Rarely, we come upon an “old soul” in the body of a child. It’s a thing that we, as parents, sometimes overlook until we take the time to listen.
My little Hannah is one of those “old souls”. A child that seems to have wisdom beyond her eight years. It could be compassion mistaken for wisdom or more likely, a combination of both. No matter what it may be, she is a truly remarkable child.
One Saturday morning, a few weeks ago, Hannah was watching an infomercial for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital while I was busily cleaning the kitchen. She didn’t make a sound through out the entire program. I thought she had fallen asleep and continued my cleaning. After the program was over, Hannah walked out onto our back deck and sat for a while before coming into the kitchen and announcing that she was going to cut off her hair and give it to be made into a wig for a child at St. Jude. My first reaction was to tell her that she could not do that. We had been growing her bright red hair since birth and aside from the regular trim, it had never been cut. I knew my husband would not be a happy camper if I told him that we were going to cut her hair for any reason.
Hannah then informed me that it wasn’t up to me any longer. She had prayed about it while she was out on the deck and it was OK with God. How do you argue with that? I couldn’t. I thought if I gave it a few days, she would forget all about it and that would be the end of it. The next day, she asked me when we were getting her hair cut. She asked the following day and everyday until I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I finally told my husband, who, as expected was firmly against the idea but Hannah was insistent. She informed us that she was going to send in her hair if she had to cut it off herself. It’s true, by the way, what they say about redheads. Mine is as stubborn as the day is long.
I contacted our local Locks of Love coordinator who told me how to prepare the hair and then I put it in a ponytail and sick to my stomach, cut it off. Hannah didn’t want the free haircut at the beauty salon. She insisted that I cut her hair. I put the 13.5 inch ponytail in a gift bag and gave my daughter a “bob”.
Our local newspaper took pictures of her holding up her ponytail and gave her all most an entire page in the paper. It was that photograph that set things in motion that I was in no way prepared for. A woman in a neighboring town had seen Hannah’s story and contacted me. She said that she was impressed with such a young child making such a big decision on her own and wanted to give Hannah a gift. Of course I was skeptical. Pretty little girl in the newspaper plus some stranger calling about said pretty little girl, wanting to give her a gift? Two and two equals pedophile? At least that’s what I was thinking.
I talked to my husband about the phone call and we agreed not to say anything to Hannah until we knew what this “gift” was. Even then, we would not take her with us if we decided to pick up the gift. Through several more phone calls and emails, I found out that the gift was a gerbil along with the habitat, food, bedding, water bottle and toys. The woman promised enough gerbil food to last for six months. She said that her son had tired of the gerbil and she thought that Hannah would be the perfect person to give it to. She said it was her way of showing Hannah that people appreciate knowing that there are good kids out there.
While Hannah was in school one Friday, my husband and I went and picked up the gerbil. As promised, the gerbil came with everything that a gerbil could want.
When Hannah came home from school and walked into her room, we heard the biggest squeals of delight! Hannah was ecstatic! And so we had a new family member. Maisey. It was instant love between the two of them. Everyday, Hannah gave Maisey fresh food and water. She changed Maisey’s bedding once a week and every night, she sat and read Maisey a bedtime story. After school, Hannah would run to see Maisey before she would do anything else and remarkably, Maisey responded to Hannah’s voice. When Maisey was put in her “roaming” ball, she followed Hannah through out the house. It seemed like they were meant for each other.
We had never had a gerbil or any other rodent like creature before so I didn’t know much about them but Maisey had a place on her tummy that almost looked like an umbilical cord and it would get hung up in her exercise wheel when she ran. I thought that she was too old to have an umbilical but I really didn’t know how old Maisey was, so I tried to contact the previous owner. I left messages and sent numerous emails, wanting to know more about Maisey and how old she was and what was that thing on her tummy? I have never received a reply.
One night, Hannah came running into our bedroom crying. She said that there was an emergency with Maisey. She was bleeding. I went to see what the problem was, thinking it was nothing, but Maisey was bleeding. Profusely. She had started chewing on the thing on her tummy as though she was trying to chew it out of her. I didn’t know what to do. I took cage and all into the laundry room and left Maisey there for the night. She was in obvious pain and I didn’t want Hannah to watch her friend die.
The next morning, Maisey was still alive. The bleeding had stopped and she was sleeping. Hannah had gone to school but not before making me promise to take care of Maisey. I called every vet and pet store in the phone book that morning and they all told me the same thing…Maisey had a tumor. It is a common thing amongst small animals and she would die from it eventually. Several vets also told me that there was no way that the previous owner could not have known there was a problem. Now we know why my messages were never answered.
When Hannah came home from school, I sat her down and explained what was wrong with Maisey. I told her that Maisey would be going to heaven soon. Hannah was devastated. She cried for quite a while before going to sit with Maisey. I wanted to find some way, any way, to spare my child the pain of losing her pet. but there was nothing I could do. I thought about keeping Maisey in the laundry room permanently so that Hannah would not have to watch her suffer, but Hannah would have none of that. Instead, she decided that when Maisey started chewing, she would cover the cage with a piece of fabric.
The next night, Hannah came and asked if we could find a way to put Maisey to sleep so she wouldn’t suffer anymore. I was surprised that she would come to that decision on her own. Nothing had been said about putting Maisey to sleep. Hannah had watched her friend closely and she knew that Maisey was in pain and she decided that it was time to end her suffering. I was taken aback. Sensing my surprise, Hannah explained to me that God had brought Maisey to her so that Maisey would know what it was like to have a friend who loved you and so she would know what a bedtime story sounded like. She then went back to her room, read Maisey a bedtime story and went to sleep.
Maisey is still with us. I have found no humane way of having her put down. She has her good days and her not so good days but she always has a friend who loves her and will be there for as long as Maisey needs her.
There is wisdom and compassion in the heart of a child. Sometimes, we as parents just have to slow down long enough to hear them. If we listen enough, we might just find our own hearts haven’t hardened as much as we thought and that our children are much more in tune with the world than we ever knew.