When it first happened, we volleyed between extreme pain and numbness. That was on a Sunday, when we returned you to the Earth under the cherry tree you liked to study through my large office window. We couldn’t bare to sit on the couch where you used to nap contentedly, or cook lunch half-expecting to see you wathing me from the kitchen threshold with ice blue eyes; or work in the office chair I shared with you, wrapped together in a fleece blanket. So we left the house and kept ourselves occupied for the rest of the day and laughed with friends. We grabbed dinner, returned home and ate it in our bedroom–the only room in the house you hadn’t become a vital part of because of the arthritis in your little body.
All we remembered that night was crying, some dark passing of time, and my alarm clock blaring at 6 a.m. to force me to leave for class and fake normalcy. We were only able to spend three months with you, but we couldn’t remember how we lived before you. Our routines fell apart. We both avoided our house for the day. I returned home to a dark, empty house at 6 p.m. and fell into my routine. I dropped my book bag in the livingroom without turning the light on because I didn’t want to look at the corner of the couch where you were not. I poured food into the other cats’ bowls in the kitchen and refreshed their water. I stepped back to look through the pantry for dinner items and saw the bright blue corner of the box of Fancy Feast I had gotten for you when I worried the dry food was too hard to chew. I let myself cry hard and crumbled to the floor, holding the useless box. The other cats came to inspect my noises, offering love, but I cried hard for half an hour before I felt like the pain was lessened. I felt better and didn’t cry again after that.
We ordered a garden stone that said “Angel”, with etched butterflies and flowers dancing around it. Pictures of you sprang up around the house, in the places I still expected to see you. One on my desk, another by the tv. We decided we would not get another cat after you, but when we heard that a six-year-old Siamese lost her home, we felt the best way to honor you was to help another cat just like you. I was afraid that I would forget about you at first, but I knew I could not. She didn’t fill your spot–we just made more room to love her, without expectations.
Sometimes, I thought about you, but I didn’t linger for long. Life got more difficult, but I had many other excuses. Anxiety, exhaustion, the normal stress. Surely not the death of a pet.
Three weeks later, we were at our friends’ house without wi-fi, so I began looking at pictures. My thumb swiped across the screen and landed on your little gray ear. You were draped in soft blue fleece blankets–a picture I took of you after coming home from vacation, napping together on the couch trying to sleep off the excitement and make sense of the stressful days ahead. Little, dark grey rounded ears, a silky soft head and body, and a soft doll face with sleeping eyes. I could hear you purring, feel you breathing heavy as you dozed contentedly. Tears stang my eyes, but I thought it was important to look at you and remember. I continued to swipe through pictures and I remembered small moments. I closed the photo gallery and wiped my eyes quickly and nonchalantly, like I was just tired. I missed you.
So I began to write about you, and how much you mean to me. For three months, you accompanied me wherever I went. You were my comfort and my safety system when I felt tired or overwhelmed. A month later, things should be normal, but I still have not “gotten over” you. I can stop talking about you, but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten, or that your pictures don’t blur when I start to think of you, or that all of that isn’t perfectly okay. Nothing about this was fair; especially not the fact you showed up, let us know you for our whole lives, and suddenly left. We felt a lot of anger at how much of your time left was spent at the shelter, overlooked because your age.
We hope the rainbow bridge is as beautiful as the stories say. I wish people will understand how special you are to me and be patient. I hope you felt loved. Most of all, I hope other people will take a chance on the matted old cat in an end-cage and get their hearts broken too.
For all we know, it may be the most anyone has ever cared for them.