Skip to main content

Saying Goodbye - Mourning the Death of Nibble the Hamster

Nothing quite sends your emotions into a tailspin than when you hear your son sobbing uncontrollably. And when he tells you that his beloved hamster had just died.

That was the scene yesterday evening, after we had just come home from dinner. Sue shares what happened in her Facebook post mourning the loss of our beloved Nibble.

"Goodbye, our sweet Nibble. Your passing was too sudden - we had just gone to the vet yesterday and started you on a new course of meds for your ringworm and skin abscesses.
Poor E burst into heart wrenching sobs when he found you lying still when we came home. I had already been concerned for the past few months because you were losing weight and spending more time sleeping, though we knew you were in your senior years for a hamster. Nothing prepares you for the loss of a pet and as parents it is doubly hard watching your child go through the grief."

This is a picture of how Nibble will remain in our memory - always curious, always inquisitive, and always looking for food!

Nibble was a pandemic pet, adopted just before the first Covid lockdown last year. I remember Sue was worried about what the impending Circuit Breaker would mean for the boys, especially since we were so used to going out as a family, and staying at home for hours without end seemed like a nightmare in the making. And so we rushed to take home our first two pets, Nibble and his brother Harry, one for each of our boys.

Nibble and his brother Harry, not long after they first arrived.

And the little creatures brought so much joy to the family. The kids looked after each animal tenderly, ensuring that they had food and water each day, and that the enclosures were kept clean, with the bedding changed regularly.

As for me, I was constantly reminded of their presence each night when I was in the living room doing work or writing. There would be the constant sounds of the hamsters sipping water or running on their wheels, and for some strange reason, these sounds brought comfort to me, as though there was someone accompanying me as I stayed up late into the night. Over the months our pet "collection" continued to grow, and as of two days ago, we had 6 hamsters, 2 terrapins, 2 vampire crabs and 1 fighting fish. It seemed almost like we were putting together our own menagerie.

Always getting the last bite. Nibble had always loved to eat, and often tried to snatch at food before Harry.

Nibble and Harry sharpening their teeth together.

There was even a time when Nibble got lost for three days, and I wrote a short poem on Facebook to commemorate the moment:

I was lost.
Three days a-wandering.
Without friends.
Without family.
But now I am found.
And there is great rejoicing.
All around.

Yet the inevitable happened, as Sue writes:

"Nibble passed away peacefully, and we all remember the sweet, mild natured hammie he was, with the cutest face and brightest eyes. He lived up to his name and was our greediest one, the first to come out the moment there was food.
In his earlier days his cheek pouches were so full of food they were constantly bulging. Even yesterday the vet noticed there was food in his pouches. He was so fat, he waddled around like a slug, and once his scent gland was blocked and we were told it was because he was too fat to clean it. His favourites were tofu, sunflower seeds and freeze dried chicken."

We all miss Nibble. There was no dry eye as each one of us mourned the loss of our dear pet. Poor E almost poured fresh food into his empty enclosure, even as he was feeding the rest of the hamsters. And he wanted to express his grief on Facebook, announcing the death with a picture of Nibble and the following words:

Nibble died
- E

Grief is a difficult companion to walk with. For me I really don't do well when anyone or any living creature suffers; and for that reason I have tried not to keep any pets in the house, for I know my emotions will take a dive whenever a pet dies. Over the past year alone we have had a number of deaths - praying mantises, spiders, a terrapin, a rainbow crab, and a colony of ants, and I was sent into an emotional tailspin each time a pet died.

Nibble during happier days, engaged in his favourite activity of eating.

I was processing this with Sue, and said that I was terribly upset years ago when my grandfather's dogs died, and I told her this made me not want to have any pets myself. "Why do we have to get our hearts broken time after time?" I mused. "Isn't it easier not to have any pets and not to experience grief and loss each and every time?"

My wife turned to me and wisely replied, "I was there to witness the death of my dog. It was horrible. But we cannot let that stop us from having a pet. There's so much joy in the living; and while we grieve in the death of our beloved pets, our lives are so much richer because of the time we have spend with them. God loves each creature big and small, and we are also able to enjoy our time with them, even though it's hard to see them go."

We then talked about how important it is for our kids to experience such precious life moments, and about our role as parents in helping them deal with difficult times, even as we grapple with our own emotions.

Our two boys "showing off" their hamsters when they first arrived.

