I thought I better just stick the worst of it in the topic heading, so anyone has fair warning.
On Tuesday night, both Tiger and Princess came in for the evening sardines and kibble. They looked great, purring and munching, and I was so happy that they were enjoying their summer in good health. On Wednesday morning, I wasn’t the first one up, and I only heard that the cats had all been fed (total of three cats live here) from my husband. Later he told me that Princess didn’t come in for breakfast, but that wasn’t entirely unusual for either Tiger or Princess, so I can understand that he didn’t mention it in the morning.
Tiger and Princess spent their entire lives as barn cats prior to my luring them to share space inside last winter. I wrote about it here. I wrote about my long disconnect from the barn cats in the link above, and how although Tiger’s devotion to a dying dog was the catalyst that changed that, it was Princess that stole my heart.
Yesterday, I saw my husband and oldest son running out in the field. I asked my youngest daughter if she knew what was going on, and she went to find out. A neighbor (who habitually uses binoculars) saw something in the field between us, and had called. My husband had answered, and then with my son, run to the field to investigate. My son and husband chased a large hawk away from what remained of our cat.
My husband and oldest son briefly came in to confirm that she was dead and they needed to bury her. I was sobbing, and as my oldest son hugged me, he quietly said, “We’re going to take care of her, so nothing can bother or disturb her.” They buried her near our backwoods where our other fur friends were buried.
We were all shaken, grieving, and somber. Everyone was shocked, and grieving her loss. After they buried her, I hugged and thanked my son and husband both. It was a terrible job, and I respected them both for doing it.
In the aftermath, we just sort of co-existed. There are a couple things that somewhat bother me, and I’m trying to sort out.
One was at bedtime when my husband told me, “I told ‘oldest son’ that this was probably going to hit Mom pretty hard because she was disconnected from them for all those years… she probably has regrets.”
I can’t quite put my finger on why my gut went to an ‘off’ feeling listening to that.
The other thing was that I asked him if he’d call the two sons who are away from home (one lives away, one is traveling). My oldest son asked ‘why’ when he heard me asking that, and my husband at first seemed also to wonder why. I told them that Son2 has told me that he always appreciated my letting him know anything about the pets (Son2 is huge animal lover and was connected to all when he lived here), and that Son4 (traveling) might find out some other way, and not appreciate that we didn’t let him know (because he’s also an animal lover and connected to the pets).
In hindsight, I should have just called them both myself. At the time I asked, I was still finding it difficult to not cry, and youngest daughter was still crying on and off and then crawling in my lap. Still, if I could go back, I’d just make the calls. I think that also I was second guessing myself as to whether or not it really was the right thing to do in calling them. I second guess myself about so many things now. It probably felt safer for him to do it because no one seems to question him or give him grief or disrespect like they will to me at times.
My husband told me later that he called and left messages. Son2 called back, and his father answered, but I could hear his part of the phone conversation. Not once did my husband mention my name. That bothered me. Maybe it shouldn’t bother me.
Then I saw after that where Son2 posted a pic of Princess and a few words of tribute on facebook. I commented on that, shared it on my wall, and posted my own few words. My husband saw me doing it, then disappeared back in his office. I was heading to bed and he was still back there on his computer and on facebook, reading my son’s post about Princess, my response, and my own post to losing her. I saw him reading it, but just went to bed.
This morning I saw that he’d also shared Son2’s post on his own wall and put his own tribute. His words seemed so close to mine that I felt disturbed.
mine: So many tears today. Goodbye for now, sweet little mitten paws with the sky blue eyes. I know my Mom will take care of you now.
his: Good bye lovely kitty. Miss your sweet meow, your white mitten paws and your sky blue eyes. I’ll try to take care of Tiger for you.
my comment on the pic my son posted: That’s my favorite picture now because it shows how daintily she stepped with her mitten paws.
his comment on that pic: I will miss her sitting so daintily with her little white mitten paws and her little sweet meow and her blue eyes. Lots of memories of her and Tiger. One of my favorite was a few summers ago. I lay down on the lawn one quiet summer night. Soon after she quietly slipped up on top of me for a little lovin. I miss her alot.
Is this normal? Or is this an odd twist of an identity vampire? I know he seemed to care about Princess, but why express it in what seems like my words? It feels like even my grief can’t be simple. It’s bringing back memories of when each of my parents died, and how he caused more pain during those times.
I really meant that about my mother taking care of Princess. When I first heard what happened, I was sobbing, and my youngest daughter hugged me and said, “Don’t worry, Mama, God is taking care of Princess now.”
Shortly after that, an image of Princess on my mother’s lap came unbidden, and I could see my mother’s hand petting her and hear my mother’s voice admiring what a pretty girl she is. By then I’d gotten a hold of myself, and apologized to my youngest daughter for being selfish with my grief and not paying attention to her immediately. We spent much time yesterday sharing grief and comfort.
Just a few minutes ago, my youngest daughter said, “I keep wishing I’d hear Princess meow at the door.” What a delicate sound she used to make, and I think we’ll be missing that for some time to come.
Today I just feel washed out, like there’s no color inside of me, just gray tones. I’m still extremely thankful that my husband and son dealt with the grisly but necessary and honoring task of burying her. I’m thankful I don’t have those visuals to carry. Whenever I think about Princess, I’m going to steer my thoughts to the images of her with my mother now, believing that sweet little darling has no memory of what happened, and that she’s being coddled and adored. My mother is one of the greatest lovers of animals of anyone, anywhere, and anytime.
When we moved here, this place was bursting to the seams with life. At one point, we had a Nubian goat herd. a few dozen laying hens, a milk cow and calf, two barn cats, six dogs, two conures, a parakeet, a rat, a house tabby cat, and seven kids living here. I gave birth to my youngest daughter in this house. We had a milking cow and goats, and though I was only a pinch hitter for milking, I helped deliver the calf and many goat kids. The boys were collecting eggs, kids doing their chores, kids playing and laughing, and morning till evening was a robust noise and profusion of lively energy. The kids are almost all grown, so even while some are still here, the energy has changed. The last only dog is quite old, spends her hours mostly lying on her bed a few feet from me, and I have no plans to get another when she’s gone. There are two cats left, one quite old and now mourning his sister, and the other is battling cancer. Now one more beautiful furry being is buried in that peaceful spot near the backwoods.
Although I haven’t accomplished it, I think daily about purging stuff from this place. It’s as though I’m waiting for the kids and fur kids that I love to no longer need this place, and it’s winding down. I’m feeling the pain that comes with loving. It feels too hard and too much. In the pain of loss, I have to remind myself that when the moments of choosing come, I want to choose Love.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” C.S. Lewis