“Dad,” my eleven-year-old daughter called into the darkness early last Wednesday. “Dad, the bunnies are dead.”
I bolted upright in bed, suddenly wide awake. “What?”
I suppose I’ve always known, ever since we first brought the bunnies home a year and a half ago, that it would end like this – in tragedy. A wild animal got them sometime during the night.
I took a deep breath. I tried to comfort my daughter. I did my fatherly duty by going out back and cleaning up the aftermath before the other children woke. Then I broke the awful news to each of them as they emerged.
They were sad. So was I. The whole ordeal bothered me. It still bothers me more than it rightfully should.
We named the bunnies Scratch and Sniff. As best I can recall, that was my idea. The kids weren’t so sure about those names at first, but they stuck.
From the start, the rabbits complicated our lives. They were messy. Frankly, they weren’t that smart. We couldn’t go anywhere without figuring out what to do with them while we were away. We worried about keeping them warm enough in the winter and dry enough in the rain. A few times, we thought we had lost one or the other of them.
On the other hand, Scratch and Sniff were cute and inquisitive. They were mostly gentle souls. (Although sometimes they did get into bunny spats.) They were long-suffering. The kids toted them around like stuffed animals. They brought them inside, dressed them up, cuddled them.
Outside, Scratch and Sniff were happy and free. They bounded around our backyard like dogs.
Not anymore. We’ll chalk this one up to important life lessons about love and loss. Over the course of the last week, I’ve heard the kids make jokes about what happened. They’re laughing to keep from crying, I guess.
Yes, Scratch and Sniff were just a couple of dumb bunnies, but I can’t help thinking that a sparrow or even a bunny shall not fall on the ground without our Father.
Someday soon I’m sure we’ll get new bunnies. Our two year old has been petitioning for that very thing during her long and rambling stream of consciousness prayers. Yes, new bunnies. We’re already planning how to do a better job of keeping the new ones safe, but they won’t be Scratch and Sniff.
Last Wednesday night, after most everyone had gone to bed, I caught my fourteen-year-old son drift toward the back of the house, pull back the curtain, and gaze into the blackness of our backyard. He might have been the only one who hadn’t shed a tear for the bunnies that day.
I looked up from the kitchen table. “You sad about the bunnies?” I asked.
My son shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said, still staring into the night. “It’s just kind of strange that they’re gone.”
Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six children. He is the author of Red: A Football Novel as well as other books and poetry. He has loved several pets over the years. Most of them met tragic ends.