As we ended the night, our dear E asked to pray, and he asked God to comfort Mummy; and for her not to feel bad for being too tired to examine Nibble this afternoon. I know that he is still grieving in his heart, but that as a family, that we are all going through this together.

As Sue writes:

"We will miss you, darling Nibble. We can't walk past without remembering you, chilling out on your wheel, which was your favourite spot in recent months. You were our first hamster acquired just before the pandemic and you have given us so much joy and laughter. We are glad you are no longer dealing with itches and scratches and are at peace, but we will miss you terribly. 😭😭😭❤️❤️❤️"

The night is young. But the dawn will come once again.

Nibble's favourite position. He loved to feed and then sleep on his little wheel, a position I often found him in during those long nights when I was doing my work.


Popular posts from this blog

Malacca with the Kids: March 2015

Malacca has always been our go-to place for a short getaway. Most of the time, it's been without the kids. We love soaking in the ambience of Jonker Street and strolling by the river. Of course, the food never fails to draw us back to this laidback town with its sleepy atmosphere. The facade of Malacca has, however, changed over the years. Imposing mega malls loom over two-storey shophouses. I would probably have not brought the boys along as the streets are narrow and traffic seemingly never ebbing, but when I googled "Malacca for Kids" this time round, there were quite a few options for the kids to enjoy. Of course, the main reason why we decided to go was because we were attending my dearest  cousin's wedding dinner. This brings back memories of how my cousins and I used to hang around at Chinese restaurants. We would be so thrilled to be on an actual stage... And our choice of accommodation was largely influenced by the water play area which our hot

Setting Up a Finnish School in the Home

The issue of private tuition has again come to the forefront after a senior education official pronounced in parliament that the Singapore education system is "run on the basis that tuition is not necessary". Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Education, added that schools provide "comprehensive levelling-up programmes" as well as remedial and supplementary classes to support weaker students. In the days that followed, mainstream and social media agencies were abuzz with reports from parents and students alike, many of whom disagreed with Ms Indranee's assessment of the education scene. They argued that private tuition is already a multi-million dollar industry, and that its very existence disputes notions that tuition is unnecessary. From the perspective of an educator in Singapore, I can understand the comments made by the Senior Minister of State, especially since it is the responsibility of the Education Ministry to teach our school childre

"Monkeying Around": A Review of My Gym Singapore

Our 2/1/2-year old son E has always been an active child. When he was an infant, E would crawl around and get into all sorts of mischief, until one day when he discovered that he could climb on  his poor Daddy, in an inspired moment of pretend play - Daddy was his mountain and he was Sir Edmund Hilary - the first person to scale Mt Everest! It was therefore with great excitement that we we heard that Parenting on Purpose had been invited by My Gym Singapore  to participate in a series of four classes. We agreed at once; knowing that our little boy would thoroughly enjoy gym class - this was also a chance for our exuberant toddler to work off his energy and hopefully fall fast asleep after getting home. Our little son having a swing of a time at gym class.  My Gym  has an interesting educational philosophy that emphasises building self esteem in children. This is an excerpt from the company's website: The philosophy that guides My Gym’s programming and breakdown for clas

Schooling for Gold: a Parent Reflects on Singapore's First Olympic Gold Medallist

50.39 seconds. The (less than) one minute of time that made history for the small island nation of Singapore. Millions in Singapore and around the world watched as 21-year-old Joseph Schooling defeated his long-time idol and heavily-decorated Olympian Michael Phelps, the man described as "the most-decorated Olympian of all time". Indeed most of the international news footage had been previously focussed on Phelps, given that the American is expected to retire at this year's Rio Olympics. The New York Times even ran an article with the headline: " Somebody (His Name’s Joseph Schooling) Finally Beats Michael Phelps"! For Joseph Schooling, it could not have been a prouder moment, as he not only bagged Singapore's first and only Olympic Gold, it was also a race that proved he had not only matched, but also beaten his childhood idol. Indeed a 2008 photograph of 13-year-old Schooling standing side by side with Michael Phelps has been spreading like wildfire o

