It’s 2 am, and I’m multi-tasking on 2 of my least favourite activities right now: editing photos, and filling out a cremation/euthanasia claim form.
obviously, i prefer the former activity more - i do it more often, but it doesn’t always keep you up at night because it doesn’t hurt.
my cat was 12. i thought it would be easier because he was older. you sort of expect this as time passes by, as you watch that little furball grow into a heavier, older, active cat. you pump up his insurance premiums just to be on the safe side, because you never know. you buy more expensive and healthier food for him to prepare him for what follows. change is inevitable, you tell yourself. change is a better word than death, or passing. change is expected.
you know what i find really sad these days? this avoidance with change. people say they’re ready for change, but the fact is, they’re not. if it ain’t broke, why fix it? its the same with sadness, or avoiding sadness. we are so hell-bent on presenting this picture perfect life on social media, to show this side of us that are having the time of our lives, that it’s supposed to be wrong or a crime, if you show anything else but. there really is nothing wrong with learning to grow from sad experiences. in fact, i think because i dwell on them so much, i appreciate my happy moments a lot more. suffice to say, my progress is slower, but im much happier because of it. well, yes, it is unfortunate if there is loss and grievances that follow, but, eventually, it was time after all and then there will be a time to move on as well. losing someone IS supposed to hurt, if you are attached to someone, or something. but i also know the importance of letting go. there is quite nothing like time to help you accept the realities of life, and it is as much as a part of the natural process of growth and change in humanity. so change IS expected, and should be embraced, and by all means, you should be prepared to accept change.
so you think you’re prepared. you also tell yourself, its just an animal after all. you also tell yourself, after all, you’ve been living away from him for the last 3.5 years, and its not like he has noticed anything, because your brother has done an excellent job of taking care of this birthday gift of yours. its just a cat, you tell yourself. and he’s happy. and he’s not just your cat anymore, he’s everyone’s cat. they all love him, bless them.
and then one day, or maybe for a week, he’s sick. or maybe he’s been sick longer, and you don’t notice. when once upon a time, he used to be irritated if you touched him, now he cuddles up to you wherever you go. he swishes by your feet, you almost trip on him. you tell yourself that maybe he is just getting softer in his old age. you ooh-and-aah over him and welcome this new behaviour.
and then one day he just stops eating and drinking. he’s emaciated. where once he had a pudgy belly that made the doctor call him obese, now he’s wasted away and his rib cages are showing. he’s so sick that you take him to a doctor, and they can’t find anything wrong with him, but they tell you that he’s been sick. they tell you that he’s exhibiting all the signs of the dying behaviour of a cat - refusal to eat and drink, no control of his waste, opposites in changes in behaviour which would explain his lovingness now, and also the dying behaviour of a cat - disappearing into a nice, shady, cool place away from the owner so he can die in peace and not be irritated. i suppose that explains why you couldn’t find him on that beautiful sunny friday morning for a couple of hours. so you rush him to the vet, where they gave you your options - let him die without pain, or let him suffer in pain.
and of course, you being in a whole different country, transatlantic flights and time zones away, ready to go out for your friday evening, are a little taken aback by this quick turn of events. because, lets face it… you were expecting it. he was 12, after all. a cat, after all. change is inevitable, is it not?
except you weren’t expecting the consequences. you were expecting him to die, but you realize dying is more than just a word. dying is an action. dying is a floodgate of memories trickled with tears and memories. you weren’t expecting to see flashes of his tiny kitten face, when he was a baby, his entire body that fit on the palm of your hand… now being carried, by his beloved owner, on both hands, face half choking on his tears and holding them back, and precious pet put on the back porch, so you could see your baby’s euthanized body one last time, a million miles away on skype.
his face is covered by a napkin, because apparently their eyes stay open after they die. you choke back the tears, and you ask to remove it because you can’t see his face, you just want to see his face, why can’t you see his face.
