There is no good way to lose a cat.
Preparation doesn’t make us prepared. Sudden loss doesn’t spare us long grief.
There is no good way.
This has been entirely too obvious in the past month, as we’ve been socked by the back-to-back-to-back losses of Doc Watson, Annie, and Jenny.
My grandfather was a fountain of adages, one of his favorite being the Five P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. But what does “preparation” look like when it comes to goodbye?
In one sense, we should have been “prepared” for all three of these departures.
Doc was ancient, diabetic, FIV+, fighting the twin terrors of heart disease and kidney disease, hyperthyroid — and, oh yeah, eyeless. Wasn’t every day precarious? Wasn’t every breath a gift?
Annie was riddled with an especially brutal kind of cancer from the day we met her. Then, she wasn’t — and then, she was again. Wasn’t the respite pure grace? Didn’t we know it was temporary?
Jenny was our oldest cat, with more years behind her than many college freshmen. She’d never been really sick a day in her life until the last six days. Wasn’t that a huge blessing? Wasn’t it enough?
Shouldn’t we have been “prepared?”
I don’t think the age, or the illness, or the rational mind prepares us much, if at all. I don’t think we can measure out our grief in years or hours or teaspoons.
But I do think we were prepared in the only way we can “properly” prepare: we loved them.
When Doc was speckled with ringworm and crawled deep into himself, numb-ish to the world, we loved him. Jonathan embraced him with gusto, ringworm be damned.
When Annie was leaking like the love child of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, we loved her. Jane loved her so much, she couldn’t help but hug her, even as Annie leaked all over Jane’s (white) shirt.
When we knew that Jenny’s days were few, we loved her. Ginny threw her heart right into the grinder, spending more time with Jenny than ever when she saw the shadows grow long.
We loved foolishly and fecklessly. We loved knowing our hearts would be smashed. We loved.
And so we prevented the only “poor performance” I can imagine: letting a creature leave this life under-loved.
If there’s any way to prepare for life after life, it’s experiencing love. What we gave Doc and Annie and Jenny is only the palest echo of what they taste in full glory now. If the Love beyond darkness reminds them in any way of what they got from us, we succeeded.
And even where we failed them, Love succeeded.
There is no good loss. Death is never right. But death will never conquer. The love we’ve given and received will last.
And we are, all of us, loved more than we can imagine.