From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

Letting Go

You don’t need strength to let go of something. What you really need is understanding.

Guy Finley

On my seventh birthday, I received one of my favorite gifts ever—a pet guinea pig. His fur was soft as silk. He was white and light brown, with a jet-black head and beautiful black eyes. But it was because of the little black dots on his bottom that I named him Freckles. I loved him very much right from the start.

When I first got him, he was active and healthy. But as time passed, Freckles became less active and slept more. The only things this guinea pig really did a lot of were eat, sleep, and sit on his food bowl. But whenever anyone stepped into the room, Freckles would squeak and climb on the silver bars of his cage, which was sitting in the corner of the sunroom by the window.

On Freckles’ third Christmas Eve, I went to cover his cage with a blanket so that he wouldn’t get too cold during the night. That’s when I noticed how gooey his eyes were. I knew how dangerous it was for a guinea pig to get a cold, and I could tell that that was exactly what Freckles had. I picked him up and brought him to my mom. I told her that Freckles could die if we didn’t do something. She said that he’d probably make it through this cold.

On Christmas day, I checked on Freckles to make sure he was still alive. He was, but he was barely holding on. Mom helped me put him into a box and wrap him up with towels to keep him warm. We saw to it that he was comfortable and had food with him, just in case he got hungry. As we opened presents, he sat by the vent, where heat was pouring out, and he started to get a little better. This lifted my spirits— until Mom looked at Freckles’ cage, which I hadn’t changed in a week. There were hardly any droppings, which meant that he hadn’t been eating. Plus, his water bottle was still full. I started to cry. I knew that Freckles wasn’t going to live through another Christmas.

That night, I brought Freckles into Mom’s room where she and my aunt were playing a game. I took a handheld game and began playing it. Our games were interrupted by the sound of Freckles having trouble breathing. I wrapped him up tighter and whispered to him, “I love you very much, Freckles.” Somehow he started to breathe more easily and even tried getting out of the box. I picked him up and stroked his beautiful, soft, furry back. Then Mom told me to put him back, so I did.

About five minutes later, Mom went to do a load of laundry. Freckles’ breathing got faster and louder, and then it stopped. I quit playing solitaire and looked at him. His eyes were open, but the life had left his body. I felt a knot in my throat, and my eyes filled up with tears. I whispered, “He’s . . . dead. . . .” My aunt looked at him and said, “I think you’re right. The old guinea pig’s time has finally come.”

When Mom came back, she reminded me how miserable he had been and asked me if I really wanted him to live like that. I cried all night and most of the next morning. And when we buried him, I cried a little more.

It took a while to get used to the changes in the house after Freckles was gone. It was weird to be in the sunroom and not hear his playful squeaks or watch him play in his cage. I still have wonderful memories of Freckles, and I’ll always remember him.

But the thing I’ll remember most is that the hardest part of love is letting go.

Becca Sherman, 10

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