My kids know I don’t like rodents. Of any kind. Squirrels, mice, gerbils, rats, hamsters. They just know. And for a long time, they knew not to ask for a pet. But my son, my son. He wanted a pet so badly and his sister had allergies so no dogs or cats. He didn’t stop talking about it. He took books out from the library and researched gerbils and hamsters. He found a cage for free from a nice lady at church. What was I to do? Say no?
He was responsible and well behaved and I knew he was up to the task. So yes, we gave in and bought him a gerbil almost two years ago.
My son has loved this gerbil he called Hercules, which I thought was a wicked cute name – even if the rodent itself was not particularly cute.
Hercules made a lot of noise during the day. One time he escaped. One time he hadn’t been fed and was jumping like crazy around the cage so I overcame my fears and fed the poor little guy. Even though really he could have jumped out at any time. And then who knows what would’ve happened.
But my son loved his gerbil. He cared for him. He fed him every day. He cleaned his cage every two weeks (almost.) I guess I didn’t realize how attached or how the strings of his heart had thickened.
Two days ago, my younger son found Hercules unmoving.
We all checked him out and yes, Herc had moved on to gerbil heaven. I found my son in the bathroom sobbing into my husband’s shirt. His chest heaving, the emotion and the heartache spilling out. But it didn’t stop there. Off and on, he’d start crying. He buried Herc with a gravestone and said a prayer.
Now I admit I’m not saddened by this but I am absolutely broken at seeing my son go through such grief. It made me think.
The human heart trapped inside our body, pumping blood in and pumping it out. It’s just an organ like any other. So why when heartaches come our way do we feel it inside our chest? The ache starts slowly and builds and soon it rushes up and wells out our eyes. It consumes our body. Afterward we still feel it, long after the tears are gone.
This morning, he said, “I don’t feel well. Like not sick sick but my body aches and I feel bad.”
I held him and cried with him and tried to let him know that it will get easier.
And Hercules will never be forgotten.
So here’s to you, Herc. You’ll be missed.