I thought I had gone through enough losses that I’d become almost accustomed to them…
I remember clearly the first time I saw Baby. I was in the midst of planning a funeral for a dear friend I’d been guardian of for 10 years and one of my cats had been very sick for 2 weeks ( I had taken her to the vet’s several times and was caring for her at home). I also remember thinking to myself, “If just 1 more thing happens…”.
Two coworkers showed up at my doorstep with a day old kitten and asked if I’d take it. Evidently, the kitten’s mom had abandoned it and I was her last hope for survival. Just 1 more thing happened…
I knew the intensive care a newborn kitten would need, including feedings every 4 hours around the clock. I looked down at this pitiful creature: eyes closed, swollen belly, no fur — let’s just say not remotely cute in any way. Lack of cuteness factor aside, I knew I had to take her and hurriedly looked around for a kitten bottle and formula, then got her settled into a tiny box with blankets and a heating pad. I also knew she may not survive despite my best efforts and vowed not to get attached to her.
My sick cat was definitely taking a turn for the worse and I got her out of the cage to comfort her. Her
fever was still high and she bit me then died moments later. It’s not bad enough she died, but biting me just before she died was concerning since we weren’t sure what illness she had.
I called my doctor immediately and the nurse urged me to come in NOW to get an injection and major antibiotic. “Cat bites can be nasty”, the nurse said. Hmmm, I was on my way to plan a funeral, I just took in a day old kitten and I should go right to the doctor’s office in the midst of all that? I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer, finished getting ready to go to the funeral home, and stopped by the doctor’s office to get my injection and antibiotic.
On to the funeral home, back home to feed the kitten, take the cat to the vet’s for a necropsy….seems like a normal life….
Then kitten watching went into full swing: feeding her every 4 hours, making sure she kept warm enough (I woke up continually to check her), cuddling the newborn, etc. It was exhausting, especially during the funeral process, but we got into a rhythym and she thrived, became responsive to me and even a little cute.
I named her Baby, because she was such a little baby and actually began to look forward to her feedings because she would hold the bottle between her miniscule paws and look up at me (through not yet focusing eyes) as though I was the most important thing in the world. Looking back, I guess I really was her world and she was fast becoming an important part of mine. Uh oh, I was getting attached…
On to kitten play and baby meowing and all the silliness (and cuteness) that comes with kittens. I knew she needed to interact with others her age so found another kitten that was about 6 weeks old. What a time they had rolling around, trying to climb and just being alive. I don’t know if there’s a more joyful creature than a healthy kitten nor is there anything more joyful to watch, at least in my opinion.
When she was about 6 months old Baby became sick and I spent the night with her on the couchbed giving her electrolytes and cuddling her. She would wake up during the night, look up at me with trusting eyes and purr as loudly as a jet engine. “You can’t leave me for a long time, Baby”, I said to her as I held her close to me.
Baby and her friend, Cream Puff, lived in the house for quite some time and Baby always preferred my company to that of another cat’s or human’s. I was her mom and no one was going to convince her otherwise. She was my little girl and we just seemed to have a mutual admiration society going for each other.
I eventually moved the 2 girls into a cabin on our property and they loved their little clubhouse (I am allergic to cats and really wasn’t supposed to have them in the house — right). Every day I would open their door and Baby would jump onto my lap and tell me alll about what happened in my absence. During the day both girls would run and play outside in the grass then wait for me to put them to bed at night. Again, baby would always jump onto my lap and tell me about her day, then go in to her clubhouse for the night.
For years we had our routine and each time Baby would see me outside she’d meow loudly and follow me around. She helped me garden and do chores and everything else I did on a regular basis.
Until recently when Cream Puff died unexpectedly and Baby seemed lost and stressed. She quit eating and I once again, began to baby her and spend a lot of time with her. I even took her to the vet’s and got medication to soothe her upset stomach. Before long she was back to being her old self again and I brought her into the house in the evenings to be with me. I held her and she purred as loud as a jet engine and looked up at me with trusting eyes filled with love. “You can’t leave me for a long time, Baby”, I reminderd her.
Last Saturday morning I went about my chores giving one of our latest rescue dogs, Lucy, some time to run on a long cable until my husband could take her for her daily walk. After breakfast I went out to finish chores and saw that Lucy had broken her collar and was running free. Lucy is not a big fan of our cats and I was concerned she had gotten ahold of 1 of them. I put Lucy back in her kennel run and took inventory of my cats — Baby and Pumpkin were missing.
I called for both of them and figured if Lucy had gotten ahold of a cat she would have brought it to show us, kind of like our cats do when they catch a mouse. I thought she had likely just scared Baby and Pumpkin and they were in a tree hiding somewhere. I continued to call and look for the 2 cats during the day and into the evening but saw neither one.
Day 4 of calling and looking brought Pumpkin back to me. As the week had gone by I was growing more and more concerned for Baby because I thought if she were hurt she would at least meow to let me know where she was. I prayed she would return to me unharmed — she wasn’t supposed to leave me for a long time…
Finally this morning I found Baby. Her neck had been broken (most likely by Lucy). She was hidden among the brush close to her clubhouse. Except for the broken neck, she looked like she was napping as she had done so many times in my lap over the years.
Baby has left me. It was inevitable but so brutal and unexpected. I’d hoped I would have had the honor of being there when Baby left me — many years from now.
We rescued Lucy, who was slated to be euthanized at the pound, and she killed a rescue cat. She killed a cat whose life I had saved. Not just any cat, but Baby.
You may be saying, “It’s just a cat, what’s the big deal”? You’re right, in the grand scheme of things losing a cat is not on the top of most people’s list of difficult life experiences. And maybe I know that better than most since I have gone through 2 miscarriages and watched my only (full term) child suffer and die from a terminal illness. I’m no stranger to loss.
But there was just something about this cat, Baby, that makes it so difficult. She loved me and I her. She trusted me and believed I would always take care of her — always protect her. Just like my son, Richie, did (who was also not supposed to leave me for a long time). And maybe, just maybe, that’s why the loss of this cat is so difficult. Implicit trust and unwavering love are hard to find and even harder to let go of whether it comes in human or “furry” form.
With God’s help I know I will survive this and any other loss that comes my way until He calls me Home to reunite with those who helped me be a better person — just by their being in my life — no matter how brief the meeting. For I believe God allows heartache in our lives to make us more loving and kind and compassionate — and for many other reasons.
If left to myself , I would choose only good things to happen in my life — we all would. But then I think about the old saying, “Better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all”. And, I realize I am happier (and sometimes sadder too) for all the loved ones I have lost but would not change having them in my life for anything in the world. For even though I may not understand why they had to leave me “too soon”, I can celebrate the fact I had them in my life at all.
Is the joy of loving worth the pain of losing? The answer to that, at least in my life, is a resounding YES!
Jackie Deems Copyright 2019
Originally published at wwwamazinggracefarmscom.blogspot.com on March 7, 2019.