• Caroline

Death and Kittens; Lessons from the Farm

There were kittens everywhere, come spring. I became so accustomed to them that when we moved away, it took me a long time to give up looking for cats when the catbirds would call and mock my efforts to find and rescue a distressed cat. Surely everywhere had kitty litters roaming about, batting the baby bunnies around as they stretch their hunting skills. I was hurt that my most beloved species, the feline, could be so cruel to a weaker creature. But my dad explained with compassion and very intelligently that it is in their nature to survive in the wild and they are learning the skills they will need to survive. I’m not sure that it made seeing tortured bunnies more pleasant of a sight, but I had watched the Lion King at that point and was beginning to understand the circle of life.


I vaguely recall witnessing a birth. Vaguely, because I undoubtedly have blocked out so much of those years, fleeing from the rampant pain and fear, that naturally some goodness got lost in the flight. Something miraculous taking place before my tender eyes. One life becoming eight lives within moments. Tiny little kittens wet with afterbirth, and the mama cat cleaned each with impressive efficiency. Gidget, I think that’s what her name was, a turtle patterned dark cat. Later she would be hit by a car and my dad would bring her in and try to nurse her back to health, a hole in her belly and a dismembered tail. I don’t recall if she survived. I wonder if she did not and my parents quietly put her to rest or if I just blotted the memory from my mind.


When you live on a farm, death is something you must come to terms with pretty rapidly, or else lose yourself completely in the final fact of life. It wasn’t just the baby bunnies. There was a litter of kittens that took ill. They were gone nearly as quickly as they came, but one. A little black kitten, just old enough to have opened her eyes and fluff up, held on longer than the others. She was sweet and could fit in my childish hands, fragile as she was. Her bluish eyes became hazy as she fought for life and then the tiny floating bugs would slide across her eyes as she would look up at me, silent.


We had a pond that filtered out to a creek that ran through the border of our property. It was a romantic place of adventure, escape, and stories that children make up to believe that their lives are destined for something more than the stronghold they currently live in. It was there, under a weeping willow that we buried her. We collected the Pokeweed berries and smashed their brilliant purple flesh against a large rock that marked her burial site. I cannot recall what it read, but I know that we recognized life was worth honoring.

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