My dear pretty girl,
It’s been a month and a half now since you passed. It feels like eons. Much has happened in the last six weeks. But I want to hold the memory of you, and your last moments, in my heart forever.
I am not sure I’ve completely grieved you. Grief is a funny thing. It can feel like it’s gone and then suddenly, it will sneak up, hit you sideways, and you’re crying. I grieved pretty hard during your last three months of hospice care, but there still may be more grief inside me. We just got back from a camping trip. In the woods, where nothing can distract you, where there is only the great silence and immensity of nature — grief came again. However, it was a tender kind of grief. And you felt close to me in the wilderness.
I want to remember the amazing cat you are, were, and will always be. I want to keep you as present in my heart as I possibly can. That’s why I am writing this letter.
I was volunteering at the local shelter when I spotted you. I keep poor records but I’m guessing this was nearly 15 years ago. You were spayed, three years old, and had beautiful and intense green eyes. You had three legs. I had just lost a cat with three legs. My deceased cat lost her rear leg to cancer. You lost your rear leg to suspected abuse.
If there was abuse, you didn’t hold it against anyone. You loved all humans. You would jump in any visitor’s lap and you loved to cuddle.
Still, I am a slow processor. And it took me many many years to appreciate all your gifts. Fortunately, we had many years together.
You were a very serious cat at first. You had no patience for the antics of the other cats in the household. If they were playing and wrestling, it seemed to completely unhinge you. You would rush into the fray and break up the fighting. The other cats didn’t know what to make of this. We attributed it to the stress you’d been through in the past and continued to try and make you as comfortable and adjusted as possible. You would let nobody groom you, but you would groom the one other girl cat in our family, Karma.
And then one day after many years, my husband and I walked into the living room and saw an amazing sight. Chester, our affable orange tabby boy, was grooming you. You were relaxed and seemed to totally be enjoying this new experience. Your eyes were shut in blissful contentment, and if I had dared go closer, I’d bet you were purring. Progress!
Only a cat lover would get so excited about this. I was so happy to see you becoming more secure and settled.
What I came to know about you, over the years, was that you had a deep, deep love. My cat-loving friend put it this way — you were a cat who wanted to reach out. You did this with your intense look, which seemed to see right inside me. You loved all people but you were most connected to me and my husband. You had a quiet and no-nonsense way of demonstrating that you wanted attention. You would simply come to my feet, sit down, look up, and fix me with that stare. That stare seemed to want to drink me in. Your eyes and your fur were phenomenal. You had arresting gold-lined hair right around your eyes. You had black lips and your fur had a beautiful golden undercoat. Your fur was sleek and thick and you had a black “racing stripe” down your spine. You were very fast on your three legs, especially when you were younger. Missing a rear leg didn’t bother you one bit.
If this can ever be said about death, your death was perfect. You died in my lap, peacefully. I knew this was the day I might have to take you in. I made you comfortable, and in my mind, I told you that we needed to leave for the vet by a certain time, or sooner, if you seemed to be suffering.
One hour before that deadline, you died peacefully in my lap, staring into my eyes as you passed. I will never forget it.
The very odd thing is that a few days after you died, I ran into the humane society staff person who assisted with your adoption. She no longer works at that shelter, but she remembered you from years ago. We both cried gently as I told her about your life and our wonderful time together. She told me that you came very close to being put down and that I had adopted you just in time. No one wanted to adopt a cat with three legs, it seemed. She said that people looked at you and saw big vet bills.
Which is silly. Three legs don’t necessarily translate into big vet bills. You had a lot of other health problems that crept up on you, to be sure. Many cats don’t get to live to be 18.
I love your spirit, your tenderness and your toughness, your no-nonsense attitude, and the way you loved with no holds barred. You taught me so much.
Be well and fly free, my pretty girl,
How do you keep the memory of your cat alive? Do you remember the details and the special times? Share your stories in the comments!
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