"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The End of Forever

Someone told me recently that cat years are calculated this way: the first two years are twenty-five in human years, and each year after counts as four human years. Emma made it to ninety-nine.

Knowing her days were numbered. Watching her decline. Making the same trip to the vet twice before with her sisters in the same year's time. None of it helped.

Every day since she turned twenty last summer telling her I loved her. Holding her close. Breathing her in. Praying gratitude as I petted her increasingly-less-silky fur and felt the soft percussion of her purr under my hand. Counting blessings and reminding myself that our forever was about to expire as I cleaned up after her and lost hours of sleep while she meowed through the house in the middle of long nights.

In the weeks I was home recovering from surgery she was my constant companion. She was so present and demanding, it seemed that she just might live forever. Those were days of extreme presence in the moment for me. I had to be aware of every pain and movement. And so I was deeply aware that, appearances aside, I was being given a special gift in these last days together.

I started walking, fast and unhindered, with a cane in those December days. The nearby park once again became my territory, and every day I went a bit farther than the day before. The glorious freedom of it lightened my soul and my steps for hours after. Emma's decline paralleled my healing.

Two days before Christmas she stopped eating. I wasn't ready. So we made a deal and she gave me two more weeks. I still wasn't ready, but she was, and so I helped her go.

One last trip to the vet's office with her. This time to the one room with its own outside door. Holding her and talking to her, sharing her with Walt reluctantly. And then she was no longer Emma. No longer the beautiful tabby who went to sleep on my chest every night. No longer the hunter of rodents large and small, and the occasional bird. No longer Toby's curled up companion.  No longer the demander of certain foods, the claimer of my chin and my chair and every spare bit of my love and attention. No longer there to respond to my greeting when I walked through the door at the end of the day.

We carried a surprisingly heavy and warm blue bundle into the night onto which some kind vet tech had sharpied a small heart. We buried her in the garden next to her sisters, aware that she might have preferred the field instead, where she could have reigned supreme and solo even into forever. We moved forward without her.

Three weeks of empty house now. It's almost impossible to comprehend how eight pounds of fur and attitude can fill a space so completely, and leave it so decimated. I start to call her name a dozen times a day. I look for her in all her usual places. In the morning when I feed Toby, my body wants to finish the routine with Emma.

This is the first time in our marriage of twenty-five years that our home has been feline-free. I looked at cats a few months ago, not wanting to be in this place. But the only one I was drawn to was a young female with much the same personality as Emma's when she was younger. And I couldn't do that to my aging queen who had barely tolerated her own sisters.

I started looking again last weekend. Not to replace Emma. There will never be another relationship with a cat in my life like the one we shared. She can't be replaced. But for someone whose home once held two litters of kittens and assorted adults (nineteen in all), I know my heart has room for much kitty love. And this time, in a surprise gift of heart, Walt has joined me.

We bring Alex and Bunkie home tomorrow.


DJan said...

Oh, I'm crying now. Just thinking of the loss, but also the bittersweet joy of bringing those new little ones into your heart. As always, your writing touches me so very deeply, and I'm blessed to know you. Thank you for being you.

Linda Myers said...

I know exactly. So sorry, Deb, but glad for all the good years you had with her.

tricia said...

Yay. So, so happy you get two new furr friends to love and be loved by. You have such a huge heart, Deb! Love you.

kario said...

I am so sorry, Deb. I know how much you loved those lovely sisters you shared your home with. I love that you had the time recuperating at home with Emma, all by herself. What a gift to you both - her to have your undivided attention, and you to be slow and present with her.

Sending you love and light.

writing and living by Richard P Hughes said...

It's tough to lose a pet, but we move on.

Laura said...

so hard saying goodbye, I'm sorry for your deep loss of this special friend. Our Nefi is a walking bag of bones and love these days, we know they are likely few in number (the days)... so we hold her as much as we can... me less due to asthma(and cat allergies)... still I am drawn to her gentleness and can't help but hold her fragile body close to my heart from time to time.

