A Special Letter
I always thought the loss of my mother and father would put me over the edge, and I'd never cope with it. Well, it happened not too long ago and I got through it. I miss them terribly... but, the loss of my cat Annabel Lee tore me to pieces. I did everything I could think of to pull her through and I failed. The upper respiratory infection that killed her, also a day later, killed G.G. and made two other cats seriously ill, and then it went away. Even though I took all of the cats to the vets, I could do nothing. I didn't want to leave the house to go to work because I was afraid I'd come home and find them all dead. The day after I took Annabel to the vets, I stayed home half a day, and Charlie stayed home the other half a day, so someone was always there with her. Unfortunately, we had to isolate her and I think that killed her faster than the virus. I got up the next morning, after checking on her throughout the night, and found her dead. She was still warm to the touch. I lost it. The guilt was horrible. To this day, I can't write about her without crying, nor can I write about G.G. It's been three years, and the pain comes back in waves.
I think what upsets those of us who cherish and love our furry companions when we lose them, is that when we say I'm sorry, we don't really know if they understand. To say I'm sorry to another human and hear "That's okay" absolves us. We can walk away and say, "It's okay, he or she understands." With a cat or a dog, we know they hear the tone of voice and the feeling behind the words, but do they understand what we're trying to communicate? The intensity of the loss is magnified because we don't walk away knowing they understood. If Annabel could come back into my life long enough to let me know it's "Okay", I would be all right.
The love and devotion you and Shadow have for each other is a very special, precious gift. The loss of one who never questions, criticizes or passes judgment (that we know of) is deep and hurtful. Not only do you have to deal with him not being there, you have to deal with those who know you and may not quite understand why such emotion over a cat. I know, I've been there. A coworker once commented that I should be over it now, it was just a cat. My response back was "Gee, I hope you'll give me a little more time if I lose my Mom or Dad". She was offended. I won't tell you how I felt, but it's a good thing there weren't any bricks lying around.
The hardest thing to cope with is the routine that you've established with Shadow...those "special" moments when you both knew exactly what the other was thinking without using words...hearing that rumbly purr that you just knew was reserved especially for you, or the feel of fur that felt like silk. There will be moments when you swear you just saw him out of the corner of your eye, or caught the brush of him against your leg and it'll bring you to tears.
But know this, for the time that you've shared your heart and home with Shadow, he knew he was loved and adored, and he gave that love and adoration back. What you have to do, you do out of respect and love, and to preserve his dignity. When it reaches a point where they suffer, the best we can offer them is a gentle passage with us there to let them know they're not alone. When he leaves you, he'll feel no more pain, and will join so many of our other fur angels and he will be waiting for you on that day that you cross the bridge to meet him. I honestly believe that. If I didn't, I couldn't bear to continue on with the daily business of living.
Also Sue, remember this...you're entitled to your grief, and you're entitled to cry for as long as it takes to work your way through this. You have a lot of friends, like me, who are so willing to help you through this, because we've walked where you're walking now, and those of us who have been blessed by the company of cats understand and cry with you, as I'm doing now. My heart hurts for you, and I'm sorry you're going through this, but, you're not alone, and...neither is Shadow...he has you and your love to help him through this.