This is the blog post I hoped to never write, especially over the last three weeks. Devon and I said a really sad goodbye to our much, much, much beloved cat, Tess, on Thursday night.
She put up an excellent fight against her second kind of cancer, and didn’t even let us know about it until it was much too far along. Throughout her life, she overcame all kinds of health problems and charmed everyone she met. She was the epitome of unconditional love, curiosity, open sweetness, and charm in a teensy kitty’s body.
Even people who didn’t like cats loved Tess; she would come when called, and take a bath, and follow you around like a puppy; and she bounced back from everything life put in her way with love and kindness, and never held it against anyone. When I got her as a kitten, she never ran away or meowed like the other kittens at the shelter – she was curious and friendly about life and everything from the moment I met her, even all alone in her little cage. She was an amazing being.
I could say so many things about this wonderful animal companion. She was like a daughter, a coworker, a best friend. We would spend the whole day together, Tessie following me from room to room like a little puppy: wanting to be held; wanting to know what I was doing/ eating; sitting nearby whether I was on the computer, doing dishes or cooking dinner, reading on the couch, or sometimes taking a shower. She had little fear, and total trust in me.
Everyone who met her was affected by Tess. I know she taught me a lot and changed me into being more accepting and loving. It may sound silly, but I know I’m a better wife, friend, and family member because of Tess.
One of my favorite memories ever of Tess is from when she was a tiny kitten (only 2 or 3 pounds!), from her first week home with me. After a few nights of trying to make her sleep in the bathroom (as you’re supposed to do for kittens, so they can get used to one small space at a time), I brought her in the bedroom with me. I was just 21, sleeping in some friends’ office in their house while putting myself through my last year of college, and sleeping in a corner of the office on a teeny tiny futon on the floor. I let Tess explore the immediate area, watching to see where she would settle down. After walking/ stumbling all over me with her too-big-for-body kitten feet, she came up to my face, sniffed me, then stretched out over my neck like a little, breathing scarf, took a huge breath, sighed, and fell asleep. I was blown away at how trusting and immediately affectionate she was, and we’ve been best friends ever since.
Tess was only 8 years old when she died, but had already survived several intense colds/ viruses, skin allergies, a heart murmur, being rescued from the animal shelter, and a leg removal from her first bout with (a different kind of) cancer in 2003. Though it was sad to have the leg amputated, she really didn’t let it stop her at all, and (once the painkillers wore off) insisted on getting around on her own almost immediately. This final illness turned out to be pancreatic cancer, but first we had to endure almost 2 weeks of not knowing. She was very patient through many tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, and finally an exploratory surgery which confirmed our worst fears.
When we brought her home from the surgery a week and a half ago, she rallied pretty well considering how painful her insides and incision must have been, but after a few days, it was obvious that the tumor had grown to the point of severe discomfort for Tess. She tried to do the things she loved – obsessive cleaning of her fur, wandering around the house, eating like a pig, and being our constant companion – but in the end her body was failing her, and she couldn’t get comfortable. Even so, she never complained, but just looked a bit miserable, and finally stopped eating a few days before she died. We kept her on a lot of painkillers, gave her so much love, made her as comfortable as possible, and finally knew when it was the right time to let her lovely spirit go.
We loved her with our whole hearts as a member of our family and always will. The past few weeks have been really difficult, and even until the end Tess helped us get through it by being loving, sweet, and adorable, despite her pain and exhaustion. She went very gently with both of us present, and is buried in my parents’ garden with roses, lavender, mint, and sunflowers.
spring 1999 – fall 2007
Thanks for all of your support, well wishing and love. My clients and my work have definitely helped me to go through this awful process in the best way one could hope for! We were able to give her the best care available, and I was able to be with her 24 hours a day for her last few days. We had some special good-bye moments that I couldn’t've gotten if I worked a “real” full time job.
Thank you all for the room to process this; I know it’s kind of a downer of a blog post, but the message I really want to get across is how amazing the connection and unconditional love we share(d) is. I am not totally sure about what I believe in as far as an afterlife, etc., but I do know that she is free from an overly sensitive little body, that she will always be in our hearts, and that she was a gift to me at a time when I needed her love and compassion. We look forward to eventually growing our family (of cats, babies, or some kind of other creature), not to replace Tess and our wonderful memories of her, but to nurture this love that she helped to place in our hearts as much as we can.