By Ardi Keim, Massachusetts

I had never grieved a death before—not even that of my brother, my father, or my grandmother. I had lost friends and loved ones in my life, but I always knew they went to a better place. Relatives, acquaintances, and fellow soldiers—no matter; when they left my life, I was not burdened by the heartwrench others felt. I guess I didn’t understand grief really. I knew intellectually why others were so saddened, but I didn’t relate on a heart level. Because of this, it wasn’t easy for me to console them in the midst of such trials. Did I have no compassion?

Then a tragedy touched me. It was the loss of a pet. The night before a trip, I took our hamster, Kadi, to be cared for by another. In the morning I got the call before leaving: Kadi had unexpectedly died. A shock wave of emotion overwhelmed me. I was alone. Very. I wept as never before. And I understood.

In memory of a hamster who taught me compassion:



I cry your name without reason

Repeated like bolts in a blinding storm

And thunder

Call me from where you are

In time

Soft and true

New language learning

The memory of your touch

Kiss of my hand

Light kept in a boundless way

Break down this door

Love the touch

Sing in the Light and Sound

Come in and call me by name

Bring in the kitten

Sing for the birdsong within you

Fly with the eagles

Dance with the English poets

Call me from heaven’s door

And liven this heart

By washing

When this Soul’s physical body was brought to me, we buried it in a paper box in the yard and marked it with a stone. A sunflower grew there that summer.

With Kadi’s death, I came to understand more about life.