I will never be good at explaining tragedy to my kids. And I kind of hope I never am because things like that require practice.

Parenthood quickly teaches you that things you didn't prepare for happen all the time.

"Keep calm," I reassure myself in those moments. "You aren't the first, and you won't be the last. Just stay calm."

A few weeks ago, one of our cats died unexpectedly. Our last cat, Ollie, was old, and when he passed, it was terrible, but it also felt like it was time. But with our young cat, she wasn't breathing well one morning and died at the vet's office in the afternoon.

Coco was a little black and white fuzz ball who stuck to my wife like glue but often allowed me to rub her belly when I came home from work late at night and there were no witnesses.

My daughters loved her a lot, and she often curled up next to them in bed.

When we got home form the vet's office, my 7-year-old asked, "Where did Coco go?"

I was as shocked and heartbroken as my wife and daughters. I didn't really have an answer. In hindsight, I don't think my daughter really expected me to know. I think she just needed some sort of reassurance that Coco was OK.

"Kitty heaven," I said after a pause. "She is with Ollie now, and Ollie will look after her so she's not scared."

Parenthood is especially hard in these moments.

I will never be good at explaining tragedy to my kids. And I kind of hope I never am because things like that require practice.

At least, the good thing about kids is that they don't dwell on the bad.

I have a habit of calling my daughters and the cats by the wrong name. The other day, when our little gray and white cat, Coco's biological sister, came up to me, I called her Coco. My daughters pointed out my mistake, but it was me who started to tear up.

I feel fortunate that our daughters are so young that life and death don't weigh heavy on them. Still, every time the news is bad, I try not to watch it in their vicinity.

When nine people were killed in Dayton on Sunday, close to where I grew up, I wondered if they would hear about it. I never have had a direct connection to the carnage, so it still seems somewhat foreign to me.

And every time there is a mass shooting, which seems like it happens more times than it snows in a year, I pray my kids don't ask me to explain because I wouldn't have the words.

I don't know how I could put a spin on the fact that people sitting church, kids learning in school, shoppers enjoying their weekend or just living their lives have been needlessly murdered. How do you explain any of that in a way that makes any sense and doesn't crush one's zest for life?

How do you explain that the thing most of us hold most precious, life itself, absolutely doesn't matter to some people?

The scariest part of parenthood is knowing sometimes there are no words to say.

In those tough moments, you can just hold your kids close for as long as you can.

And remind yourself to stay calm.

Reach Dave at 330-580-8490 or david.manley@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @DaveManley