Hong Kong for Kids: Our Dorsett Wanchai Experience

It was only a few months back when we had our lovely holiday experience in Hong Kong. We had then stayed in the Cosmopolitan Hotel, a lovely place located at the northern tip of Hong Kong island, near the world-famous Ocean Park. Most people have asked us why we chose Hong Kong as a destination for our kids given the island's reputation as more of a food and shopping paradise. We shared with them that there is actually more than meets the eye to this territory known affectionately as the "Pearl of the Orient".  The view from Stanley, one of our favourite spots in the beautiful city of Hong Kong. Rooms in Hong Kong are small, and we had a hard time looking for a place to stay that could meet the needs of our two very energetic children. We settled for the Cosmopolitan Hotel, given that it was one of the few hotels that had affordable prices for its Family Quad Room, a large room that could accommodate all four of us comfortably. We were pleasantly surprised when we r

A Safe Space: Adventures in Fostering

Fostering challenges traditional notions of what a family is and what a family should be. At the end of the day, what is your idea of "family"? The younger child seemed a little troubled during bedtime. "Mummy..." he said. "Yes Darling," replied Mummy. "It will be very sad when R has to go home to the tummy mummy and daddy one day."  "Yes, Darling. It will be very sad." "But it's all up to God, right?" "Yes it is. You know that R's tummy mummy and daddy can't take care of any child right now? That's why R is with us." "Yes I know. R is with us just for awhile. Not like Kor Kor and I. The four of us are a forever family." "Yes we are. So how will you feel when R goes back to the tummy mummy and daddy?" "It will be sad, but it will be all right." The older child, who was a silent participant in the conversation, decided to speak at th

The Father I Will Never Be

We recently went on a holiday to Fraser's Hill, one of the less-visited places in Malaysia. For Sue and I, this is a place that is filled with memories. It was, for her, a childhood oasis, a place where her family would visit year after year, and build many precious memories together. It was, for me, a special place where I visited with a band of dear brothers during our university days, and where we set a stake in the ground, to declare that we wanted to surrender all of our days to the glory of God. It was, for Sue and I, the location of our honeymoon, the place where we enjoyed our first few days of marital bliss; the place where we chiselled our marriage covenant and planned for our future as one.  This is how I remember Fraser's Hill. Shrouded in mist and somewhat mysterious; a grand legacy of days gone by. I remember my first visit there as a single young man, not yet a quarter of a century old, but yet imbued with the desire to be the best father I could be sho

The Insecurities of a Homeschooling Dad

Social media can be very deceiving. We scroll through the news feeds of people we know (or of celebrity bloggers and content experts), and assume that they are living perfect lives. With every holiday photo they post, every food picture presented, or every insightful article they write, we slip into social media envy and  assume that our friends are enjoying the time of their lives. And many people assume that of me as well. They seem to think that I am living the dream life with a wonderful job and wonderful kids. And when I meet people at my various engagements, I seem to get the nod that I am the model citizen of social media society.  A recent holiday in Disneyland. After long queues under the hot sun, we were quite the "model" family! There is some truth to this. At this moment, I can say that there is no other job I would rather do; to be my own boss and to conduct training workshops for others, sometimes with my wife; what more could a man ask for? And my kids? T

Parenting Your Child for Marriage

It's not often that the Father of the Bride gets to speak at a wedding. Oftentimes, the only words are in response to the question, "Who presents this woman to be married to this man?" In that instance, it is normally a mild-mannered man, one who shuns the attention of the moment, who barely manages to whisper out the refrain, "I do."  A precious photo of a very special couple.  This was completely not what happened at a wedding I was at almost three weeks ago. In response to that question, the Father of the Bride seemed to have an entire speech prepared for the Groom, "I present to you the key to my daughter's heart, " he declared. "I have protected her heart all her life until this point, and now I am handing over this responsibility to you." And with a firm voice, he presented this solemn reminder: "Remember that you will not be able to do this on your own, but only with God's help, and by spending time with Him daily.&

Running the Race of Shame

Every muscle in my body protested. Every inner voice in my being screamed from the recesses within. "Don't do it!" they yelled.   "You will make a fool of yourself!" they taunted. "Why are you so stupid? Why do you want to prove to the whole world how stupid you are?" "You know that you are a colossal failure. Now you want everyone in the world to see what a loser you are?" It was deafening deep within. But I did what I could to ignore the deep shame and hurt that I felt from within. The voices of shame can be deafening even in the presence of an external quietness. "The next event will be the Parents' Race. Will  Mark Lim please proceed to the reporting area?" This was it. There would be no turning back now.  So I dragged myself to the starting line, and mingled with the other homeschool dads who all looked eager to race. "I haven't done any running since I was in National Service," I remark