Are all about extending the weekend. I’ll be relaxing, reading, knitting, and possibly movie watching. How about you?
Fall is in full swing and many of our leaves, like this flawless red one, are now on the ground. The lesson here? It’s still possible to enjoy them and their beauty even as they give up everything. See how I’m finding the silver lining wherever I can? Gratitude comes in all sorts of forms.
I’ll be meditating on that all weekend, I think.
Last week I signed up for Michelle GD’s Gratitude Week. Let me just tell you, it’s been a tough week when it comes to gratitude. In fact, one of the first things I did on Monday morning was to email Michelle. I asked her, point blank, “how do you find gratitude when you can’t get past the pain?”
Those of you who follow Michelle won’t be surprised at all to learn that she answered me eloquently and beautifully, giving me permission to do only what is right for me. Her suggestions were wonderful and heartfelt and her email was like a balm to my wounded soul. With her help (and yours) I have found some things to be grateful for this week. There are, surprisingly, more than three but I’m just going to share three here today.
- I’m grateful for the support of family and friends, those I know and those I’ve never even meet. The outpouring of kindness and love for us over losing Mason has been incredible. I know it’s partly because most people can relate to losing a pet and partly because I’m a writer and I use my words to process my feelings and then share those words on this blog, but I am still overwhelmed at how many comments and emails and messages I have received since sharing the news about Mason’s death.
- I’m grateful that Mason died on a Sunday when Dale and I were both home. I’m grateful that I had all day Friday and Saturday with him, that he spent time cuddled in my lap, that I showered him with love, that I petted him and talked to him and cared for him. And I didn’t do any of that because I thought he was going to die in a couple of days. I did all of that because that’s how I always was with him. I’m grateful that his death was a natural experience and not an accident (I spent a lot of time these last 17 years worrying about him sneaking out of this house and getting lost or hurt), or a debilitating illness that forced us to euthanize him. I’m grateful for our wonderful vet and the conversation I had with her on Monday. Her reassurance that nothing we did or didn’t do would have changed the outcome for Mason eased a lot of my feelings of guilt.
- I’m grateful for this grief. I’m weepy and sad but I’m grateful for my broken heart because it means I opened it up and accepted the love of a remarkable cat. I remember the day I brought him home. He was just a tiny thing and he rode on my shoulder in the car and we bonded during that car ride and I was overjoyed. But I also recognized that I was taking on a responsibility to care for this cat, that I was assuming a burden that at times might feel overwhelming, and that one day this little creature could break my heart. I’m so grateful that day came after many many years of providing him with a loving and wonderful home. I choose to be grateful for this grief because it’s a gift to love an animal the way that I loved him.
And there you have it. Gratitude and grief, inexplicably and inherently intertwined in my heart this week. It’s not easy but it’s life right now.
If you wrote a post for today I hope you’ll share you link below. Thanks for playing along.
I don’t want to turn this into a blog about my cat dying but I do want to just take a moment and thank you all so very much for your kind words, heartfelt sympathy, and honest compassion. It means so much to Dale and I that you all care enough about us to grieve with us and share your own stories of loving and losing a pet. We’re coping as you’d expect, feeling fragile and tearing up quite frequently, trying to adjust to this new normal after 17 years of always knowing just where Mason was. It’s going to take time, that’s for sure.
Okay. Moving on to something that I think will make all of us smile, let’s look at the photos I took of Jackie to celebrate his first birthday.
Jessica brought him over on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. As a photographer I have to say that cloudy is my preference for shooting outside photos. No sun in the subject’s eyes and the colors can really pop, too.
The sweater he’s wearing was knit for him by Sean. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s soft and the fit is perfect. It’s just right for a cool fall day and I was thrilled when Jess chose it for this photo shoot.
We brought out a cranberry crate and some pumpkins, a few mums and other props to make it special. Jack’s favorite thing to do was to drop the pumpkins straight into the poor mum plants. Cute. But destructive. That’s our boy!
And happy! He is generally in a good mood but on this particular afternoon he was in a great mood. Smiling and showing off, laughing and chortling, he was the perfect subject.
This photo especially tugs at my heart strings. Those full cheeks, reminiscent of his baby days, won’t be around forever and I love the way the curve of his cheek looks in this photo. That J in the background hangs in our den but it was perfect to bring out as a prop.
And that little soft smile. What a sweetheart he is.
Again with the cheeks. Sigh.
And finally, a big ole grin with his tongue sticking out. This one really shows his personality and good nature!
I know looking at these photos did me a world of good and cheered me right up. Hope you all enjoyed them, too.
Many of you follow me on social media and already know my sad news. For those of you who don’t I’ll just rip the band aid off and tell you: my sweet Mason, my cat of 17 years, died peacefully at home on Sunday. It’s something I’ve known was coming, his health has been deteriorating for a while due to kidney troubles, but I was not ready. Frankly, I’m not sure I ever could have been ready.
I know that we were fortunate that his final decline was rapid. On Friday he was in my lap most of the day, purring contentedly while I was knitting or reading, protesting when I’d set him to my side because I had to get up or change positions. Jackie was with us in the evening while his parents attended a wedding and Mason happily ate the food that Jack threw on the floor during dinner. He let Jack pet him and he spent the better part of the night in Dale’s lap. In other words, it was a normal day at home with my kitty.
On Saturday, though, he just wasn’t himself. He didn’t eat and drank very little water. He was walking a little off kilter and he spent a fair amount of time under the dining room table rather than in front of the wood stove as he usually would. I was concerned and considered that perhaps this was the beginning of the end. I even told Sean, when we had dinner together that night, that I had a bad feeling. I cuddled with Mason before bed Saturday night and had a lot of apprehension when I got up on Sunday morning, wondering how I would find him. He was worse but still sat and waited for me outside the bathroom door like usual. He wouldn’t touch food or water and he was having difficulty walking. I told Dale when he got up that I thought this was it and that we might be having to make a difficult decision in the next day or so.
As it turned out, Mason had his own time frame. I held him for a long time in the late morning. He allowed it but after thirty minutes or so he attempted to get down. I helped him off the couch and he went over by the wood stove and stretched out. His breathing was slow but he didn’t seem to be in pain, just maybe uncomfortable. He attempted to get up every now and then but just couldn’t. I sat on the floor with him and petted him and talked to him and told him it was a good day to die, that he could go and be with Dixie, that I would love him and miss him forever. I eventually left the room to go in the kitchen. I peeked in at him and he lifted his head and looked at me and when I came back, not more than a minute or two later, I just knew he was gone. I’m beating myself up that I wasn’t in the room with him as he took his last breath, that I wasn’t stroking him and talking to him, but I can’t change it and I just have to accept it.
We wrapped him in one of my old flannel nightgowns and some quilt scraps and put him in a box with treats and a ball of yarn. We buried him in the backyard next to his old buddy Dixie. We toasted him as the good and loving and faithful cat that he was. And we cried.
Honestly, I feel like I haven’t stopped crying since. I see him in every corner of this house. I look for him under the dining room table and behind the wood stove. I wait for him to jump up on my lap when I sit down on the couch and to read or knit. I long to pick him up, to stroke his soft fur and hear him purr against my cheek.
This sadness, this mourning, this grief . . . it’s the price we pay for loving well and completely. It’s worth it and goodness knows that cat brought me a lot of joy. I miss him like hell but I smile when I think of the connection he and I had. I’ve had cats before and a beloved dog but there was something truly special between Mason and I. Now I just wish he could be here to help me through this sadness like he has so many times before when I’ve needed him by my side.
Goodbye, kitty of my heart. Tell Dixie we said hey.