Grief and a Cat

The world of grief is a lonely place.

I don’t like to visit it often, but I do know I have to go there at times. It’s a solitary journey and you can’t come with me, nor can I go with you. I’m all for sharing feelings and stories, it’s in my nature to share and speak my mind most of the time, but not the inner most thoughts. In my head I visit the last moments, the regrets, the ‘I wish I had more time’ and I battle with self-doubt, fear, and loathing and you can’t join me.

This is not depression. This is grief and we all have to experience it.

It’s ok to feel this, to sit with it and to experience it. The difference between grief and depression I suppose is that one doesn’t stay there. These are my private moments; the challenge is to find joy as well, which I feel fortunate to experience daily. It’s a process and I am now over a month into it. I feel good most of the time, life and time keep on moving with or without my awareness of it.

What I really want to talk about though, is our cat.

Our cat was found as a tiny kitten on the side of the road, we are in the country and (this is actually a regular occurrence unfortunately we have found many litters of kittens dumped in our area over the years). Anyway, he was just a ball of fluff when we got him and he was terribly skittish. But our kids won him over and he became an indoor/outdoor family pet. He has always been an interesting character.

Kitty Kat (super creative name right?) loved Aaron and the boys, he hated me. He would literally scratch at the door to come in, start into the house and see me across the room, then promptly turn around and go back outside. If I came upstairs, he ran from me, he never wanted to be near me. He didn’t like strangers in the house and would always disappear when they visited unless they were on the toilet… I have no explanation for any of this.  

He loved walks with Aaron

He would however, walk with us in the woods, he loves to go on walks. Since Aaron was home most of the time, they would spend a lot of time together. They always had mornings outside together and would sit on the porch often. When Aaron went into the hospital the cat behaved as he always had. He doesn’t like winter much and was in much of the time, though out of site if I was there. After Aaron died the cat wasn’t around a lot since there were so many strangers in and out of the house which didn’t surprise us. He seemed fine until we moved Aaron’s clothes out of the house and moved the furniture.

As part of my process in all of this, I needed to move the furniture. There were the practical reasons, like his dialysis machine and supply storage were no longer there. But it was really more an emotional response. Aaron spent 24hrs a day in the house in the last few months of his life. If I kept the furniture the same, I would see the void, I would expect him to be sitting in his chair. It was a little less painful to walk into the house with the changes.

Getting rid of the clothes was really a more practical thought process. The boys took many of the t-shirts as keepsakes and I kept a couple as well. We donated everything else, we knew he wasn’t coming back, they were taking up space and someone else could use them. The clothes do not make the man.

What I didn’t anticipate was the impact all of this would have on our cat… he left.

For over a week he would not come home. At first, we thought maybe he had been grabbed by a Fisher. They are well known to take cats and definitely live in the area, I was doubtful about this explanation. His skittishness has served him well in surviving our wooded area for the last 7 years and we saw no signs of any struggles in the snow around the yard. His footprints led to the woodshed, we found him deep under the floor of it. Then we thought maybe he was sick and was going away to die. We saw no sign of him for several days.

One evening when Jasper went for a walk, the cat showed himself. He didn’t quite get close enough for Jasper to reach him, then he walked away. The next day he came a little closer to the house when Jasper was outside again. And the day after that, I saw footprints leading to the first step of the house. The following night he came in with Jasper in the wee hours of the morning, ate for about half an hour straight and stayed in for 24 hours.

Since his return he has turned into a love cat. He climbs on the couch next to me and nuzzles his way onto my lap, insisting I pet him for at least 10 minutes straight before he will fall asleep curled into me. He now loves me so much. It’s remarkable.

Maybe he went on a walkabout in his grief and returned a new man.

Or maybe he’s just a cat…I have so many questions.

I started thinking about the bigger questions in life. How are we connected, who are we in this life and why are we connected to the people we meet? Are we really just energy manifested with infinite possibilities beyond the carbon-based form? Is it possible that the swirling essence of Aaron is manifested now in this cat? Or do we just cease to exist once our light goes out? More importantly, what meaning does our existence have if thats’s the case? Does the 27.5 years of my life with Aaron have any significance beyond our own lives? What’s the point? Or more simply, is it possible the cat had a medical event that changed his personality or did he just adapt to the new dynamics?

I don’t mean to ask if Aaron will be remembered. Those that knew him will of course but I know that after I am gone and our kids are gone, not much of our lives will remain, that is how it works. We are all just a blip in this vast universe. Our self- importance only serves us. I don’t mean this in a glib or sad way, it just is.  I have a deep satisfaction in the life I had with Aaron, I loved being with him and he will continue to travel with me on my journey. Clearly I have no way of answering any of these questions, but I like pondering it all. It does give me pause about my own grief as well, if that cat could turn things into a great new life in the aftermath, so can I.

I’ll just keep stepping through this one day at a time. I’ve been creating a little, writing, and starting back to work a little bit at a time. It’s feeling good.

Work in Progress. Hand-dyed with botanicals. Libs Elliott pattern “Rebel Quilt”