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I cannot dwell in hope.
Accepting what is real is how I can love her best
Every morning I wake and wonder if today will be The Day. For a time I feared I’d come downstairs and find her lying dead on the floor — for this very reason I now keep her in at night — but I suspect it will be less dramatic. Or maybe it will be exactly as dramatic as I fear, I really have no idea. It’s the not knowing that makes this so hard. That and the fact that she has cancer.
The vet said the tumours will likely grow in her lungs next, and when her breathing becomes compromised it will mark the end. Sometimes I find myself forgetting about the cancer, when she’s chasing around the living room, doing parkour on the chairs. From the outside she’s the picture of health. Her fur’s grown back, she’s eating with enthusiasm, enjoying the summer heat and making the most of time outdoors. She hissed at the fox through the window this morning and vocalised her displeasure at my nephew’s lego on the floor.
She’s always been the queen of this house.
When she first arrived in my life she didn’t talk much, unaccustomed to having a dedicated human at her beck and call, but now she talks constantly. When she walks into the room and sees my face, she meows. When she wants me to open the front door, she meows. When she’s hungry, when she wants to lie on me, when she wants cuddles, when she’s simply near me expecting attention, she meows. It’s the best thing in the world.
“In its flawless grace and superior self-sufficiency I have seen a symbol of the perfect beauty and bland impersonality of the universe itself, objectively considered, and in its air of silent mystery there resides for me all the wonder and fascination of the unknown.” — H.P. Lovecraft
Friends and readers have recommended animal healers to me and for a time I considered reaching out. And I may still, but when I sit with why I haven’t yet, it’s this: I cannot dwell in hope. I don’t want to hope for a miracle. I have to mindfully accept this with clear eyes and an open heart, because it’s how I stay present for each moment we have left. This is how I’ll endure and survive this loss.
And it’s not pessimism or “giving up” — believe me, I don’t want her to die! But accepting what is real is how I can love her best. It’s how I was able to say yes to surgery to remove the ulcerating tumour. It’s how I was able to say no to chemo, knowing the cancer had spread and chemo wouldn’t cure it. I don’t want her to have cancer, but at this stage it’s even more important she doesn’t FEEL like she has cancer.
Weekly chemo with its hour-long car rides and sedation and sickness and fear is not how she should live the rest of her life. For animals it is quality of life, not quantity.
The only way we can love so bravely is to forget death separates us in the end. I was blithely unaware of death until the age of 32 when my partner died suddenly from a heart attack. We’d been in a very complicated relationship for two years and in my grief I mourned what should have been as well as what was lost. I didn’t get to say goodbye to him, I didn’t know I had to. The shock reverberated through me for months and months.
To be able to say goodbye to my girl is a gift I will treasure.
The original ink on my fingers blog was birthed a year after he died and it feels fitting to have this new incarnation appear now. His death reshaped every part of my life and I can already feel something new downloading as I wade through this time with Baba. How could I not?
Seventeen years later I’m musing on how my relationship with my cat is more devoted and true than the relationship I had with my lover. And of course it is — there are no lies, no broken promises, no guilt trips, no frustration. The animal-human bond has only deepened as the years have passed. To have gained the trust of a stray cat and be honoured with her companionship has enriched my life the way becoming an auntie did (and does times infinity). I didn’t get to have kids in this lifetime and I cherish the opportunity to give love without expectation of its return. To have a slice of that selflessness I know another version of me is living in a parallel universe with her kids.
The crazy cat lady with her fur child. My constant delight.
To all of this I say yes. My cat is extraordinary and I will miss her so.
“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” — Jean Cocteau