Five months later and I’m still mourning the death of my cat

chrissycsmith May 11, 2014 Comments Off on Five months later and I’m still mourning the death of my cat
Five months later and I’m still mourning the death of my cat

It’s been five months since my cat died.
At 15, I suppose he was old, my Tad Smith. It shouldn’t have taken me by surprise. But it did.
For so long, he was here, with me. I got him in college, my first baby, the first pet that belonged only to me. He was tiny and white and kind of mean. I loved him.
I thought we would have more time together. I would joke about his surly personality, and how he was sure to live to 20 because of it. But the truth was, he had gotten more affectionate in his last years, often climbing into my lap and purring while I stroked his white coat, grown dingy with age.
I was in the hospital recovering from unexpected gallbladder surgery when Tad stopped walking. My husband found him under our piano, struggling to stand up, hind legs no longer working. I was discharged from the hospital that same evening, and we headed straight to the emergency animal hospital where Travis had dropped him just hours before.
They brought me my cat, wrapped in a blanket.
“Saddle thrombus,” the vet explained to me. He wasn’t going to get better. So we made the decision, and I held him while he closed his eyes, soaking his head with my tears.
“He was the best cat,” I choked. The hospital bracelets were still on my wrist.
“I know,” said the vet. She was so kind. “I can tell.”
My word, I’m crying just writing about it.
And that’s the thing. I knew I would lose him one day, and it would hurt. I just wasn’t prepared for how much. I didn’t imagine it would be real, actual…grief.
His absence was everywhere, all over my house. When I walked into my bathroom, Tad was not there waiting for a drink from the faucet. No white cat meowing for deli meat when I opened the refrigerator. I could walk out of my house and not worry about my indoor cat barreling his way out into the yard.
I couldn’t eat or sleep. The pain from my gallbladder surgery was strangely appropriate; the stitches in my abdomen felt symbolic.
I was gutted.
It was the strangest thing, and I didn’t really know what to do with it. When others expressed to me their sympathy, I was quick to follow up with a joke, minimizing the loss.
He was, after all, a cat. I kept reminding myself of that.
Certainly there are more terrible, more tragic losses, the kind I can’t even bring myself to imagine. I felt silly for grieving a cat so deeply, when just one month prior I had lost a friend to cancer.
It felt…well, kind of dopey.
A few weeks later I brought his ashes home from the vet. Inside an attached envelope was a sympathy card and a tiny plastic zipper bag containing a clipping from Tad’s coat. I took it into my bedroom and opened it, my fingers running over the white fur I knew so well. I closed my eyes and let myself believe he was there.
Now it is May, and the ashes and fur clipping are at the top of my closet. I haven’t decided what to do with them. I still have a hard time looking at his pictures. It still feels empty without my cat.
I miss him. I really, really miss him. It still hurts.
It feels strange and a little embarrassing and even, I don’t know, indulgent, to feel this way about a cat. A CAT. I can’t imagine most people would understand.
But then my friend lost her dog last week.
“I am absolutely grief stricken,” she told me. “I’m actually surprised at how painful it is. I feel as though I’ve lost a member of my nuclear family.”
Well, yeah.
Tad was here, under our roof, part of our family, every day.
And every day, I still feel his absence.
He was just a cat, but he was my cat. The best cat.

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