Blogging as a public journal is a way to help process many things and grief is no exception. Whenever Abraham ventured out for feline adventures, my heart would grip in fear of losing him. Now my fears have been faced and realized.
18 years ago he was part of a pair of kittens I had gotten for my daughter to help ease the transition of divorce and a new home with the experience of having pets as part of the family. I had done it many times before, but as life’s twists and turns would have it, this was the longest journey I would share with an animal. His sister Sarah became too ill last year to survive my move, which left Abe to accompany me on the journey to my new home and life chapter. (my daughter liked the idea of naming them after Old Testament hero and heroine). He handled it well despite my concerns for the old guy, and after two hours in the new place he acclimated to the repositioned furniture and purred contentedly on my familiar bed and linen. He became more connected to me, following me around the house, staring when I went through the familiar motions of leaving him whether for an evening out or a weekend away. His need for my presence more closely resembled mine for his and the simple comfort of each other’s presence became profoundly lovely as I licked my wounds as gingerly as he licked his paws ……
Maybe only feline aficionados will appreciate his qualities, but I found it endearing and frankly adorable the way his dry food bowl was often topped with hair ties and q-tips. To this day I’d swear the mouse he placed on the bowl one day, as carefully as an anchovy on a salad was a statement. Of what I mused was his way of showing me how valuable he was as the warm furniture of his life started disappearing. Or the time I thought he’d disappeared in the woods of Lyme one winter, when he managed to hibernate quietly in the drawer of a coffee table for well over 2 days. In this last year he still ran excitedly around the house when I’d return from a grocery trip or a day away and jumped up whenever I engaged in his favorite activities involving relative stillness. He’d become a chin rest as he saw me settle to work on my laptop, a lover to cuddle with under the bedside reading lamp, an adjunct to coffee in the morning as he strolled with me to the kitchen for our morning routine of nourishment to begin the day. A willing participant as soon as he heard the timer of the sauna I inherited in my new house, purring at my wet head, delighting in the heat, able to withstand it longer than I ever could, despite his rich fur coat.
Abraham was going out less from our new home and in his new role as main man in my life. When he slipped away into a light and then heavy rain, my grip of fear was mild as he always came back after shorter sojourns. This time I distractedly worried and looked and called as I tried to maintain some equilibrium with my dear friends who visited this past weekend. I heard myself call ” AAAAbrahaaam” familiarly conscious of the tone and trill of my voice that over the years he would always and eventually run to with his sweet eagerness.
My neighbors called me in the early evening when I went out trying to distract myself from the futility of looking for him when he wasn’t ready to return, and I was gripped with anxious hope when they said they found him in a tree. How could he not be okay if he was in a tree, I thought excitedly. I raced home and went to the tree by the neighbor only two doors down to find his body frozen mid-climb with his head wedged in the tree’s crease. The sight of his obviously dead body was horrible and I was wracked with sobs to see my beloved companion in that frozen position. Difficult to say if he had suffered so I tried not to think about what that last dash up the tree was like. A protectively barking dog lived there and I imagined him being on his way back home and taken by surprise and perhaps relatively unaccustomed to climbing at his age.
One neighbor handed me a towel while the other set up a ladder and I trembled at the task of lifting him out. As we do, I tried to think of the peace rather than whatever anguish preceded it, and carried his suddenly heavy body home where we buried him in a grave as deep as middle aged women filled with grief on a brutally hot and humid night could manage.
I will say that he went out of this world as a true cat, literally mid-treeclimb. He lived a full life with me as his human mom trying to balance his protected life with his bouts of adventure. I now begin a familiar process of grieving. Spent a good part of the day cleaning out food and litter, brushes, mats, all the while noticing all the ways his presence was part of the fabric of my life, my thoughts, feelings and considerations. Grief unwinds as a sensation, unwelcome but achingly familiar and part of the ever changing world that must include our losses.
Rest in peace in that mysterious realm of the beloveds we bury, as after 18 years with this guy, I have to believe the spirit of animals merges with that of their human counterparts.