The terror in his voice gripped my heart like a vice.
“Mom! He’s dead!”
I swung my legs off the arm of the couch and bolted upright as every vertebrae in my back reminded me I can no longer move that fast. But the piercing anguish in his voice compelled me to force myself into motion. I ran for him, and stood there dumbfounded as my son cradled a dead kitten in his arms, tears streaming down his face. And all I could think at that moment was, “Get this thing out of my house!”
I said it with such authority, he ran for the door, panicking with every step, wondering at my reaction. I could see that he was distraught, but all I could think about was the germs and disease he was no doubt touching. “Put him down and go wash your hands!”
Tears streaming down his face, he placed the kitten gently on the ground. “But mom, he was just alive. Why is he dead? How could he have died so quickly? Look at his mouth!” I did, and I saw my son’s vain attempt to wipe small white things out of the kitten’s mouth. He was so sure that was what killed the cat. I was so sure that was very unsanitary. “Go in and wash your hands with soap. Scrub with Dawn dish liquid until your sister has sung the ABCs twice.”
I stared down at the cat, utterly lost in my disgust. And then I felt it. A twinge. Guilt. How callused have I become? Here is death right in front of me and I am thinking about germs. Here is a sweet, cuddly, innocent kitten and I am cringing at dirt. Like a knife, the truth cut me wide open and I became all at once ashamed of myself. And very proud of my son. One of us understands love. And one of us desperately needs to be taught.