I woke up before eight, same as every weekday, and walked outside to feed my rabbits as I always do. I like this part of my morning – 10 little fluff balls, all excited to eat, all willing to be stroked in exchange for some hay and anything else I might bring them. Except that this day was different – I saw him through the glass door from half way down the hallway. Grizzler, my best furry friend in the world, cold and stiff. I cried out, the other rabbits avoiding his lifeless body. “Don’t look, don’t look,” I pleaded with Leah as she came to see what was wrong.
I love animals as much as humans – it’s why I stopped eating them when I was seven years old – and I love this one more than most. He was just two months old when I picked up his lifeless body and brought him inside. You don’t need to understand this, but he was one of my best friends. Almost every morning and every evening since he was around a week old (I have been with him since the day he was born) I have picked him up and stroked him. He was the runt of the litter, the one golden rabbit in a litter of eight where all others were black and white. He was the one that ran further than the others, than let you pick him without resisting, that would adventure all over the house. He was special and I was going to keep him, always, even if I had to let his brothers and sisters move on to new homes. Just eight hours before I found his lifeless body, I had fed him and watched him bounce around as he always did.
I took his tiny body and I let his family say goodbye. His dad licked his face, cleaning him like he always did. That was hard to see – cleaning him one last time. I slipped him into a paper bag, writing a goodbye message that he would take with him. There isn’t much open land where I live in Malta, but I took him to the fields behind my house and dug him a tiny grave in the rock hard earth full of large stones. It’s hard to dig in earth as hard as that with a plastic trowel when you’re shaking and your eyes are swollen. As I covered his body with the dry earth, I broke down again. He couldn’t possibly be dead, he couldn’t. I pulled his tiny body out of the ground with my hands and took him home with me. Hope can keep us alive through the darkest moments and without it we have nothing. That’s why death is so hard – we don’t understand it, we don’t know what it means. We have nothing left to hope for.
I took him home, I tried to revive him. I put him on a nest of hay with a bowl of water and a frozen bottle of ice to keep him cool. I tried to feed him water from my finger. I read about rabbits appearing dead then coming back to life. I still had hope. By evening, nothing. And he started to smell like he wasn’t just in temporary sleep. I held him and stroked him one last time. At this point there was no hope. When you no longer have hope you are alone in the dark with nothing but your own pain. Emotional pain is curious – as it grows it become physical. Your body actually hurts as much as your mind. I took him to a high spot by the sea where I like to run – he was an adventurer after all – and I buried him in the hard ground for a second time.
Why Don’t We Talk About This?
We don’t talk about emotions. It’s easier to hide behind a joke than it is to cry. It’s easier to pretend we don’t feel anything than to let people know when we are suffering. But if we hide behind something with a mask that isn’t real, how do we ever make a meaningful connection? I suppose that’s what people call a soul mate – the person you can tell everything to without fear of judgement. There is only one thing that is certain in this life – that it will end. And this is something I find hard to accept.
When someone is struggling, you cannot understand how they are feeling. You can symphasize with them, but we all feel things differently. Have you ever lost a friend you thought would continue to be your friend every day for the rest of their life? Grizzler’s life would obviously be shorter than a human’s, but I feel like I lost out on many years. I question what I did wrong and if I could have done things different to keep him alive. Was it the fireworks that scared him, was he born sick – did I do something wrong? And when I went to sleep that night I dreamt he was alive, waking up at three in the morning to unpleasant reality. Good dreams are the worst because real life is such a disappointment by comparison. I think of his furry little face every day, many times. I miss him more than I thought I could.
A few days after he died, his mother gave birth to seven more rabbits, each bound to be lovely in their own special one. I can’t stop missing that special little guy though.