About three weeks ago, we noticed that she was barely eating and was becoming skin and bones. A two weeks she stopped using the steps. The last two days were spent in increasing confusion, and if she wasn't laying down, she was wandering as best she could as if she wasn't sure where she was.
Gav was wonderful with her, carrying her to her litter box and water bowl during her last days, speaking gently to her, and making sure she had her cat toys by her when she was sleeping. On Monday morning, when we left for school and work, he told me he was worried that she would die -- but he was more worried that she would be in pain while she died.
We can only hope she wasn't. When we got home that night, she was gone. She laid down and died. It looked like she was sleeping. Gav cried a little, as did I, and I held him while we looked at her body and while I wondered what to do next. Surely he would be too broken up to do more than cry.
How wrong I was.
Gav knelt next to her and picked her up. "I want to hold her," he said simply, taking her onto his lap and petting her one last time.
When we wrapped her in a small blanket, he helped. And, as we prepared to bury her, he insisted on putting her little wrapped body in the plastic bag. When we took her out to bury her (not on our property), he took the laundry basket that we put her in and carried it to the car. He helped dig her grave.
Not once did I see him shrink from the tasks he set for himself. He did what he had to do. But this was a had to do that he set for himself. He decided to see Winnie's burial through to the end. Gavin himself decided.
Once before I wrote about how I know that Gav is his own person, and that I am only allowed to borrow him for a while. Watching him lay Winnie's box in the grave and then take the shovel from his father so that he could bury her himself... I can only say I was humbled by his strength. My gentle little son, who fretted that morning not about her death so much as her being alone and in pain when she did pass away, knew what he needed to do to heal himself and face the loss. As he shoveled the dirt back into the grave, I swear that I caught a glimpse of the man he will grow into.
Like any parent, I worry about how life will treat my child. I worry about disappointments and successes. I worry about bullies and broken hearts. I dread the day when a mother's hug can't solve everything. As I tucked him into bed that night, I told Gav how proud I was of the way he helped us take care of Fuzz and helped us bury her. And he looked at me, a bit confused by the idea. "I was worried how you would react," I explained. "I was worried that you would scream and cry and run away." After all, previous to this, he'd buried only hermit crabs and an occasional goldfish.
And he looked at me, again a bit confused. "Why would I do that?"
The thought of not being a part of her burial, I realized, had never crossed his mind.
As I gave him one more hug good night, I kissed the top of his head and managed not to cry. Life won't be easy for him, it never is for any of us, but I'm a little more okay with that now. He'll be able to handle it.