May 21, 2015
My cat almost died this week. She may, in fact, still die. But I am currently eyeing her with hope as she eats small bits of my experimental offerings: scrambled eggs with cheese, bits of chicken, fish eggs. She has moved out of her chair enough to keep an eye on me—significant improvement from last night’s inability to even get herself down from the chair to her litter box. I say “my” cat when I should actually say “his” cat as, in truth, she is a daddy’s girl. So during the past 2 weeks of his village travels, she has seemed to just give up.
We suspect that she is aware of the changes looming ahead, in that uncanny manner that animals seem to sense their owners’ stresses and life events. At an old age, with one set of owners who raised her before us, she may just be saying that she is done with transition and will not cooperate with another one. So in a matter of hours, my great moving stress of finding a new home for her morphed into one of preparing for her death while nursing her as she lives. While at work today, I borrowed a shovel and made a cross, preparing myself for what I feared I would come home to. Instead of a burial, however, I have been alternately holding my breath in waiting and giddy with each active move she makes.
The strange part about this all is the revelation it has given me so far as my own transition and grieving process goes. Up to now, I have been consumed with the business of it all: overwhelmed by the prospect of getting all the books I ordered cataloged, managing inventory, and closing up with school business. I have also been increasingly guilt-ridden over my impatience with the string of goodbye parties and activities I’ve felt obligated to participate in. It seems as if all the other friends and coworkers, who are also leaving soon, have this ability to make the most of these last times together, to cry at the farewells, to wax eloquent about what has meant the most to them about life here. I, on the other hand, am unmoved: all I seem to be able to care about is trying to take care of business.
As I walked with one close friend after the most recent of these gatherings, I voiced my frustration, desperate to get it off my chest. She said she understood, and kindly offered that I should allow myself to feel what I felt, and let myself process as I needed to. While agreeing with her intellectually, I still could not shake the guilt for not caring about what I “should” care about.
But last night, as I woke up yet again to see if Lily was still breathing (the night was spent in a fitful manner of dozing and then reawakening in a fear that she was dead), I realized that I was crushed by the sight of her feeble shell of a self. And not only that, but it moved me to tears. Could it be, I wondered, that my cat is giving me the gift of grief: the ability to get out the emotion that has been locked behind an padlocked gate of ice?
I hope—I pray—that it is so . . .