Our first cat, Tigger, was euthanized on Valentines Day 2007. Jenn was inconsolable. I was sobbing. Even our vet was in tears. When it was over I told myself to stop. I told myself to be strong and keep it together. I can’t recall being much of a comfort to Jenn. Acknowledging and accepting the pain felt like the first step on a long, soul wrenching trip. A trip I refused to take. Meanwhile I neglected my grief by means of distraction.
Here I am again. Everything that can be done has been done. When Tigger’s health deteriorated over the course of a year. Our vet at the time believed some medication or combination of medicines would successfully cure Tigger. Treatments met brief improvements, followed by long stretches of sickness. His full feline form melted away. His luxurious coat became matted and dull, and ultimately had to be shaved to prevent more health problems.
With Tima we see nothing. She bounds into our bedroom as though on springs. She slides across our tile floor then leaps onto the bed where she sits and talks to us. Her fur is thick yet smooth and intoxicating as silk. At night she is quick to find solace by my side. He appetite is healthy and her weight steady.
But everyday a gnawing sensation rolls and tumbles in my stomach. Waiting. Waiting for the end. Waiting for the first outward sign that signals the irrevocable spread of cancer. The cancer that slowly kills Tima has already killed my hope of recovery. Everyday I go through the motions, acting like the world is still the same place it was yesterday. Without hope I can only wish. Wish for Tima’s malady to disappear, thus sparing us the pain of losing her; to spare me the conversation about death I must have with my daughter.
Penelope was with Jenn the day of the operation to remove the tumor. As they left Penelope told Jenn “We can’t leave Tima.” Jenn tried to explain Tima needed to stay overnight to which Penelope replied “I want to stay too.” When Jenn relayed this to me I nearly lost control of my emotions. Since Tima returned home from surgery we haven’t said anything to Penelope. When the time comes I will be the one to have the conversation with her. I don’t know what I’m going to say and that scares me.
Maybe I’ll start with the facts. Nothing and no one lives forever. Cats and dogs don’t live as long as people. Tima is very sick and won’t be with us much longer. Each statement I make will be appended with the question “Why?” because Penelope asks this question in regards to everything. I will answer and be as patient as possible. I’ll try not to cry. She’ll see enough tears from Jenn and I after Tima is gone.
Or maybe I’ll try to explain to Penelope that it’s not just Tima that’s soon to be gone, but a piece of us too. We grieve because a part of us will die along with Tima. Over the last ten years we nursed her, protected her, and loved her. Unlike some cats, Tima seems to understand, and repays our kindness with a patient and unswerving devotion.
The ones we love, human and otherwise, are irreplaceable. We may love another cat as much as Tima but we will never love another cat the way we love Tima.
After my previous post many friends offered encouragement and support. Thank you for your words, prayers, and thoughts. Your presence in the darkness is a strength and comfort.
“The pain is part of the happiness. That’s the deal.”
Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis in SHADOWLANDS