- Aperture: f/5.6
- Focal Length: 300mm
- Shutter: 1/320 sec
- Camera: NIKON D1H
One month, my baby Boo boy. One month since you went away. It’s silly to write to you. It’s not as if you can read. But maybe you know anyway. Mommy misses you so much. Yes, I know. People will laugh. I don’t care. Pure love never really worries about such things, and I guess our love was — is — as pure as it gets.
I washed your grave today. I felt badly because I didn’t go to see you yesterday. It’s hard sometimes. I look out the window often, but I don’t feel you there. You never got to walk among the leaves, never got to hear the squirrels chitter in the trees. It is a place you would have loved to have explored if you had been well. I try to find comfort in the abundance of wildlife that runs amok. Yesterday, some squirrels jostled the bunny statue positioned near your head. Nicholas was kind enough to set it upright again. I couldn’t bear to go out there.
It’s raining tonight, and it makes me sad. I hate to wake up in the morning and see the mud splashed upon the smooth white marble. I know that nothing can harm you inside your boxes — the rain will never touch your dear sweet face — but still it hurts me to see the mud so carelessly splashed. It’s as if God himself could care less that the most sacred creature in my world lies beneath that muddy ground.
I find myself tormented by what you must look like now. Mama tells me not to think about it, but I can’t help it. I am troubled that my perfect system of boxes will prevent the natural method of decomposition and encourage rotting instead. I know. It’s a horrible, horrible thing to write. It’s an even more horrible thing to think. I wanted the very best for you. I wanted to preserve your body with dignity and grace. But I am terrified of what is happening to you inside that box. Maybe that’s why I am having a hard time sitting near your grave. Because I don’t want to think of you as a cold, dead body.
Oh, Boo. I miss you a thousand times a day. Sometimes it seems like the day is going to be okay. And sometimes I find myself being very nonchalant about your death. People don’t really understand. And it was such a profound moment to share with you that I jealously hold it close. I don’t want to share it with anyone else. Especially with anyone who might not understand.
The more I read, the more I come to understand that we were very fortunate to be together in those last minutes. To have that last night together. So many people wish they had that. I didn’t want to have to make the decision. So God took it out of my hands.
Earlier today, I found myself almost angry with you for not fighting harder. Because so many nights, I fought the depression back, willed myself to stay on this earth to care for you. To be with you. And in the end you gave up. But I know that’s not true. You fought as hard as you could for a week. All that night I laid by your side and felt you fighting. Looking back at your pictures, I can see when you started feeling bad. I can see it in your eyes, the tilt of your head. It’s so plain to see now. You hadn’t been well for at least two years. I’m sorry that I so selfishly kept you with me. I thought that my love made up for being too tired to play, too tired to jump to your favorite spots. Now I wonder. Was my love enough?
I love you, my sweet boy. With every beat of my heart, I miss you. I’m scared I’m going to forget your voice, that the only sounds I will remember are the last ones, the crying out, the pain, the fear. They are all I hear right now. But sometimes, sometimes when the house is still, I hear your voice calling from the dining room. Lily misses you a great deal. She calls for you constantly, sits in your favorite chair and yowls. I try to reassure her, but she never has liked human companionship much.
I’ve cleared out most of the boxes from the dining room now and should be finished painting by this weekend. You’d probably hate it. I know that like most cats, you always did prefer boxes and books and stuff everywhere. As for the color, well, it’s cheery. I didn’t want to be sad in there. You loved that room, loved the way the sunlight spilled through the windows, loved the warmth it gave your tired bones. You were like that for me — pure sunlight in a world that was so often so dark. I could stare into your eyes for hours, enraptured by the multitude of colors I found swirling in their depths. If I can pour that feeling, that love, into that one room, I will do it.
I was so looking forward to having breakfast with you in there, reading the newspaper, feeding you tidbits from my plate. I had high hopes that being able to be in the kitchen and dining room would spark your appetite. You were never able to go anywhere but the bedroom at River Run, and I am so sorry for that. I love Zolby, but getting him was such a mistake because it made you, my first baby, a prisoner in your own house. Now he has the run of things, which thrills him to no end. Of course, he can’t be with Cookie unless Nicholas is home because I can’t control him once he gets out of hand. He is so vicious sometimes. He has given her several frights. It seems so unfair. But I know his day will come too. As a Maine Coon, he is likely to carry the same genetic heart defect that you had. I try to remember that and not be too hard on him.
I think back to that day right before you got sick, the day that we were experimenting with letting Zolby have the run of the house. We thought a larger territory might enable all of you to get along better. I feel so badly about it now. I can still remember the panicked look on your face as you skidded to a halt in front of Zolby, tried so hard to turn and run, but couldn’t catch your footing on the unfamiliar vinyl floor. Of course we intervened, and Zolby never touched you, but when I held you your heart was pounding so hard and you were so frightened. When the vet said you had had several previous heart attacks, I thought back to that day and wondered if one of them was then. A part of me wonders if that day made you get sick.
