I’ve put it off as long as I could, but I have finally been forced to concede that our friend, Sunny, is probably not coming back. I’d rather avoid thinking like that. But in the end, it does a disservice to her memory if I don’t take a moment to acknowledge my debt to that amazing little squirrel. For over three years Sunny was a bright spot in our days. We looked forward to sitting out there in the yard with her, often with her perched on my knee eating sunflower seeds. I will always treasure my memories of sitting on the back porch with Sunny beside me at the table, hanging out like old friends as she munched on sunflower seeds and peanuts. It was that easy, comfortable relationship you have with someone whom you’ve known for awhile. She trusted me implicitly, and I adored her presence.
Sunny has been gone for a month now. She’s been gone for long stretches before, so we hoped perhaps we would see her again. But after this long, that’s unlikely. In some way I hope she found a reason to move on somewhere else, and is alive and well in a tree somewhere in our neighborhood. But I doubt that. That’s a kindness my mind is trying to give to my heart, to fill in some of that quiet space where Sunny used to be. Some of our well-meaning friends have tried to point out that squirrels don’t live that long, or that hawks are known to hunt them, as well as cats. I’m not sure how any that is supposed to be comforting in the absence of a friend, but I know they’re not trying to be mean. They just don’t understand.
Sunny was a part of our family, in the same way that our cats or a dog become family. It’s really as simple as that. I couldn’t care less if that makes sense to you, or if you think of squirrels as rodents and nuisances. Sunny was a spark of magic in our lives. The day she decided to jump on my knee to say hello was a trans-formative day for us, and we’ve never looked at squirrels the same way since. Each day when she leapt upon our backs and climbed up upon our shoulders in search of the ever-present peanuts was a moment that made us wide-eyed children again. That is a gift from God that we will always treasure.
I always knew that one day Sunny would just… be gone. It was unlikely we’d ever know what happened to her. And just as it is with people, however much you might accept the inevitability of someone’s passing, nothing can prepare you for the moment when it comes. One moment they are here, and the next they are gone. That sense of absence and stillness where they used to be speaks volumes to the spaces they held in our lives, and it says a lot about how much they meant to us and how much we loved them.
Thanks to a squirrel named Sunny, I will always be looking up into the trees and smiling at the quick movements and furiously waving tails I see there. Thanks to Sunny the world retains some sense of magic that many of us seem to lose as we grow older. Thanks to Sunny, when a squirrel comes down a tree to investigate me, I know what sounds to make to assure them that I’m not a threat, and that perhaps I might even be a friend.
Thanks to Sunny, I know that the world is still full of wonder. And in that regard, I owe her a greater debt than I’ve ever owed to any human being. Sunny was. And now she is not. Or, at least, she’s no longer a grumpy little squirrel that I hear in the back yard all day while I’m working. She’s still very much alive in my heart. And she’s still very much a part of what makes the world such a wonderful, amazing place. It soothes my aching heart to know that even if Sunny is no longer with us, the fact that she existed in the first place proves that there is much magic in the world, and that God loved us deeply to have sent us such a marvelous treasure.
Thank you, Sunny, for reminding me of the wide-eyed boy I used to be. Whenever I begin to forget him again, all I need to do is remember the warmth of your paws against my fingers, the nuzzle of your nose in my ear, the brush of your tail against my skin, and the wondrous, woodsy smell of your fur as you sat upon my shoulder. I will always remember you. And I will always treasure your memory. Thanks for hanging out with me.