Gratitude Lessons From A Rat


Her breathing was so shallow, I thought she was dead. Relief washed through me. Then her nose twitched and I felt a pang of guilt. She sighed and heaved herself to a standing position. Lurching like a small, furry drunkard across the cage floor, she settled beside the hanging water bottle. It seemed to take enormous energy; poking her tiny, pink tongue at the metal ball to release a drop of water.

We had seen that Xena, my daughter’s beloved pet rat, was declining. But on this day, it was as if some cosmic vitality switch had been flicked. Her life was at an end, she just didn’t know it yet. For two days we watched her lackluster breathing. Her movements were jerky and frightening. Listless, she looked at us with bulging eyes that bled.

Wandering the house, lost and waiting to mourn, we didn’t know how to proceed. Finally, my weeping daughter came to me and asked me to ‘fix’ it. It took an enormous amount of courage for her to admit that this was a more merciful way. We sent her off to dance classes for the afternoon with assurances that her friend would not suffer any longer.

My husband, bless him, did the hard thing. Although he doesn’t care for that particular animal species, the duty was not an easy one. We’ve not spoken of the details. My tears flowed freely as I cleaned out the cage and threw away the extra food and bedding. I wanted it all to be taken care of before our daughter returned.

I’ve had a hard time this month, thinking of what to write. It’s the month for posts of thankfulness and counting blessings. Quite frankly, I’ve been skirting the misty edges of depression, lethargic and exhausted. Even so, my mind has sifted through the abundance of blessings I enjoy; there are many things I am infinitely grateful for. Yet the words bouncing around in my head seem insignificant and trite. Then the loss of our furry companion brought an unexpected clarity.

When my daughter came home, I held her. We cried. And I was grateful in a whole new way. Through my tears I could see the beauty in sharing life with this precious person. Her tears and her relief became mine as well and it was exquisite.

Who am I, that the Creator of the universe would see fit to give me life? Life. Yes, oftentimes we fall, and sometimes we get hurt. Some of us live entire seasons in the gray fog of depression. Many of us have faced pain that is deep and dark and powerful and it feels as though nothing exists but the sorrow. And all of us, at times, are swallowed by the hollow ache of a loneliness that no human can fill.


How often I forget the sacredness of this journey. It is that very loneliness which makes friendship all the sweeter. The depth of our sorrow is a testimony to how much we’ve loved. In the darkness of depression, I can more clearly see the work of my Lord in me, enabling me to function when my reserves are depleted. And when I fall, or when my body rebels, I am blessed by the many hands that reach down to help pull me back up.

There are treasures, even in the rocky places. The laughter of our children, the genuine smile of a friend who is happy to see you. The raw power of the ocean, and the silent peace of a clear night’s sky.Β  Life and loss. Light and darkness. Beauty and pain. All working together, that we may savor the sweetness of family and friendships. The hard things on this journey remind us of how fleeting the things that bring us joy really are.


From where I am on this life’s journey, I know the loss of our pet is but a small thing. But from my young daughter’s vantage point, it is deep and painful. What a privilege it is to walk beside her through this part of her path. Sharing in her grief is at least as profound as sharing her victories, and the tendrils of living that bind us together grow ever stronger.

And I am grateful.

10 thoughts on “Gratitude Lessons From A Rat

  1. God certainly uses the unexpected to reach into our hearts. This really is such a beautiful post. I was almost hesitant to read it because of my aversion to rats. But these creatures, they are so poorly understood aren’t they? Usually overlooked next to the more docile looking hamster breed? πŸ™‚ How sweet that you could walk through this with your daughter. She will look back and appreciate you for that! Losing my hamster as a child was hard on me too. 😦


    • Yes, the little critters do steal our hearts! I had hamsters too growing up—even raised a litter once. I loved them all. Thank you for overcoming your aversion and taking the time to read. Have a blessed week, and a very Happy Thanksgiving! πŸ™‚


  2. Lovely on many levels. The pain of losing a pet shows us what a great gift they are. Mourning together is a gift. And while I have no Biblical evidence, I can’t imagine why in the new heavens and earth we won’t see our old four-footed friends. Happy Thanksgiving Rebeca!


    • I agree, Anita. I told my daughter that I think Jesus will bring our furry friends back if it’s still important to us in eternity. Thank you so much for reading, and a very Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!


  3. “There are treasures in the rocky places.” Oh, Rebeca, how true! I’m thinking your daughter is learning that lesson at an early age, as you tenderly loved her through her grief. Those moments of crying together may very well become a sweet memory she returns to often–a symbol of your mother-love. P.S. I am so sorry that you’ve been suffering through a bout of depression. I’ll be praying the fog lifts SOON!


    • It has strangely become a sweet memory for me already. This is my ’emotional’ one, and we don’t often connect in that way easily. Thank you for your encouragement and your prayers. The foggy seasons always pass, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate in spite of them. Blessings to you this week, Nancy, and I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!


  4. It is amazing how God is able to use the bad to reach us. I’m so glad you are feeling better, and that you were able to be there for your daughter. Thanks for sharing!
    “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 NLT


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