And yes, I know that this line of thinking is counter-productive. But these are the things that run through my head at night, dear boy. I’m so sorry. So very sorry. I’m sorry for all the nights you must have laid in bed, wondering where I was. Nights I never bothered to show up. God, I kick myself for those nights. I wonder sometimes what I gave you to live for in the end. It hurts me now. I think so very many things. How I should have tried a different vet, how I should have asked for a consult, how I should have pushed them to answer me when I asked about your behavior before I brought you home that night.
I just wanted you home. With me. And it was selfish, I know. I wanted you to be at home, without any more needles or doctors or drugs. I wanted you in my arms. And we got that, my boy. We got that. I have to console myself with that thought. Erase the horror that was watching the last moments. Erase the horror of feeling your body grow cold and stiff. Your little paws so reluctant to spread apart. So cold and unresponsive to my touch. When I kissed you that last time, a little droplet fell from your eye onto my hand, and though I know it is just something the body does, it broke my heart in a way that I don’t think anything else ever has.
I miss you, my baby boy. A month later and I think I am doing better sometimes, only to fall apart and lose it at the slightest whisper in the wind. I don’t care what the priests say, and I don’t care what the books say, and I don’t care what my friends say. If there is a heaven, if it is to be any kind of heaven at all, then you have to be there. Because I never wanted to live in a world where you weren’t, and I definitely don’t want to face eternity without you.
So I have to believe. If faith is the belief in the evidence of things not seen, then this will be my act of faith. If I can accept without question that God created the world, why am I stumbling over the concept of heaven and hell? Is it because I know that every single notion we have of heaven and hell comes from greeting cards and 50-cent poets? The Orthodox Church doesn’t teach all that stuff anyway. People have written to me saying that you are playing in fields of butterflies now with their dearly departed kitties, and I so much want to believe that. But it’s a fairytale. The Rainbow Bridge. It’s a beautiful story. Someone just like me wrote it. Someone who needed to spin a story to comfort themselves. Seeing through things, seeing the world as it really is, is so hard sometimes.
But still. I believe that God created the earth. And I believe that the saints continue in the afterlife. And I know that the saints had many loving relationships with animals. And I know that you and I had an extraordinary bond that often seemed to transcend space and time. How many times did I send a kiss to you when I was working far away? If I believed then, then I have to believe now. Because now is when I need it the most. I don’t know about the grassy fields and butterflies and stuff. But somewhere, I hope you feel my presence. Every day, a couple of times a day, I imagine scooping you up, feeling you run up my body, feeling your nails dig lightly into my shoulder as you perch. I imagine cupping your face in my hands and kissing your nose as we did so often. And if I close my eyes, I am almost there.
I’m scared I’m going to forget. I’m scared you’ll forget. I’m scared of how much it hurts. I’m scared of the day when it doesn’t hurt quite so much anymore.
But if someday I can hold you in my arms again, it will be worth being good. It will be worth going to church and playing by the rules and all of it. Just to be with you again. I promise. I won’t let you down. I promise. I can be a better person. Maybe God will be moved by our love. After all, it has happened before…. remember?
Grandma never permitted cats in her house before you came along. Did you know that? I brought you home that first Thanksgiving, and mama warned me she might say no. Grandma took one look at the bundle I held in my arms and said, “A cat! Well, he is pretty cute.” And that was that. From then on, it was understood that if I was at Grandma and Grandpa’s, you would be there too. I’ll never forget the day she caught you sleeping in her bed. You woke up and saw that old lady with glasses peering down at you and you jumped up, arched your tiny back, let out a hiss, and slapped her! I was horrified. She laughed and said, “Well I AM pretty scary in the mornings, but you didn’t have to say so!” We finally realized that as long as she didn’t have the green velour blanket on the bed, she had no trouble with you. Put the green blanket on the bed and you were there before we could tuck in the corners. Mama sliced that blanket up and wrapped it around you in your little box. I try to remember that on the nights it is cold.
You warmed every heart you ever touched, even people who didn’t like cats. People used to stop by our apartment and ask if they could see my cat. You were that special. So certainly, if there is any exception at all, God will find a way to allow you in his house. I pray to my patron saint, St. Cecilia, and I try to envision her holding you in her lap as she plays her beloved music. You always loved music too, so you two should get along just fine. I guess her music might take some getting used to since you are more accustomed to Tom Petty and the like, but if by chance you’re with her, be a good boy and wait for me. It won’t seem like very long to you, but it will seem like an eternity to me before we are together again.
All of my love, always my Boo Child.