To My Grandson TeJuan On Learning Of The Death Of His Hamster

An Essay by Richard Hartwell

TeJuan, life is sometimes far too fleeting. That’s a big grandpa word that means it is too short and over too quickly. I know you are sad and I heard from your grandma that you were upset. I understand, and I feel very badly for you. Some people may tell you that you will get over it, the “it” being the hurt you feel, and they may tell you that the hamster is in a better place, in heaven or with God. Well, it has been my experience that I don’t want to get over things, even the sad things, too quickly. I want to try to understand them, like you, and when I can’t, like you again, I try to learn to accept what I cannot change and to keep the thought of it in my mind to think about every now and then, later. As for the other part of what some people say, about your hamster being in a better place like heaven or whatever they choose to call it, well — I just do not know. And that is being very honest.

Different people all over the world have different ways of thinking about death and dying, for hamsters and for people, too. Some really smart people all throughout history have given a lot of study and sometimes a lot of words to this subject. And they do not have the answers either. Some really dumb people throughout history, and many still around today, seem to think they have all the answers and they are only too pleased with themselves and ready to share their special answers. Sometimes they will even share when you do not necessarily want to hear them.

I guess what grandpa is trying to say to you in his own plodding way is that your hamster is most likely where you think it is. It is there in heaven if you like that idea. Or it is there in the backyard if you like that idea better. Or perhaps a little tiny bit of it is left in your heart. I do not know exactly. I do not have easy answers and perhaps the easy answers are not the best answers anyway. One small thing I do know though is that your hamster is in your memory and in your thoughts. And that is a very good place for your hamster to be.

Perhaps it is not easy for you to think about your hamster right now. It should not be easy. But you will reach a point after more time when you can remember the good times with your hamster without automatically remembering this bad time. That is what makes life worthwhile, even a brief, short life. I wish I could tell you honestly that it is the only death you will have to think about. Sadly, there will be others. But maybe that is also part of the memory of your hamster. He can help you grow up just a little bit more, even if you do not understand things any better. Come to think of it, TeJuan, I get confused by it too. But I am here if you want to talk some more. I love you. Grandpa.

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