It has been just about six months since you’ve left me for the Great Catnip Fields in the Sky, yet the pain of your absence grows no less. I don’t know why I’m writing this to you. After all, you’re a cat, and a dead one at that. It’s not like you’ll ever get to read this letter. You can’t even read. All you can do right now is rest peacefully in your little wooden box that contains your ashes. I picture your spirit frolicking in some sunny plain somewhere, where you’re being petted and comforted by a good friend of mine who went to Heaven not too long before you did.
We were such a great team, you and I. Somehow, you understood me better than anyone, even those who’ve known me since my birth. You were more than a cat. You were like a daughter, a child that I never even knew I wanted, especially since I’m not too fond of human children. Like most mothers when their child dies, I wanted to die the second after you did. Sometimes, I still do. Though you’ve been gone just under half a year, I think of you several times a day. I still struggle to fight back the tears when I think of you too much. Often, I can’t find the strength to hold them back.
I know you were an animal, but I’m still at a loss to know why you were so special, why you left such a chasm behind. I’ve had many great relationships with both people and animals over the course of my life. Many of these people and animals have died, among them two grandparents, my aunt, a cat I’d had for 21 years, and my best friend in the whole world. I mourned for them. A lot. Time passed, and I healed. But none of these deaths have been able to shake me from my foundations like yours has. I can’t pinpoint why, and it’s almost as distressing as the grief itself.
I keep trying to tell myself that I’ve healed, that I can face the years ahead of me without you, but I haven’t healed. The wound is still there, gaping and steaming like it just happened ten minutes ago. I know we’ll see one another some day, somewhere on The Other Side, but if I live out my full lifespan, we’re talking fifty-something years from now. The thought of waiting so long for us to be together again makes me feel so helpless, so down. How do you feel about it? Are you sitting at those pearly gates, watching, waiting, and refusing to enter them until you see me appear?
There have been so many times that I’ve pictured what our reunion might be like on The Other Side. I see you sunning yourself in a beautiful meadow, bees humming as they collect their prizes from the rainbow of flowers around you. You’re almost asleep, because the sun on your fur is so soothing, nearly as comforting as my arms. One blue eye is closed. The other is lazily watching the violet and periwinkle butterfly that is fluttering round your head, wanting to land on your cool pink nose.
You continue to sunbathe, extremely content, but something still seems to be missing. It’s like a piece of your soul didn’t quite make it to Kitty Heaven with you. That’s because it stayed with me on Earth. Somehow though, the separated pieces seem to call out to one another, and you open both eyes to see me walking toward you from across the plain. I’m much younger and skinnier than you remember, but you know it’s me anyway.
Immediately, you get to your feet and start running toward me so fast that your little feet barely touch the waving grass beneath them. I kneel down amongst the flowers, joyfully watching you and holding my arms open like a new bloom of spring. With a leap you would have been incapable of in life, you spring into my arms and I fold you into my embrace, hearing that familiar purr, both of us knowing that our separation is over forever.
You know what is even worse than the pain of losing you? Having people around me discount your death as if it didn’t destroy my world, wreak havoc on my mental health, and rocket my depression a few more levels underground.
“It’s just a cat,” they say, “A pet.” How can any being that made me feel so alive, loved, and understood be “just a pet?” If you were “just a pet,” why am I still pining for you six months after your death? Why does the grief seem to grow more, not less? Why did I feel more like your mother than your owner, when I already had a biological child and was familiar with being a parent?
Before you came into my life, I never believed in soul mates, but I sure do now. Why do I believe? Because your soul just can’t be torn in two without you questioning if you shared it with the one you lost. And I truly believe ours were joined somehow. I keep wondering what would have happened in reverse circumstances. If I had been the one to die and you were left behind, would you have died of a broken heart? I couldn’t even leave the house for a few days without hearing from your daddy that you cried like a baby until I came back home. How would you have handled my death?
You were so much more than a cat. You were my child, and I was your mother. We both had blue eyes, and December birthdays, oddly enough. Though you weren’t made inside my body, I still carried you, but inside my heart and wrapped gently in my arms. I took you from that wretched, flea-infested house you lived in, and you didn’t hesitate to approach me and purr as if you’d been waiting your entire life for me to appear. Even then, you seemed to know that we belonged to one another. Somehow, I knew it too.
From the moment we met, you could never bear to be away from my side, and being away from you was hard for me too when you were alive. Even when I would go to work, I would think about you when I was there, and it helped me get through the bad days, of which there were many. There were times when I literally ached to hold you because I needed the strength you gave, but at least I knew you would be there when I got home. I certainly wasn’t prepared to lose you before your third birthday.
