When I first envisioned this blog, I was naïve. It seemed such a good idea to write about my old animals and what I was learning from them about aging. And in the beginning I wrote about the wonder of spending time with them. How they made me a better human being.
And all of that and much more is true.
But what I didn’t think about was the circularity of aging. How there comes a point with old animals (and people) when it’s time for them to leave this earth. And that hadn’t crossed my mind.
Like I said–naïve.
So Bud was first to remind me of this life lesson, and my heart became much less naïve in an instant.
When my older sister died this spring, my already-tender heart ached from too many goodbyes.
Then on September 7th we lost another very important member of our family. Mija is a Spanish word for “my daughter.” And she was exactly that to us. For almost nineteen years this little cat enlivened and enriched our lives. She was the first domestic “pet” we shared – seeming very much like our daughter. From the moment we brought her home, until the moment she died in my husband’s arms, she was family.
We console ourselves with phrases like: she lived a good, long life; we loved her beyond measure; and she loved us equally.
And they help.
But we are still grieving for her. Our home seems empty, especially her favorite spots. So many sunbeams seem wasted now. So many comfy laps go unfilled. Sometimes I think I hear her and for one brief moment, I get my hopes up. Maybe this was nothing more than a bad dream, I think.
But of course it wasn’t.
Grief has a way of messing with a person’s view of reality.
All those years ago Mija had been abandoned. Her family moved without taking her. She was all of five or six months old and had no way of fending for herself in the big world. A kind-hearted neighbor tried hard to like her. He took her in, supplied her with food and toys, but in the end he decided he just wasn’t a cat person. Thankfully he took her to our veterinarian, Dr. Robin Downing. Mija went on at least two other trial runs with families who simply couldn’t bond with her.
I know now there was a bigger plan in play. She was meant to live with Rick and me. For us it was love at first sight. When I picked her up she immediately rewarded me with her quirky little purr. Rick said it sounded as if a bearing was going out. The metaphor was wasted on me because I don’t know a bad bearing from a jet engine. But I knew I was enchanted by this little black and white ball of fur.
We have photographs and memories that eventually will comfort us and help us remember our very good life with Mija. Until then we are taking it easy.
Grieving is exhausting.
I know all of you who have lost someone dear know exactly what I’m talking about.
To love with a wide-open heart leaves us sometimes feeling fragile and vulnerable. And we may be tempted to protect ourselves by closing down–not allowing anyone or anything to ever again get that close. For me that isn’t the answer. I want to live my life full out and open-hearted. No holding back.
That’s truly the lesson my dear old sweeties have given me.