they take away that napkin, and there, on that little tiny screen on your smartphone, you see the face of the thing you had playfully called your child to everyone who would listen. yes, he’s a cat, after all, but he was your cat. he was your baby. he was the baby that kept you company when you’d watch a movie by yourself in the basement on a friday night, because you didn’t have anyone else to go to the movies with. he never came to you when you were doing something by yourself like blowdrying your hair, and the music was blasting on the speakers, but somehow, he used to come to you when he could smell your tears on your pillow. or maybe he was just sensitive to a broken heart, because he was around for a lot of that. he wouldn’t really do anything, he would just sit next to you, his feet tucked inside his chest, and he would eventually fall asleep right next to you, because he still preferred his space. because that is a cat after all, that is what they do, they give you that kind of unconditional love that sees no barriers or judgements. and it’s these little things that they do, expecting nothing in return, that eventually help them transition from just a mere cat, to labelling them as your children.
and after you have taken a screenshot of your dead cat, being covered ever so gently by your brothers and mother so he could be buried ever so gently in his little grave in your backyard where he loved to hang out so much, you frantically look through all your photos of the ones you had, and you relive moments that you don’t usually relive, (because, its a cat after all, and you have a life). but now, suddenly, you find yourself scouring for the videos that you took when you visited home, and you hope you haven’t deleted them, because right now, all you want to do is to just stroke his face like you did in that video, just like how you want to stroke his face and tell him everything is fine and he will be fine, as he lies there lifeless, his half-emaciated lifeless form, his eyes open, a drastic change from his adorable tiny kitten face floating in front of your eyes.
in the video, your eyes glaze over his unusual features like his extra thumbs, and his eyes, now heavier with age, and how much he purrs and moves around to your touch. you wish you could do all that, one last time, as they prepare to put him down his little grave.
its not the passing away that affects you so much, as it is knowing he suffered. that’s the ultimate cause of grievance.
you then decide that you need to get over all this, because, well, he’s just a cat after all. because if you don’t, people will think you’ve got a few screws loose.
except he’s not just a cat.
he was an extension of who you were. when you stopped trusting people, you decided that you could talk to him. when one day you question your own being because it seems no one can see the goodness in you because you aren’t good enough to them, you realize that you’re wrong, you are good enough, even if it’s just to a cat. in their own little way, they help you heal and that companionship is cathartic. you learn about responsibility because having a cat to a permanently single person is the closest thing to having a child, you learn about patience because you have to wake up every morning to open the backyard porch for him, but most importantly, you learn about compassion, because that is what having an animal is all about. unlike your groceries or day-to-business, you do NOT have to be responsible for a pet. but you choose to take care of one, you choose to be responsible to one. for someone who hopes to have a child, this is as close as it gets, and you relish the opportunity as to how it may give you that minute, but euphoric feeling of satisfaction that can be similar to one.
i still remember his extra thumbs. everyone would gasp when they would see his 6 fingers on each paw. he would win them over with them. he did his own thing, but when he was sick, he would go over to my brother, who was more of a parent to him than i ever could, and my brother would keep him very close on his bed at night. my poor baby was getting older, but he was taken care of so well by his real parent, that i cannot fathom what he must be going through at this moment.
but i tell them, he’s lived a good, long, mostly healthy life. he was so happy being outdoors. he lived well. he was loved so much. he was shedding a lot, especially in the summer, but i think we all adjusted despite all the complaints. he was a blessing in disguise, for so long. he bought out your immature, childlike side. he was your companion in all of your single life. he would stay up with you during exams. he did a great job with guests. he sat next to you while you had your dinner, reassuring you that you are indeed a better chef than you gave yourself credit for.
he’s much more than a cat. he was my shrink, my movie partner, my bedmate, my dinner date in front of the tv on a friday night, my alarm clock, my little thumb wrestler, my sunshine when i came home after a long day. he taught me how to love unconditionally, he taught me what it was like to have compassion, and he was a piece of my heart, full of love. he also made me realize that the kind of person i should be looking for, or be friends with, or the ones i get along well with, are those that have compassion for animals.
the pic on the left was taken when he was a few months old, while the pic on the right was taken when he was 10.
i’ll meet you on the other side, my little bubba.