Tuesday, March 2, 2010
The quiet of winter, the silence of loss.
About a month ago, Nick and I put our cat, Molly, to sleep.
We rescued her from a shelter in Tremont, Ohio, when we were living in Cleveland Heights. This was 16 years ago. Nick picked her out. She was a polydactyl, so with an extra toe on each paw, she looked like a tiny boxer. Nick was 8 years old at the time. On the way home, he tried to hold her as best he could. Her tiny claws poked at him. He shook. He was nervous and excited. He named her Molly. I have no idea why.
As is often the way with family pets, she ended up in my care. I have moved seven times since then. I have had nine lives since then. But Molly was constant.
She drove me nuts.
About once a week, I truly paid attention to her. The rest of the time, I tolerated her quirks. I stirred her food for her since she liked me to pay attention to her Friskies even when I had just opened the can. She woke me up every morning, meowing in my face. I would push her off the bed and we would repeat the drill until I woke up to feed her.
Over the winter, she started eating less. I watched her napping one day and noticed her breath moved through her body like a wave, getting stuck somewhere mid-ribcage. We took her to the vet and they took 9 ounces of fluid from her lungs. She had heart disease, one of four diseases that an old cat gets.
Up until the last day, she purred every time I got close to her and rubbed her head. When she stopped drinking, she stopped purring. Nick was the one who called it: "It's time."
We were at the vet in an hour, holding her, petting her. They asked if we were ready. We said we were. They inserted a shot into her catheter and by the time the nurse's thumb had moved a quarter of an inch, Molly was gone.
I have never before watched an animate being become inanimate. I have never before seen a living creature die. It is humbling. It is mind-boggling. I am happy to have been given the chance to practice this experience on a pet before a human.
I never expected to feel so deeply saddened by this loss. I do not know how my friends who have weathered far worse have done it.
My home is so quiet. Who knew souls have such a big sound?
I yearn for the birds to fill the void. I am eager for the sounds of spring to tell me that I can survive another loss. A bigger one. Because I will have to. We all have to.
For now, I am humbled by the quiet of winter and the silence of loss.