“Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader.” – Gen. George S. Patton
My cat had to be “put down” last week. When I was a kid, my parents said, “put to sleep” when it was time for a pet to die. It sounded nice until I realized what was actually happening. I never understood how hard it would be to be the dad in that situation, though.
Our cat, Aslan (named after the lion in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series), was born at my mother-in-law’s house nearly 18 years ago. He and his sister came home with my wife and me a couple weeks later. A few minutes of their adorable little kitten meows (“mew, mew”) and scratching at our bedroom door and our resolve to not let them sleep in our room melted away. For years to come, we would have cats sleeping on our beds. They kept our feet warm on long winter nights and pawed our noses to wake us in the morning. If one of us was having a bad day, almost on cue the cat would curl up next to us and purr. I must say, there is nothing quite like the comfort of having a warm cat purring as he is pressed up against you.
“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” – Albert Schweitzer
The decision to put down our cat was not difficult in the sense that I knew he was dying, he had had a good life, and I understand that we humans have dominion over the animal kingdom. The hard parts were the timing, the pain of letting him go, and the overarching anguish of watching my kids go through the loss of a beloved pet. Also, it was difficult trying to maintain a balance between showing grief and showing strength for my kids. Like it or not, we dads are the strongest earthly representation of God our children see. How we handle death and other big life issues makes a profound impact on our children.
While my wife and I discussed the decision to let our kitty go, somehow it seemed like my ultimate responsibility as the patriarch of the family. It is a burden men carry, a responsibility not to be taken lightly. This may or may not seem like such a big decision to you, but there are many such burdens that fall to the shoulders of the father – decisions of great importance that can have lifelong ramifications. That’s not to say that no one else has any input into the decisions. How you handle them in your family may differ from others, but ultimately you are responsible for your family.
What big decisions have fallen to your shoulders? How did you make them?