This is my baby-girl. Chinook (for the wind, not the salmon). She was born February 2, 1997 and died August 2, 2015. That’s right, two days ago was her last day. The picture above was about 2 hours before her last breath. Those are the facts, the statements, the plainness of it. I am heart-broken as I knew I would be. And I have had a number of random thoughts in these last 48 hours.
We shall call these thoughts, Reflections in Snot, and here is why.
Reflections in snot. As I lay on my side on the balcony facing her on Sunday, when she was barely able to focus on anything, including me, when the purrs were gone though I know she still appreciated the touch, snot poured out of my nose. Perhaps someday I will try and draw what I saw. This rope of clear mucous dropping from seemingly midair (since we don’t really see our nose unless we focus on it) down to the grey floor of the balcony, making a thick, viscous, irregular puddle. That puddle reflected the railing and the jasmine, lines and patterns broken up and shifted into incomprehension. Chinook on the other side, my fingers touching her paw, sliding from her nose, down her back to her tail. She was done.
Reflection in snot. The time itself was surreal. I have been in a sense waiting for 3 years for this day to come. She’s been getting older and older, as we all do. Slowing down. Sleeping ridiculously. In the past week she’d been particularly slower. On the day of, I’d gone for a walk in nature, gathered my spirit and soul into calm balance, and thus prepared to do all that needed to be done, not allowing myself yet to recognize why this calming and centring was important, but doing it and knowing it was all the same. But none of this actually prepared me for the moment.
There is no preparing for the loss of a loved one.
There is no getting ready.
There is getting everything around ready. I knew what I would do with her body afterwards. I knew the costs of cremation and what I was going to do with that. I took aspirin before the crying headache really started. Had a quick shower as I was filthy after my nature walk. Forgot to eat. One should never forget to eat before heading into intense emotional turmoil. Note to self, remember for next intense emotional incident.
I had thought it through for years, knew her time was coming, reconciled myself to life afterwards. Or so I thought.
How will I get through life without this beautiful girl cuddled in my lap?
Reflections in snot. For more than 18 years she was my companion, in the fullness of the term. Was she my familiar? I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it. She didn’t help me in my direct magick, but she supported me through life in ways that I don’t even understand yet, that I won’t understand until I hit all the places where she is no longer there for me. She was an emotional bastion (heh) and touchstone of peace and love.
Reflections in snot. For more than 18 years she slept with me every night. Except for that one night when she was young and got outside onto the ground floor (she did that twice to me over her lifetime! but only once when I was asleep) and those few months when she let the boys (my other cats) take over the bed. If I had nothing else positive to say about my relationship with my ex-fiance, the fact that he brought her back to sleeping in bed with me would make it all worthwhile.
Reflections in snot. She was there every night. Curled up at my side. She would crawl into bed before me, giving me a glare if I took too long. And once I was settled she would move up the bed so that she could lie with her head on my hand or arm. We would stay that way for at least half an hour as I meditated. Sure it was awkward, but it made her happy and there were so many times during the day when I couldn’t just cuddle her as she wanted, so at night, in bed, I was all hers.
When I was ready to sleep, I would gently shift out from under her. When I was ready to roll over to the other side, I would give her a kiss on the forehead or paw before doing so.
Reflections in snot. Routines and patterns are the gems and cornerstones of relationships, where we blend into each other, fall towards each other instead of away. We had many such routines. Once everyone was settled on the bed, she would get up, eat and do other bodily function things, and then climb back into bed and into her spot. Whereupon, if I did not pet her at least three times, strongly, I would get the meows of reminder. At which point I would roll over and pet her strongly three times at least. Then roll back and fall asleep. Sometimes there was grumbling and muttering, but I’d always do it, otherwise, more meowing.
She had the most amazing belly, all white and fluffy and silky soft. She would lay splayed out as I stroked her from neck to navel, completely relaxed into me. Until she saw one of the boys. Sigh.
Reflections in snot. The amazing friend who drove me to the emergency vet (because of course this is happening on the sunday evening of a long weekend) suggested that as a good album name (the reflection in snot) for some kind of musical group. I don’t remember the type. My brain was more than a little addled. I should probably have eaten. My friend brought me food while I stayed with Chinook and the vet did the final injection. She was so far gone by then that it was hard to tell the difference. And while the last hours had all been driving us to this point, funnelling us down into the pure inescapable reality of this moment, it still couldn’t be real.
Reflections in snot. Whether I rejected the reality of it or not doesn’t seem to matter. She is not curled up at the foot of the bed. She is not stretched out on the balcony. She is not here. She will never be here again. I can cry and whimper and weep as much as I want about it but the reality doesn’t change. Because no matter how hard or long I look for her, I will never find her again. She is not lost. She is gone. And I remain.
Reflections in snot. I wondered briefly about waiting for her to die naturally. There was no question this was it. Absolutely none. Would it be kinder to let her pass on her own? I asked her. She was just done and ready to go. Only the stubborn activity of her heart and her lungs kept her going. And that was my answer.
