I think last night was the longest of my life.
I woke up hourly, wondering why I was awake and then remembering. During one of these wake-ups, I felt a soft vibration near my feet and my heart surged momentarily as I groggily thought, "Purring! It was a mistake!" until I realized it was a small portable fan and cried myself back to sleep. This morning Mr. Ashley tried to get the kids ready for school so I could sleep in but instead of sleeping I hid under my comforter and cried, wide awake even without my feline alarm clock.
I have dealt with grief before but this situation has a physical component--I miss her presence. When I would pick her up, she would put one paw on each shoulder and squeeze her cheek to mine like a human hug. No exaggeration--I would give up my car, unable to afford a new one, for just one more of those hugs. Just to know it was the last. My hands ache to touch her and I desperately would like to press my mouth to the top of her head for one more kiss and to smell her. My lap feels empty and it feels wrong not to have to crane my arms over a small buzzing lump in order to reach the keyboard. It's not only my heart, my body misses hers.
I go to the bathroom with the door ajar because she never met a closed door she didn't need to be on the other side of; no one opens the door now. I can finally go to the bathroom alone after all of these years of parenting, and it sucks.
The kids are taking it better than I expected, probably more aware of my own intense grief than they should be and giving me space accordingly. There was much crying when I broke the news. Big Kid kept saying things like, "She was an old girl. She had a good life. She wouldn't want us to be this sad," as he cried quietly and asked why life had to be so hard. At one point little kid was the one sobbing, and I thought Big Kid was handling it rather well and then he said in a simple, stunned and matter-of-fact way: "I don't really know how I'll go on without her." And I know how he feels.
little kid asked, tears streaming down his face, "What is that thing when people come back as other things? What is that called?"
"Yes. I hope there's that."
"Maybe so. Maybe she's being born into a new kitten body right now and maybe in a few months we'll meet back up."
"That's a nice thought, but no offense, pretty unlikely," Big Kid said.
"I don't know. We don't know how the universe works. Energy has to go somewhere. As you grow up, you'll meet people that you know were meant to be in your life, and will realize that they would have been placed there one way or another--that it was destiny for you to meet up, that you are drawn to one another. Maybe that's what it is. Maybe there are certain souls that we need and maybe we all seek each other out time and time again. I hope so."
"Or maybe her soul went up into the sky and she turned into a star," little kid offered. I could work with that, too.
Yesterday I interrupted Mr. Ashley's work day with frantic requests for her one white whisker, begging for private cremation, pleading for a promise that he would make sure our ashes were joined together one day. If I wasn't a crazy cat lady for not wanting to leave her to go to the beach house, I certainly am now that I have no cat.
I told him that I just wish I had taken more time to appreciate her and he chuckled and said no one has ever been more appreciated. That I lavished love on her daily and it would probably be fair to call her the love of my life, and that she knew this. I just want more time; I regret every vacation we took this summer because that was 18 precious days that I missed. I know that's absurd but that's part of grief, the what-if game. What if I could have 18 more days? Honestly, I'd take even 18 more minutes. I'd take one hug, one kiss, one pet, one minute, just one real goodbye.
I need to mop. I need to do laundry. I need to put away the litter box and food bowls. I need to follow up to emails and make important phone calls. I need to write my column. I need to crawl back into bed and stay there for a week but I hate it there now without her.
I know one day the pain will be further from the surface. But I really can't imagine ever finding another love like that and facing that fact is hard. I know I was so lucky to have experienced it but I feel like I will be a little bit empty forever now without her.
Thank you for your kind words and understanding, the sadness has been made more bearable by the support of the
people around me. I promise we'll get back to normal (at least here) soon. My inbox is overflowing with people who want to give you stuff and I have some cool and happy things happening behind the scenes that I'm finally able to share with you. We'll get to it all. I just need a few days to sit here and wonder what to do.