It hasn't been the easiest day. The death of a family pet isn't earth-stopping news--unless you're eleven years old, it's your cat, and he was your best friend.
So Jeremiah especially is having a rough time of it. He and I buried Saber by the pasture fence in the back. He chose an appropriate spot: it's right in the middle of everything. His epitaph for Saber was heartfelt and fitting: "He was a good cat."
How do you answer a kid when he asks you why his cat had to die? I don't have the answer; never have, never will. But I, who have been here too many times before, take comfort in something that Jeremiah doesn't understand yet: the river flows on.
Life goes on. It can seem like a slap in the face when one is immersed in grief, as though life itself is unfeeling, uncaring, oblivious of your pain. But the reality is that, even though you want everything to stop, life will lift you up and carry you on. Life is stronger than death; it will flow unchecked. There are still good gifts in the future; the painful present will become the past; perspective will be restored.
So I heard Sandhill Cranes this afternoon as I waited for Jeremiah's schoolbus to arrive. I looked up to see a swirl of them high overhead, almost out of sight.
And I decided to go to the river this evening, and the first thing that flooded my conciousness, even before I waded in, was the sound: the many voices of the river joining in their neverending chorus.
There were no steelhead tonight. But there was life and beauty and order and signs all around--like the Sandhills had been--of the great dance of the seasons that moves in time to the chorus sung by rivers.
I listened to that chorus until dusk, and maybe when I got home and Jeremiah was still grieving and still wanting to talk about his cat I was able to pass on some of what I had heard: the river flows on; it will be alright.