Jan 6, 2016

Cat, again

cat
Mi, the survivor of the two cats I got in my early teens, barely made it to 2016. He was in apparent good health and acting like his usual self up until the evening when he refused his food; then he threw up and we took him to the vet. 36 hours later he died of renal failure, as so many elderly cats seem to.

He was smart, confident, communicative and affectionate. He was unfazed by most things — the opposite of his sibling in many ways. He was given to shows of temperament in the form of sharp teeth, but he became increasingly gentle as the years passed. He was a delight to be around. I took the photo above a little over a week ago, when I arrived at my parents’ for the second half of the holidays; I’m still here as I write these words, and just like that he’s gone.

This loss has hit me hard. Foolishly, I’m a little surprised at this. I don’t know if perhaps I half thought that losing my best cat friend would make me impervious to further losses, even though that’s not something I would ever have expected of anyone else. Losing a parent doesn’t prepare you for losing a beloved aunt; the death of a friend doesn’t prepare you for the death of another. Death diminishes always; something else crucial has been lost.

I could talk about how these two cats were living links to difficult but formative years, which have now been severed, but in the end I really don’t want symbol to erase the reality of a living creature who loved me and who I loved in return, and who is gone abruptly. Just five days ago I held him at midnight as we entered the New Year, and I thought with wonder and gratitude that I’d done the same as a teenager, when we entered the year 2000. Mi would have been 17 this year — his was not a short life, and I know it was a happy one. For the moment, though, that thought offers limited comfort. One thing I’m glad of is that I was here when this happened. In a way that makes it harder, to have suffered a sudden loss after a week of reading on a bean bag with him curled up beside me — it makes death far less abstract. But turning away from that would feel like a refusal of everything that tied us to one another. I’m grateful we got this time together, even if the result is a more vivid and immediate sort of grief.

It was only a few days ago that I was writing about hope; about not thinking of the passing of time only in terms of what it takes away from us. I was having a hard time when I wrote that post, just like I did in general this holiday season. But I had drafted it in my head over the weeks and I wanted to post it because generally I had felt that to be true, especially in the second half of 2015. It was true on average, you could say; it was a truth I chose to turn to with deliberation. I don’t really believe in tempting fate, and I believe even less in making sense of losses solely in light of what we learn from them. I understand, and often feel, the narrative impetus to do so, but my hope didn’t need testing to become more real. If I believe in anything, I guess I believe in sitting with the contradiction. This happened, and I could have done without the blow, and there’s nothing to be done about that. I’m left to reconcile the different things I know about the world — a labour that’s necessary, if not exactly wanted. I find my mind returning to the book I read on my flight here, A Ring of Endless Light: to the opening scene where Vicky Austin wonders at her grandfather’s genuinely joyful “hallelujah” at the of a funeral address just as filled with genuine grief. It’s true, all of it, and we have to live with it somehow.

25 comments:

  1. I feel humbled by the beauty of your words, Ana. Just last night, while read Tiny Beautiful Things, I came across her words in response to someone asking how to help to help with a loved one's grief. It was so timely for me. Because of course, I've been feeling lame and inadequate, not knowing what to say beyond, "I'm so very sorry" over and over again. Knowing that comes from the bottom of my truly aching heart, I'm sure helps you and yet doesn't help you. But they are the truest, sincerest words I know to offer. Along with I love you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh Ana. I am so sorry. This is such a beautiful post. That L'Engle is one I have turned to again and again - "nothing loved is ever lost or perished." Take care, my friend. My thoughts are with you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh Ana. I am so sorry. This is such a beautiful post. That L'Engle is one I have turned to again and again - "nothing loved is ever lost or perished." Take care, my friend. My thoughts are with you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh Ana, I'm so sorry. This is such a difficult thing to deal with, and it doesn't matter how often you've had to do it. It never gets easier to process the death of a pet. *hugs*

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh Ana, I am so sorry. Losing animal friends we have shared are lives with is never easy. Big hugs to you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm so sorry to see this, Ana. It's always tough to lose a pet, whether it's sudden or after a long illness. I'm glad, though, that you got to cuddle with him in the last days.

    ReplyDelete
  7. ((Hugs)) I know how hard this can be. Thinking of you, Ana!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I said good-bye to a beloved 22-year old cat in November -- Frieda (who was also black, like your Mi). She'd been with me almost my entire adult life, and had slept curled up next to me most nights. The loss is profound. As one friend said to me: "22 years is a long time, but not nearly long enough." So true of all those we love, that we can always wish for more time to spend with them. Thank you for writing a beautiful post about your life with Mi.... it was a comfort to read, and I hope a comfort for you to write.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I lost my best cat friend last year---I understand. Sending you extra hugs.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm still missing Sammy almost every day. It takes a while, for some people and some cats.
    One day I was in the pet supply store where I buy cat food, soon after Chester had died, and I was looking at a macaw, one of those beautiful big birds that lives 150 years or so. There was an older woman (sixty-ish) standing next to me, and we said a few words about how lovely the bird was, and then she said, wiping her eyes, that her dog had just died and she wanted to get a macaw because she didn't think she could stand to outlive another pet.
    I understood the sentiment, and still remember the wave of fellow-feeling that came over me as she said it.
    Still, as I get older, I get more afraid of Pippin outliving me than me outliving him. It's a responsibility you have to see through to the end.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This post is so touching. I'm sorry for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Aw, Ana. I'm so sorry. That's awfully hard.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am so sorry for your loss!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am sorry to hear of the passing of your furry friend. I always get very upset when a pet passes, they are real members of the family too. I hope you are able to find some peace and comfort.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm sorry for your loss, and for the rough time you've been having. Thinking of you.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh Ana. I am so sorry. *hugs*

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ana I'm so sorry for your loss. Sending you hugs.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ana, I'm so sorry to hear that. I'm so glad Mi had such a lovely life with you.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Ana, that's hard, I'm really sorry. You've captured the sadness of losing a pet so perfectly. I hope that remembering Mi's happy life does in time offer you comfort.

    ReplyDelete
  20. So sorry to hear your news. I lost my elderly rescue hound this time of the year last year. You say it all beautifully xx

    ReplyDelete
  21. Ana, such terrible news. I'm very sorry, bearing that pain is difficult. The only thing I can do is send you lots of hugs.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm so sorry Ana. I know how hard it is to lose a beloved cat. <3

    ReplyDelete
  23. I haven't really been keeping up with blogs since last December, and only just saw this. I'm so sorry, Ana. Sending you lots of hugs from KL <3 <3

    ReplyDelete
  24. I've also been absent from many blogs lately, so have just come across this. Wanted to say how sorry I am -- our beloved cat left us in just about the same way. It's been 10 years but we still miss him. They are very special friends, and as you say wonderfully we have to hold both the joy and sorrow as one.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.