A Hole in my Soul

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A year ago today, in the dark chill of a January morning, a piece of my soul was forever ripped away. After a few gasps for air with lungs rapidly shutting down, Turtle’s limbs relaxed and she was gone. I knew that she was, but I denied it, continuing to lay there with my beloved cat on my chest. I told myself that the gentle rise and fall I felt was her breath, not mine. But soon her body began to stiffen and chill like the winter air. I couldn’t ignore the truth any longer. It was time to drive her to the veterinary clinic and hand her off for delivery to the crematorium. I wrapped her in a towel and, as undignified as it was, I put her in a box. I couldn’t bear the thought of returning home with an empty cat carrier in my hand as I’ve done in years past.

Turtle is, of course, not the first pet I’ve lost, but the hardest to lose. She was my soulmate and I miss her still. I think of those last few days, of the joy of having her with me for one last Christmas and one last New Year’s. But I also reflect on what I could have done to make her passage easier. I knew that she was ready to go on Friday, the 4th. I could tell. It’s something you come to learn as a pet owner. But I needed to go to the office. I vowed that I would only work a partial day and get back as quickly as possible. But that didn’t quite happen. I wasn’t able to escape until close to the end of the day, giving me only an extra hour to spend with her. And the vet closes early on Fridays. Selfishly, I did not rush to take her in for euthanasia because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I told myself she’d make it through the night.

But as I lay awake with her, holding her on my chest, I knew she wouldn’t. Turtle suffered through two seizures before the end came. While I doubt she was aware of much after the first seizure (maybe even before), I too suffered watching her, feeling her little body tremble and thrash. I begged her to let go and slip away; I told her it was okay to go to kitty heaven, to join Indy & Marian & Annie & Fluffy. But I still watched the clock tick away the minutes for nearly an hour before those final gasps for air came on January 5, 2013.

ImageSo tonight I light a candle for her memory, and I look through her photo album at her kitten pictures, and I choose to remember her healthy and happy, draped across my face sound asleep. And I remember those little moments I wish I’d caught on film like when Turtle was a wee little furball, and she came bounding across the room like a rubber ball, bounced off the coffee table, bounced off the sofa, and bounced right past my head and up on to the window screen, her tiny claws latched on tight. She hung there for a moment, looking around, and then started screaming her little head off. It took me a couple minutes to peel her off the screen.

Thank you, Turtle, for 16 years of love. Can you feel my tears?

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The Best Christmas Ever

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Presents under the tree, turkey in the oven, friends and family gathered ‘round, phone calls from loved ones far away. These are the kinds of things which make a perfect Christmas.

But the perfect Christmas isn’t always the best Christmas – that one Christmas which remains in the forefront of your memory.

I usually spend my holidays with good friends who ‘adopted’ me into their family years ago. And it’s usually a rollicking good time: food, laughter, some liquor, playing with the kids, playing games ranging from Fluxx, to Munchkin, to Chez Geek, to Battle Cattle, to Give Me The Brain.

But last year, those four “disease vectors” (otherwise known as my friends’ four young children) had brought home a nasty flu bug which was making its rounds through the family. They didn’t want to infect anyone else. Christmas got cancelled.

I thought about making other plans, but I knew that 2012 would be the last Christmas for my beloved cat, Turtle. She was 16 and her kidneys were failing. And she was painfully thin. I decided to stay home and devote my holiday to her.

I tried to get her interested in the cat toys I opened, but it was the other three kitties who pounced on the fluffy mice and wrapping paper. Turtle only wanted to climb into my lap. laptime So after all the gifts were opened, and my hot chocolate all gone, I put on a DVD and we cuddled in the big chair. She was never much for curling up into a ball on my lap except on occasion. So she took her usual position: stretched out across my torso, her head resting on my right shoulder.

(As a kitten, Turtle would plant her face in the side of my neck while kneading it with her paws and sucking on my skin. [I’m told that’s a sign she was weened too early.] Ever since, she’s been most comfortable when she’s as close as possible to my face. We would often sleep cheek to cheek.)

So we spent Christmas like that, her face next to mine, my arms wrapped around her, keeping her warm. It was the last day I heard her purr. And it was the best, most rewarding, Christmas I’ve ever spent, for she would be gone eleven days later.

Sometimes you don’t need to do anything for Christmas except spend some time with a loved one: person or pet. And you don’t need to give anything except some love. Image