My family could hardly believe how fast you left us. On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I noticed that you seemed to be under the weather. You didn’t want treats, and you vomited, which is something you’ve never done. You laid around the house all day, yet you still managed to drag yourself upstairs and sleep by my side. It never entered my mind that it was our last night together.
The next morning, Daddy and I drove you to the emergency vet. I kept trying to tell myself that you would be fine, that you probably just had a minor infection or something else easily cured. After all, you were only two years old. No one ever expects their two-year-old cat to be handed a death sentence, but that was what happened within the next few hours. After tests, the vet returned you to the little exam room that was decorated with pictures of healthy animals that seemed to mock us, and gave us the terrible news. You had Feline FIP, a fatal disease.
When she’d finished speaking, I stood there, completely stunned. There you were, walking around the table and purring as though you weren’t terminally ill, so thrilled to be returned to me that you didn’t even seem to know that you were at the vet’s office. You didn’t look like a cat who had only two weeks to live at most. You head-butted me again and again, oblivious to my tears that kept pelting you on the head.
The vet went on to explain that if we took you home now, your organs would start shutting down and you’d stop eating and drinking until you slowly starved to death. Or, we could put you to sleep and give you a quick and painless death.
“I will not take her home to watch her suffer and die,” I said, as I stood there shaking with a chill that seem to come from within. “She doesn’t deserve that.”
We spent some time with you, and you were so happy, so trusting. You had no idea that I had decided to end your life to spare you the suffering you would have gone through in a slow death. I kept screaming Why, why why? in my head. Why were you being taken from me at such a young age?
“I feel like I’m killing a healthy cat,” I said to your daddy, as tears flooded my face. But we knew you weren’t healthy, because we had seen the pint of fluid the vet had removed from your abdomen.
After about ten minutes, I could no longer endure prolonging the inevitable, and I summoned the vet back into the room. Watching her prepare the syringes that contained the drugs that would stop your heart was surreal like I was seeing them through clouded glass. I kept hoping it was just a nightmare I would wake up from.
The first syringe was injected into the catheter on your front paw, and you went limp in the vet’s arm, still alive but completely relaxed. I rested your head in my hand so you would know I was there, and I gave the vet a nod.
In less than one minute, you were gone.
Sometime later, we stepped out of the vet’s office into the pouring rain to get to our car. Is it just me, or does it always seem to rain when someone dies? We drove home, and I sank into my favorite chair when we got there, a chair that had been your favorite too. My brain felt like it had lost all feeling, but my heart felt like a lion’s claws had torn it out. Caesar, our other cat, ran up to us as if to ask, “Where is she? Why didn’t you bring her back?” Worse than this was having to tell our son that you were no longer alive.
That evening, our house was flooded with my friends and relatives, like we were having some sort of wake for you. I suppose it’s a mark of how special you were that my family shared part of my grief and came over to be with me. Most of them were shocked that you had died so suddenly, and we spent hours just trying to make sense of it, but none of us could. None of us could think of one single strong reason why you were no longer with us.
Sometimes I think that maybe you were an angel that took on the form of a cat, lent to me for only a short time. We didn’t even get two years together, and I feel robbed of the fifteen-odd years we might have had if you hadn’t been taken from me by that rotten disease, Feline FIP. It was like you’d been stolen. You were there, and the next day you were gone. I felt cheated knowing that the years I thought we’d have together would never be a reality, and that was almost as rough as your death.
One thing I’ll never forget about you, among many other things, is the number of lives you’ve touched in your short time on this earth. You gave joy, entertainment, and love to so many people via your Facebook page Wynter’s Wonderland, my home, and even through the article, I wrote about you for the Katzenworld blog in October 2018. Your story touched lives and made people laugh, cry, and relate to one another. A month after the article posted, you died, and I could hardly bear to announce the news on your page, because it didn’t even seem real. But it was something I had to do, and I did it.
After some time had passed, I made the decision to keep Wynter’s Wonderland alive, because I know you would probably want me to if you could understand what it was. Though a new cat named Addie would continue the role you had begun, her mission was the same; to bring joy and laughter to people’s lives. You lived to bring joy to me, and I shared it with others so that they could experience some of it too. I think that was the most important lesson you taught me; to stop focusing so much on myself, and think of others. This life has so much sorrow, but if we can take away even a little bit of that sorrow, we can change sad lives into lives worth living. And though you no longer live, your memory will never die. I love you my darling, my beautiful little soulmate. I know that one day we will meet again, but until then, I will continue to give joy to others, just as you gave it to me.