In Be a People Person, John Maxwell tells this story:

Mr. Myrick had to go to Chicago on business and persuaded his brother to take care of his cat during his absence. Though he hated cats, the brother agreed. Upon his return, Myrick called from the airport to check on the cat.

“Your cat died,” the brother reported, then hung up.

Myrick was inconsolable. His grief was magnified by his brother’s insensitivity, so he called again to express his pain. “There was no need for you to be so blunt,” he said.

“What was I supposed to say?” asked the perplexed brother.

“You could have broken the news gradually,” explained Myrick. “You could have said, ‘The cat was playing on the roof.’ Then, later in the conversation, you could have said, ‘He fell off.’ Then you could have said, ‘He broke his leg.’ Then when I came to pick him up, you could have said, ‘I’m so sorry. Your cat passed away during the night.’ You’ve got to learn to be more tactful…. By the way, how’s Mom?”

After a long pause, the brother replied, “She’s playing on the roof.”

Mike Neifert

1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories: For Preachers, Teachers, and Writers.