My cat died this week.
Technically he wasn’t my cat but was a gift to my eldest son on his 6th birthday. My son is now nearly 20, so the cat has been part of our family for a significant amount of time. He was by no means my favourite cat — he was, in fact, kind of annoying most of the time — regardless, I was fond of him and as he became more frail and unwell in the last few weeks I took it upon myself to care for him as best I could and make sure he had all he needed.
As his death became imminent it seemed especially important that he knew he was loved. Each day that came and went I expected would be his last, so I made sure he was adorned with lots of pats and told what a good cat he was and how much we loved and appreciated him as part of our family.
I assumed he would pass peacefully by the fire with his family close by so was absolutely distraught to find one cold morning that he’d passed outside in the garage, alone. It wasn’t his death I grieved — he’d had a pretty good wicket for a cat — it was that I wasn’t there; that I didn’t get to tell him one more time he was loved and say goodbye and just be there with him when he left this earth.
Did he know even though he was annoying I really actually didn’t mind having him around? Did he know he was loved? Did he know he was a welcome part of our family? Did he know we were going to miss him? I mean, he was a cat for god’s sake. Yet still, the thought of him dying alone shattered me; the unsaid words still heavy on my chest.
It made me think of all the things we leave unsaid to the people in our lives. How we always think time is infinite. That there will always be more of it, another tomorrow. How so much of grief is interlaced with regret; how really, the two are rarely separate.
I think about how little relationship I have with my parents; with the family outside the one I have created for myself. The weight of unsaid words I hold in my body. How I’m not ready to release those words. How I want to control time and space and life and the universe and have it all unfold as I would dictate. How I want to confront such things on my time; my way.
How I may never get the chance to do so if I wait for tomorrow.
I’d like to think there’s a call to action in there somewhere. That perhaps I’d take heed of this lesson and stop assuming tomorrow is a given. That I could believe my parents did the best they could with what they knew, and find forgiveness.
But the truth is, I feel more grief for the loss of a cat than I do for the loss of relationship with my parents and maybe one day I’ll know what to do with that but right now, I don’t. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s enough to just be able to admit these hard things — to say them out loud and allow ourselves grace for the parts of us that are broken; perhaps irreparably so.
Maybe it’s enough to just be able to forgive ourselves.
If you missed any of the articles I published on Medium this week, read them here: