There is a window in my living room that is full of plants. There are at least 15 plants crammed in or near the only window in the main room of the loft space. It may seem like a lot, but in reality, it’s not nearly enough.
My cat of 16 years recently died. Well, she didn’t die per se, but I was forced with having to make the choice of giving her back to the universe. That was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The night before I took her to the vet, I sat with her on the couch and we shared the better part of a rotisserie chicken. She ate until she couldn’t move.
I sat there with her for some time, thinking about the first night she spent in my care. My boyfriend at the time (BAT) and I wanted cats and had certain criteria: I wanted an all-black cat so I could name it “Mr. T” and he wanted 2 cats so one would never be lonely. It was a Sunday and we had been to countless shelters. No one wanted to adopt to us because we were in college. Around closing time, we found this dumpy little pet store in Shirley, NY and they had some cages with kittens, ready to be adopted free with $20 purchase.
And there they were, these two little scared babies – one all black, the other a mottled grey and cream. They were terrified and scratched me until I bled, but I loved them the minute I saw them.
After spending the obligatory $20, the kitties were packed up and took their very first and only trip ever to Walmart. The little babes were a little scared in their carrier, bumping around in the cart, and stayed huddled and quiet, snuggled together in complete fear. About $200 later, as we finished checking out, the store manager came over and kicked us out for having live animals in the store. Dick.
After loading the stuff in the car and checking on the babes, I see that they have peed all over the carrier. We took them out and put them in the backseat so the carrier could be cleaned. Once all tidy, the kittens were gathered to be put back in, but we could only find one. The fucking horror that ensued after realizing the little grey one was missing was incredible, not even 1 hour after getting these creature, we already lost one.
The Walmart security guard came around with flashlights and helped us look for the kitten. After about an hour, it started to rain and we lost all hope. BAT and I went home a little sad with one scared kitten in tow.
The next morning, BAT came in excited and asked me to go out to the car. There, sitting on the dashboard, was the missing grey kitten. I ran inside to grab the black kitten, affectionately named Mr. T, and put her in the car as if to indicate, “Hey, they’re cool, don’t worry.” Well grey kitty was not having it and started to climb into the steering column, which is apparently where she was hiding when we were in the Walmart parking lot and driving home the night before. I felt so bad – we had to pull her out by her tail.
Eventually, she grew to love us, but always stayed a little skittish, earning her the name Merdok, from the hit 80’s show “The A Team.” Merdok was the crazy one. While I was earning my business degree, I’d sit on the bed cross legged on my bed to study and she’d curl up in the space between my knees. She’d do typical cat things, like try to catch my feet under the blankets when I was asleep or come snuggle in the middle of the night. Merdok was notorious for her head butts and could catch you off guard at any moment with a painful punch to the face with her head.
She was very affectionate and always purring. I woke up one night to her little motor running and her face about 3 inches from mine, asking to get under the covers because the roommate had forgotten to pay the oil bill and we had no heat. She was a very good girl for all 16 years of her life.
Towards the end, you could tell she was tired. She slept a lot and starting going to the bathroom on laundry, the rug, the couch…. Her eyes were taking on that glazed, cloudy look and despite having a ferocious appetite, she had dwindled to just 4 pounds. After our last night of chicken gluttony, I slept with her on the sofa and turned most of the lights out. She laid right next to my head, as she has always done, and purred. She put her paw on my third eye as I was drifting off to sleep and my brain started to go crazy. It was a very emotional and spiritual moment to share with a cat, and I am still not sure what to make of it.
Moments before we left for the vet the next day, it started to pour. My sweet friend Ebonie agreed to take me, and she stayed with me for most of the vet visit and took pictures that captured my last moments with my old friend. My last minutes were spent telling her how much I loved her and how sorry I was that I had to let her go. I have never had to put a pet down and I wept as they put her into twilight. At that point I saw that she was already gone and I immediately regretted my decision – not because it was the wrong thing to do, but the guilt was overwhelming. My last words to this tiny little creature were “be good,” which are my parting words to the critters when I leave the house every morning for work. I felt it in my soul when the vet techs administered the dose of euthanasia, pronounced her “passed” and quietly hurried from the room.
Grief does weird things to you – It’s exhausting, and the guilt lingered for days and weeks. Leaving the vet’s office with an empty carrier was a true trial in sadness. I cried spontaneously for a few days, overwhelmed with endless stages of grief. I know Merdok was just a cat, but she was so much more than that to me. She was my companion and confidant. She kept every secret I ever whispered in her little ears. She was unconditional and more genuine that a lot of folks I have met. What I have learned from loss is that life goes on. No matter what, the world keeps on turning and you can’t stay down for too long or life will slip on by.
As hard as losing a pet is, I am already looking forward to my next critter. Carlos, my little monster, is in dire need of a new friend, and I like having at least two little souls in my home. Today marks the 2 year anniversary of the death of Mr. T, which was a very hard loss for me. I have also designated today as Carlos’ birthday, so I am reminded that the time for mourning has passed, and I must celebrate instead.
Gandhi once wrote, “Where there is love, there is life.” This is why I keep plants all huddled in the window. I keep them pruned and watered and fed with sunlight, dead leaves, and eggshells. I let the cat chew on them and throw them up. I let life be life. I let life fill my home and my heart because where there is life, there is also love.