It's cold today, really cold. I'd put socks on the chickens if I thought they'd let me. I feel guilty going back into a warm house in the mornings after feeding and letting them out of the coop even though I confess to cooking oatmeal for the birds when it's really cold like this.
I like the cold because it is so snappy and wakes up your mind even if you're just saying, "What the heck, it's darned cold!" I grew up in Minnesota and even though it has been decades since I lived there, I still like the cold and the pride that comes from surviving the winters. But today, the cold just served to take misery to a new level.
Our oldest son has had a Maine Coon cat for about 11 years. If you aren't familar with the breed, it is a BIG cat. Sampson had an attitude from day one. Our son got him when he was living in his first house with a group of guys. Sampson witnessed a young man's days of coming of age, making mistakes, learning and growing and finally becoming a fine man with a family of his own. To be sure, Sampson kept some secrets I'm glad he could never share other than with a knowing look and slowly blinking eyes. Sammy liked to prowl the neighborhood and cast his large shadow, all the while wearing a tough looking spiked collar which was hilarious and more a testament to his attitude than his actions. Then, a few years ago at a long overdue trip to the vet it was revealed that somewhere in his wanderings Sammy had picked up feline leukemia. Vaccinations were sporadic living with a bunch of guys more interested in Friday night parties than pet care. Clearly, more than one of Sampson's nine lives would be needed to beat this.
He continued to rule the house and he would loudly announce dinner time, decided when one could pet his head and when it was better to keep your distance. Slowly, over the last two years Sampson's hulking frame had shrunk until he was not such an impressive guy anymore. His family did all they could to keep him comfortable. The little girls who snuggled him as a kitten are teenagers now who knew to be careful and worried over the changes taking place. Finally, the time came when Sampson lost the battle and his family had to make a hard decision. So, today, on the coldest day of the year so far, our youngest son helped his brother out and prepared a place at the edge of the woods and Sampson's family came to the farm and laid him to rest under the trees at a place he would have loved to explore.
With the passing of Sampson, also went those days where he was the last witness, a silent partner, to impulsive youth, wild dreams of adventure, dreams long forgotten. Saying goodbye to Sammy was saying goodbye to a part of our son's youth and that made it all even sadder. Yet, in our world today, death and departure are not spoken of so much. Kids know all about how they got here, how babies are made but talking about how we leave this world is a much more uncomfortable subject. Something about a farm atmoshere seems to make the realities of life and death clearer, perhaps. Both are beautiful, yet painful, in their own way. Each serves an important purpose. As one life enters the world, another leaves. On a bitterly cold day when you're saying a final goodbye to a dear friend, it sure is hard to appreciate those lessons.
I think we'll just be a little sad for a while first. Rest well, Sampson. You'll be missed, big guy.