and your family’s) comes through on every line, not just in the poem, but in the narrative as well. You name the loss, and the reverberations of the loss, perfectly. Your words will stick with me long after I close my computer.

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  2. I felt sorrow for your family upon reading this. You described the event and your feelings in such detail. Human loss is so prevalent right now, but that doesn’t change the feelings in our heart when we lose a beloved pet. Feeling grateful while mourning. Your poem was a perfect way to wrap up your slice.

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  3. “pushes on my chest with gentle hands”–such an apt phrase for the feeling of grief, after one has known loss. With the stressors of our odd way of living these days, I imagine those hands pushed a bit harder, one more proverbial straw, especially in light of the anniversary. I am sorry for your family’s loss; your post reminds me of my own mother’s passing, finding my neighbor’s cat on the side of the road…sobering thoughts.

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  4. Well, my eyes have filled with tears. You told this story in a way that made me breathe in deeply and feel like it was becoming a little hard to swallow. This is such a hard time – a pet is a family member. Lanny, I am sorry for your loss. My Corgi Rhonda is fifteen and starting to look a little frail. We are thankful for every day we have her. Your poem “Loss” was beautiful, Lanny. I have already reread it twice. I think it will stay with me for a long time.

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    1. Thank you so much for this feedback, Lynne. It was a difficult story to write. I’m thankful you still have Rhonda, as I’m sure she means so much to you and your family. Oh, and thanks for the kind words about the poem – poetry is always something I feel uncertain to try.

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  5. Lanny, your story reverberated with me as many years ago, I too lost an ‘orange ball of fur’ who was a real part of our family. You communicate the shock and panic of the first pangs of realisation so well with “frantic tapping…burst outside..moving wildly”. Your poem is such a restrained contrast, yet hits the heart hard. Thank you for expressing your grief in such a moving tribute.

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  6. I am so sorry for your pain. I know others might say, “It’s just a cat,” but it’s not so. And the timing…April is, indeed the “cruelest month.”
    The poem I love, evoking a cat’s kneading. It’s just beautiful.

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  7. A heart-wrenching story in heart-wrenching times … that image of Melon with her head on her paws as if sleeping … I don’t know if there’s a word in our language for it, so sweet and terrible and beautiful all at once. Your wife’s pinched face … having to tell the children … I understand why my dad didn’t want us to have pets when I was growing up. The loss of little beloved creatures is sharp and searing. Not sure if he was trying to protect us or himself … but the pain is the price of love. I know that familiar stranger, pushing with gentle hands (sometimes ripping with steely hands) and the indelible images. True and beautiful, Lanny. I am sorry. I know you all miss Melon (love the name). I hope that soon you’ll all be able to take comfort in remembering her stories. I admire your perspective and how fervently I wish comfort to the families enduring tragic losses in these times.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m so sorry. The way you describe the before (when we feel like something is wrong, but we’re not sure) and then the after (when we know and are in disbelief) was done so well. This is a universal experience, but it is also an individual private experience. Thank you for sharing and bringing forth memories of our own beloved cat.

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  9. Your perspective, at the end of this slice, is wonderful, Lanny. YET, it is still a loss in a month that is already loaded with emotion for you & your family. (I can’t believe it’s been three years since your mom has passed. I remember learning of her passing like it was just yesterday. If I had been a betting woman, I would’ve thought it was just two years ago. For you, though, I’m sure the years are passing by slowly without her.)

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