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On Being the Bearer of Bad News

I was always the one to find the hamsters dead…and the gerbils. Then of course, there was the time I discovered our goldfish flopping on the floor post hari-kari. As a matter of fact, Fred met his fishy maker not once but twice (after a Lazarus-like rebirth in the hallowed waters of the toilet bowl) and both times, I was the one to find him. At this point in my childhood, I was convinced that some sort of celestial council of house pets existed, somewhere “out there”, in a place even more magical than meerkat manor, that had appointed me the duty of reporting these unhappy findings to my big sister Holly (let’s take a moment to really meditate on just how adorable a house pet council would be. I’m seeing a turtle with a monocle and a cane. Ooh, and maybe a hamster in flowing gold robes and a fez. Oh yeah that’s the stuff.)

While most of my childhood was spent being the hamster Angel of Death, there was one occasion where my desperation to not be the bearer of bad news was so strong that I feigned ignorance in the death of our fourth and final hamster Chomper, brother to the late great Chewer. That morning I rushed to see him as usual only to find he had gone the way of all flesh went to the great exercise wheel in the sky. Rather than rush to get Holly, I quietly mourned the loss of my friend and spent the rest of the day waiting for someone else, anybody else to discover Chomper, which eventually my sister tearfully did. Even though it was a relief to not be the one to bring her the upsetting news about our shared pet for once, I couldn’t help but wish I had.

The fact of the matter is that no one wants to be the bearer of bad news – unless you’re my grandma who specializes in it, especially on birthdays, anniversaries and major holidays, but that’s a different story. Like it or not, there’s going to be times in life when that responsibility falls on our shoulders. Whether it’s as big as telling a friend you saw her boyfriend dancing with another girl at the clurb (people still say clurb, right?) or as silly as letting your sister know there’s a stain on her brand new frock, life is full of metaphorical hamster moments. Nothing feels worse than being the last person to hear stinky news only because no one wanted to be the messenger. Sometimes it’s okay to be a bit of a Debbie Downer. Trust me, it’ll be appreciated and you’ll be better friends for it! Our greatest shared moments in life are often the hardest but remember, bad news is always made better by the love and support of a trusted friend. Thanks for the lesson, Chomper.

– Meghan Traynor

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