I wondered afterwards, knowing that this was the gentlest, kindest thing I could do for her, to release her from the final pains, why we can’t find it in us to allow it for human beings. I know euthanasia is complicated and there’s no simple answer. But right now there is no answer. We are more generous and kind to our pets than to our fellow humans. Then again, this is no surprise.
Reflections in snot. All of the world out of order, lines twisted, angles shot to hell. I am so afraid of losing the sound of her meows. Did I really never capture that on video? Why the hell not? Oh, right, because it was fast and fleeting and in moments when there was no camera ready. I have to rely on my memory to hold her and my memory is horrible and so I know that she will inevitably fade out of my memory, her sweet sounds, her obnoxious cries, her downloads to her alien overlords. Gods, please, don’t let her fade from my memory, please don’t let me lose her again. Yet time, time is cruel, says Saturn, and to hold on too tightly will only change the memory from reality to a created something that isn’t her anyway. I will never hear her voice again. How is that even possible?
Reflections in snot. Have you seen the article about cat language? That they don’t speak to each other and vocalize just for our benefit? In essence, creating an individual language that is just between us and our cats? My boys have a couple of her “words” but an entire language died Sunday. Hers and mine. I am the sole possessor now and I’m afraid I never did speak it very well. Wrong type of vocal chords.
Reflections in snot. She will never be again. What we had together will never be again. Blatantly obvious right now as she was a cuddler and neither of the boys is. Maybe that will change a bit over the next couple of months but I doubt it. She would snuggle into my arms like a baby on her back and want nothing more than for me to rub her belly. Gone. How can she be gone? Just like that. One second to the next. With barely a sigh. It’s not real. And yet, there is nothing more real than her being gone. This is reality now. Now being all we have, from one second to the next. What was is gone. What is is different. Reconciling myself to that truth, that is the impossible part. Yet it will happen, whether I will it or not, for I continue.
Reflections in snot. The house is quiet. So much quieter. How did she have so much presence? She slept 23 hours a day. But it is silent now in here. The streets make noise, the boys act as they always have, but there is no more snoring from the corner. There is no more obnoxious crying while I’m teaching “Don’t worry, she’s not dying,” I have said to so many clients over the past year while teaching from home. Except Sunday she did. The silence echoes and rings. I embrace the silence in a new way, listening for her and feeling heartbroken when nothing comes back.
Reflections in snot. My bed is empty when I crawl into it. I have never been married, have only lived with someone for less than a year. But I have had a bed companion for nearly 19 years. 19 years! Longer than many marriages, I’d bet. Every night (minus those exceptions mentioned above), cuddled up to each other, or not. Loving each other, or sometimes angry. Then love again. She has been the constant companion of my adult life. I told her it was okay, that I was going to be okay, that she could go when she wanted, when she was ready. And I know that it is true, and I will be okay, and I will continue, because it is what you do.
Reflections in snot. I covered my tv with a cloth yesterday. I have always been frustrated with the ease with which I avoid life and what I think I want to do by drowning myself in movies and the internet. Unfortunately, there is work to be done on this computer so putting a cloth over it doesn’t work. But I have put the cloth over the tv, because if I really want to watch it, I can. But in the meantime, there are other things to do. There were times I rejected her attention because I was too caught up in myself, my frustrations, wanting to be comfortable while I watched another youtube video. For her, for me, I want to put an end to that. Though I suspect that may fade with the same regret as memories of her. Dammit.
Reflections in snot. Grief is so very personal, as all pain is. Our joys take us outward but our pains draw us in. I have witnessed many people experience loss just like this or worse in the past year but it didn’t feel like this. I was on the outside. And no one will feel this loss as I do, for everyone else is on the outside. We can never fully experience another’s grief. We can let ourselves fully experience our own. But it’s hard. Hard to sit with emptiness with sharp edges, the perfect completing puzzle piece of my heart taken out and gone. She is now memory and the memory of love and that will have to be enough.
Reflections in snot. There has been a magical turning for me in the past week and a half. A new commitment, a deeper sacrifice and pledge of all that I am to what the Gods ask of me. I had wondered, now that I had put myself so fully into Their hands, if that would change something for her. The transition ends this coming Friday. It’s hard not to find it related. She’s been growing slower for so long that I honestly believed it could be years more before she actually died. Had said that but a week before. Yet here we are. Heartbroken. Lying on the balcony making a puddle of snot and enjoying the last sunbeams.
I’m glad you got so much sunbathing in these past months, baby-girl. I remember the first time you found a sunbeam. You looked like you had found nirvana. I hope you are held in such warmth, love and joy now. I will miss you beyond words, beyond stories, beyond the stretched and aching breadth of my heart and my soul. I am so grateful to have had you in my life. I know that I will continue without you. But I wish you were here, just the same. Curling up with me, purring as I rub your belly, grooming me until I literally cannot stand it anymore and make you stop (though you always tried to get at least one more lick in). You were love. You will always be my love.