#1Nana said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Your relationship with her is so beautifully documented in this post. I wish you many happy days ahead with your new family members.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I'm so glad you had that many years with her. Such a blessing. When my beloved 7 year old cat became very ill, I argued with the vet. Then, I cried. Then I brought her home for the night so that my daughter and I could properly say goodbye. The next day, I took Chloe back to the vet to help her die.

Emma was bery blessed to have you to love her.

Can't wait to see a picture of the new kitties.


yaya said...

I'm sorry Deb that your beloved pet is gone. I'm so glad you've decided to bring home some new kittens that will fill that void in their own way. We have so many abandoned kittens here in our town. The Humane society doesn't take cats anymore. We do have a lady who started a cat sanctuary and it has helped house and feed and find homes for many, many cats. I hope you enjoy them and some of the pain from losing Emma will be less.

BECKY said...

Deb, what a beautiful tribute to the life you and Emma shared. Your writing is very poignant and rings so true. I was right there with you...and Emma. The joy and love we give and receive from our pets is almost indescribable...but you did it exceptionally well! Hugs to you...and I smiled when I read about the new little loved ones coming into your life.

Linda Reeder said...

Oh my, tears in my eyes. With writing like that you would have had me crying over a rodent or a spider, but the fact that it's a kitty goes right to my heart.
I hope you have great fun with your new little fur bundles.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I'm sorry for your loss but excited that you are bringing home new family members named Alex and Bunkie!

Stacy said...

Oh Deb, loss in any form is hard. I hope you find some Emma moments in your kittens.

Anonymous said...

Loving you.

-M in Vancouver

Jessica Nelson said...

Oh no, I'm so sorry. I'm tearing up. I have a kitty who is close to 13. She's an outdoor cat but I love her dearly and am not looking forward to losing her.

Amber said...

Much love to you, Deb. I am struck with the knowing, while reading this, of just how much these beloved "pets" are part of our journey as humans. I dreamed just last night about our old dear kitty, our Monster Hunter, Maggie! It was so good to see her, and I woke this morning thinking how much I still miss her soul in my home... And that, yes, I may be ready for another kitty soon.
They are here with us as blessings and teachers.
:) oxox

Barb said...

Dear old Emma - what a life she had with you and Walt. What vivd memories of her you've shared. I know that feeling of forgetting briefly that a beloved animal is gone. So sad. But - new kitties to chase Toby's tail and to bring you smiles - that's good, very good. Perhaps just as Emma would wish.

Dee said...

Dear Deb, I've been away from reading and commenting on blogs for two months or more and so I've missed many of your postings. I'm so glad I returned today to discover this beautiful written tribute to Emma.

I am reminded of the words Dulcy gave to me after she died: "At the end, all that matters is love. My love for my human and hers for me. I have planted the memories of our life together in her heart. She will find them there when I am gone and they will comfort her."

Because the house had no soul after Dulcy died, I brought three cats home from the animal shelter within two weeks: Jeremiah, Noah, and Eliza.

None of them were Dulcy, but then they didn't have to be. She was a once-in-a-lifetime joy. Each of them, however, claimed their place in my heart.

Jeremiah and Noah lived for 17 1/2 years. Eliza Doolittle lived to be 20 and a half, which by my reckoning at the time was 103. She became so dear to me that when she died the house again seemed soul-less.

So then I brought four cats home from the shelter!

I'm glad to learn that you are bringing home two--Alex and Bunkie. I look forward to your sharing with us your days with them. Peace.

Stacy said...

I tagged you for a "Liebster Award" and if you care to play along, all the details are here:http://crawford1994.blogspot.com/2013/01/liebster-award-my-first-blog-award.html

Unknown said...

I feel for your loss.

Terri Tiffany said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine a pet living so long and being part of your life that long. It had to have been wonderful! I pray her memories become huge blessings to you in the future years.