Life after death

A few days after I posted that last entry I meant to come here and happily share that adjusting Sophie’s medication seemed to make a big difference in her well-being and her behavior.

And although it seemed true, I waited. I think that somehow I knew it couldn’t be that easy.

Of course she’d been sick for a while — the latest round of maladies started in late September — but then the end came swiftly, more suddenly than we could have expected. We had a great night together last Monday, the 15th. She relaxed in her favorite spot on the couch, stretched out to touch me at one point and even stood up and gave me a huge kitty kiss on the cheek as I gave her a little massage (one of her favorite things) on the shoulders.

And then by 4 a.m. she was dying. That thing they tell you about “knowing” when it is time to say goodbye, to make that awful decision — it’s true

I wrote about her death and my sorrow and the culture of grief for this week’s SNR.

It’s been just over a week now since we said goodbye to her and, to be honest, I’m still not coping very well with losing her. In the days and hours since I’ve cried more than I ever thought possible;  the tears are still there and they probably aren’t going away anytime soon. I’ve felt sick with headaches and stomach aches and although there other factors contributing to my lack of well-being, it’s mostly this —  this sadness, this missing her.

Yesterday we received her paw print in the mail from UC Davis. Cast in concrete and adorned with an angel kitty in miniature, it’s the kind of thing I’d see offered in a mall kiosk and dismiss as too silly but when I opened the package and felt the imprint, well I started crying uncontrollably.

Today it was a sweet and loving card from our regular vet that made me lose it.

I know there are people with worse problems, who’ve lost friends and family members and significant others and the loss of an orange cat probably pales in comparison on the Things That Are Bad in Life scale but this is MY thing that is awful and although I tell myself every day that she is no longer in pain, that she is better, that we made the right choice, I am still missing her horribly.

Sophie came into my life following a bad break-up and at first  I was a pretty questionable kitty mom. I remember, shortly after I got her,  taking a stupid magazine quiz that tested one’s readiness for having a pet. It advised me against even getting a plant — the outcome, the test results theorized, would be too awful. Still, she put up with me and loved me and along the way taught me selflessness and compassion and, most importantly, how that cliché about unconditional love can be so, so true.

Of course, while we’re on the subject of clichés, life goes on and lucky for me I have a wonderful husband and, of course, Trixie — a particularly needy gray cat who, in her own way, seems to be grieving Sophie’s loss as well. I imagine we will someday give Trixie a new companion, a new playmate. Someday, just not right now – we’re not ready yet.

This will probably be the last I write about her for a while — at least in this space. I mean I’m OK with being known as the weird cat lady but for now I just have to grieve until the mourning shifts into something less painful, something sweeter and more fitting for a scruffy little orange cat who, as Cory said,  “used more than her allotted nine lives to make ours a little better.”

Goodbye Sophie. I miss you but more important, I love you — past, present and future tense.


5 thoughts on “Life after death

  1. My snake, Willful, I got when he was the size of a No. 2 pencil. I got him in self-defense; I was teaching fifth grade, and a few of the boys in my class of seventeen had taken to bringing me “gifts” after recess — the last was a really horribly long worm thing that was maybe some kind of centipede, and Lord have mercy, I really hate things with that many legs.

    I knew spiders were coming next. Can’t do spiders. The little amoral beasts were looking for a reaction, grinning each time they gave teacher a “gift,” and that wasn’t going to work. So. I out-duded them. I got a snake. And they were scared spitless of holding him.

    I smirked.

    And then that little creature climbed up my arm and wrapped his tail around the pulse in my throat and stroked me, and I fell in love. He spent most days hunting in my hair. I gave up ever having it neat, he had too much fun up there. Even when he was as tall as I was, he tried that hunting in my hair thing, though he couldn’t hide there anymore.

    We called him Willful because he just WOULD go where you didn’t want him to — every single time. The last time was into the undersprings of the couch. Obviously, snakes do not come when called; we had to leave him there until he freakin FELT LIKE coming out. Once, he got out of his tank and hid for six weeks. He showed up when we were moving, sliding around in the last few boxes, as if to say, “What? You thought I wasn’t coming?” (He came back from that little trip BIGGER. We were worried about the pet hamsters in our building…)

    The UK has a ban on having pets with you for half a year, and when we left the U.S., we decided that it might be best not to have him be in such a cold country. It is SO cold here. And he so hated the winter, despite the fact that his species comes from Nebraska, where they know from winter. We left him with my brother’s 7th grade science teacher. My sister went through his class two years later, and they both kept an eye on him. When the teacher was recently laid off, my Mom took him home — much to my father’s horror. And we went home for Christmas, making plans to begin the six month quarantine to bring him to us.

    And then, unexpectedly, he died in January.

    I am getting all teary typing this. And I know you maybe feel like nobody understands about Sophie. But I do. And I know it’ll take time to feel anything close to normal about not seeing her when you come in the door. And that’s okay – take that time and remember her. And thank you for sharing her with the rest of us when you wrote about her.


    1. Tanita – that is the most wonderful story. I’m so sorry to hear that Willful is gone but with wonderful memories like that he lives on — truly, it made me smile to think of him hunting in your hair ….

  2. God, I am so sorry. I know there’s nothing I can say, but I know I’ll be devastated when that inevitable time comes for our cats. And, Tanita, I had no idea about Willful.

    Well, I’m thinking about both of you, anyway, even though I know there aren’t any adequate words.

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