It’s been a long day and I’m slipping off my shoes to do some yoga when my son opens the front door. “Mom,” he says, his voice breaking. “We found a dead kitten!” His face is flushed and his words constricted. I stand up and he folds himself into my arms. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I tell him. Momentarily forgetting my desire to forever eschew that word.

His friend, a boy a few years younger, is watching us closely. I ask Nels, “Should we bury it?” He has calmed almost immediately, needing from me only solace and strength, which is something I am so glad I can provide. It is in these moments where we don’t seek to change our kid or manipulate him but simply to be witness. A very precious, and very special, and very important moment. I suppose it is my mindfulness all these years that has helped my son grow into a child who cares about such things.

I am tired but I put my shoes back on, don a hoodie. The other boy’s brother joins us and we head down the hill; I bring the dog so he gets to stretch his legs.

The job is not pleasant. The feline is on the sidewalk in full view of passing foot and vehicular traffic, but has been left to rot for days. We have a large snow shovel to carry the remains, and a ridiculously small one to dig. We grimly march down the path; I am reminded that many years ago I had wanted to pursue forensic pathology but my sensitivity to the smell of rot and decay queered the deal. I am the grownup here today so I have to keep my chin up and be very matter-of-fact, although truthfully the whole business makes me sad. Who left this little baby all alone to just rot, without a word of kindness?

The other two boys with us, are interested in every detail of the process. A few minutes into our burial the older one ventures back home for shoes (he’d made the trek down the hill in sock feet). The other pulls up the legs of his trousers and does another jig, “We’re going to a funeral!” he sings a made-up tune. He wants to build a cross for the grave.

The job gets done one way or another and I am home to take a hot shower and to dress in bedclothes and fold myself under the blankets. It’s the loneliest thing thinking of burial, but it is worse to think of some creature forgotten and unloved, without even a word or prayer said.