The first thing we noticed was that she had trouble opening her right eye all of the way and she couldn't climb with her usual acrobatic grace. With closer observation, we watched her start to drag the back foot on her right side more and more.
We had noticed that our plump little princess had been losing weight, but we still weren't ready for this.
Jacob thought she might miraculously heal. The rest of us paid it would be over with quickly and painlessly. Neither happened.
She had another stroke that affected her other side. No eyes to open. A huge struggle to get anywhere in the cage. And yet, she still let us love on her when we reached for her.
It really was very sad.
Monday, when the boys returned to school (last week) she finally passed on. Michael is the earliest to come home so he received the news first. Throughout her slow passing, Michael became more and more distant from Cutie Moody. When she died, he did not want to see her little body or participate in her funeral. His only expressed concern was that he was not looking forward to dealing with Jacob and his wailing. I know that sounds insensitive, but this is how Michael deals with death. He disconnects as soon as possible and grieves internally. Because I know him, I know it makes him sad and he feels the loss. To an outsider, they might see his reaction as disconnected and uncaring.
When Jacob arrived home and heard the news, he cried. It was a soft, sweet cry unlike the wailing anticipated by Michael (and, in truth, by me as well). He wanted to hold her and pet her one last time so I placed her in his hands. It was a sweet moment. He didn't want to wait for the Doc to get home to bury Miss Moody so I got a shovel and headed outside with him. We talked about the things we loved about Cutie and even laughed at how she would "scream" at us when she was new to our home. She was a feisty one!
No burial is worth much without a grave marker, so Jacob had me design one from a rock we found nearby.
And after it was all said and done, Jacob let me know privately that he didn't think Michael's reaction to Cutie Moody's death was at all appropriate. Where were the tears? Why didn't he hold her? In his mind, Michael had a problem because his way was different.
And there you have it.
When people handle things differently from us, we judge.
If it isn't our way, we struggle to comprehend.
Just because we can't see what we expect on the outside, we assume something is broken on the inside.
This was a great lesson for both of my boys in accepting the differences in others.
My hope is that someday they will embrace each others' ways and see the benefit of them.
I hope that they will work harder to walk around in someone else's shoes and experience compassion for people who are different from them.
We were, after all, placed on this earth to love one another.
If nothing else, they have at least been taught that we all grieve in different ways.
And that's how it is with hamsters... and men.