I know this may sound silly to some, but I am one of few words. My only release of my grief is to write, so write I shall.
Many of us who have had to bury a child feel insulted and angered, at times, when someone who has not been through such trauma and tragedy unknowingly states that they understand because they lost their cat or their dog. In fact, burying a beloved pet cannot be compared to the loss of a child.
There are so very many losses throughout one’s life. I have buried both of my parents; my grandparents are long gone; two siblings have now passed; and I grieved the loss of my marriage of twenty-four years. I have also been through the loss of pets. Yesterday, I sat with my ‘Spunky’ in her last moments.
Spunky has/had a special meaning for me. She was born just a few weeks after my son was killed. All her siblings went to my son’s friends. She has been totally blind and deaf for quite some time now, yet somehow she managed to get around. She was twenty years and one month old. That’s well over 100 in human years. I chose her from the litter because she had so much life that emanated from her very existence, hence, the name: ‘Spunky’. And spunky she was. She was a fighter from day one when I saw her be born.
She mostly loved the outdoors. I have had numerous cats throughout my life, but never a cat that ran faster, climbed a tree with more skill, or caught a critter more shrewdly.
A couple of years ago, we had her at our camp along with my daughter’s cat and my two that I keep at the camp. The others sensed she was old and blind, so they attempted to harass her a bit and try and take advantage of the old gal. My two camp cats catch mice, but they don’t seem to know what to do with a mouse once they have it. I have watched them spend hours trading a mouse back and forth between them as a sport. The mouse either gets away or simply drops dead from the ordeal. My daughter’s cat is clueless when it comes to mice. He may catch one, but then lets it go in a stupor. I must say he’s not the brightest tool in the shed when it comes to cats.
One day, however, the old blind gal caught herself a mouse at the camp. The other three cats perched themselves in different locations looking on. They watched in amazement as Spunky devoured her catch, only leaving behind the entrails. The other three cats never harassed old Spunky again. From that point on they walked softly around her. She had earned their respect.
Spunky had had a number of ‘events’ which could have been ‘kitty strokes’. For the past three weeks I would have to stand her up twice a day over her food bowl until she found some balance so she could eat. But she still had her ‘spunk’. She would sense when I was approaching, perhaps through vibration, and would try and stand and meow as she attempted to greet me. I would brush her as she ate and she would still purr.
Yesterday, I knew when I saw her in the morning that this was her last. Her back end had become totally paralyzed and when I held her over her food, she could only take a few licks. I had just washed her bedding the night before so I gently laid her on top of it and periodically gave her droplets of water with an eye dropper. I then noticed that she was having great difficulty swallowing. I was checking in on her about every 15-20 minutes throughout this four hour ordeal. Finally, I knew it was her time.
I took her out and laid her on the freshly mowed grass. Her entire body had begun to stiffen. I sat there brushing her and swatting the flies away. As she laid there, I watched as she twitched her nose and wiggled her whiskers as she smelled the earth beneath her. Then, perhaps in a twilight sleep, she began to move her front paws as if she was running. She was in some place happy. I prayed: “Lord, please meet her in the fields’. Then, her body convulsed twice and she let out a whisper of a meow. Her front and back legs all stretched out as they would when she was about to take a flying ‘leap’.
Then, she was gone.
As I stayed with her awhile longer, continuing to brush her, I wept. She was a beautiful, feisty, and wonderful pet. ‘Til the very last moment, through years of blindness, deafness, and the recent stokes, she remained my ‘Spunky’.
No, there is no comparison between my loss of her and of my son. Yet, I grieve. I awoke a number of times last night thinking I had to go check on her. Only to have to remind myself that she is now gone. I laid her in a closed container with a blanket awaiting for my eldest to come and bury her. I was there when she was born and quite fittingly when she passed on. I love you Spunk! You will be missed.
For pet lovers everywhere, I understand.
(((HUGS))) Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at: https://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781498496728&HC_ISBN=
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