Ask Max Monday: Grace

Ask Max Monday

I sent you a letter about 2 weeks ago. It could be that I did not send it. It could be that while you were on vacation you missed it. I wrote a very heartfelt letter and I cannot duplicate it here. I will try to give you the jist of the letter. Our cat, Frank, passed away on the eve of my birthday July 16. He passed away on our couch. We took very good care of him right until the end. I gave him his medicine every night until the last night when my mother told me not to give it to him. My mother knew he was no going to make it and figured there was no reason to give it to him. He did not eat the last 2 days. I tried to give him some water with a syringe but he could not keep it down. I was hoping he would live long enough to be with us for both my and my sister’s birthday in Aug. but It was not meant to be. I was wondering, have you ever lost a cat sibling? Has your human lost one? How did you handle it? Just a few years ago, we had 3 cats in this house. Now it just my mother and me. My sister has 2 cats but she does not live with us. I sometimes think I see him or feel him. I know I will get over this like I did the other cats, but I know this one will be a bit different seeing that Frank was 20yrs. old and he was the last cat we will ever have. I have one last thing to add: I know you and Buddha do not get along but I ask you again to please try. Someday, there will be just one of you and you will miss the one who’s gone. After Max died, Frank started looking around for him and couldn’t find him. My mother says that when he started to start slipping. I don’t know if that’s true because Frank was 19 at the time. Anyway, thank you for listening to me. Steve L. 

Man, I am so sorry. But, no, I did not get a letter from you and had no idea that you were going through this. I do know how hard it is, and it sucks giant hairy donkey nuts, and it’s gonna keep sucking for a while.

I haven’t ever lost a sibling cat, but I did lose Hank the Dog, who was probably the sweetest canine to ever wag a tail. It was a curious thing, to have him there one day, dispensing his doggy wisdom, and to be on my own the next. I looked for him from time to time, but the people were the ones who felt the pain of his absence the most.

They’d lost other pets before; childhood pets that had lived into their adult years, long enough to feel both the sting of loss and the gratitude of having had them in their lives. They lost the Cat Who Came Before Me, Dusty, at age 13 to a congenital heart defect. There was a lot of sadness there, but the shadow of that grief was largely brushed aside by the happiness that once they knew she was ill, they were able to give her one more year of an incredibly happy life, and when she left she did it on her own terms.

They had made the decision to let her go, with grace, but there on the table in the vets office, she took the decision out of their hands, hissed at the vet, and left.

Hank did not understand; Dusty was, as far as he was concerned, his mom. She practically raised him, and he was truly depressed for a time. I don’t think that cloud of confusion and sense of loss lifted until after the Younger Human brought me home 6 months later. I did not replace her; I couldn’t. But it was after that the Woman thinks he returned to himself, and stopped looking for Dusty.

It hurts. It always hurts. It’s supposed to hurt. And then, after some time, it stops hurting as much and becomes a settling of sorts, where you still miss them but are glad you had them for the time you did, and you treasure the memories. It’s part of the grace of everything; the balance of all. There is gratitude to be found in grief—you had him for 20 years. That’s an amazingly long time, and it doesn’t happen unless the cat is well cared for.

You did that for Frank. Being willing to dribble water into his mouth, to do what you could, is such a wonderful kindness. I have no doubt he felt that, even when he wasn’t able to drink.

I know I have far fewer days ahead of me than I have behind me, and we’ve reached the point in life where Buddah could, possibly, go before me. I’m not sure I would miss him the way people do, but as I did with Hank, I would certainly notice his absence and feel the pain of my people. And if I go first, he would be the same, and his presence would be a comfort.

But when we’re both gone? I don’t know how the people will take it. I hope that they’re content with the lives they gave us and the care they offered, and what remains of us are happy memories and gratitude for the time they spent with us

I know Frank felt that for you. I don’t see how he couldn’t. You were an amazing human for him, and since he can’t say it, I will: thank you.

= = =

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5 thoughts on “Ask Max Monday: Grace

  1. Max, such wise and comforting words. Life is never easy but death is worse even though its inevitability is there from day one.
    Lots of purrs to all in pain.

  2. Max, your answer is wise and wonderful and just right.

    Steve, you and my son share a birthday. My heart goes out to you, it’s always hard to lose a loved one, and the hurt doesn’t go away so much as becomes easier to live with.

    It is sad that you are not going to be getting another cat. No new animal replaces one we’ve lost. Getting another pet means we open our heart to new love, and a heart that is open and growing that way is a beautiful thing. Perhaps you and your mother could revisit that question in the future, when the time is right.

  3. Steve,

    The pain of such a loss never completely goes away, but the happy memories eventually take precedence and warm your heart. My beloved Dax has been gone for many years but I still feel his weight on my chest when I wake on quiet mornings. I smile when I think of him riding on my husband’s shoulder and stealing the socks that I would lay out before a shower. I can still hear his huge purr when he’d flop down on my lap for a long belly rub.

    He had a congenital heart murmur and was gone from our lives years too soon. But he isn’t gone, not really, and never will be. He was nothing but happiness in a cat suit, and I feel honored he was with us as long as he was. It was a long time before the tears stopped (mostly), but eventually they did. And now I have my happy memories to keep him green.

    When you’re ready, maybe you can volunteer at a cat shelter to help socialize kittens or skittish adult cats since you won’t be having more cats at home. It’s a way to give back to cats you have loved in the past as well as a way to pay the love that they gave you forward. Meanwhile, I wish you peace and and hope you and your mom find comfort in one another and in your memories.

    Gayle and Dax

    RIP Frank

  4. Wow Max! That was beautiful. You made me get all teary as I sit here with my buddy Murphy on my lap. He is almost twenty, and the feeling of his soft purr as he naps on me is a Blessing which will always be with me.

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