Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Letting Go...

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.
This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.
                                       -Emily Dickinson

I think that, when I had to study this poem in college, I didn't understand it.  The loss of several family members in recent years, and of course the loss of my darling heart-cat Charlotte has taught me, bitterly, exactly what it was about.

So I guess the formal feeling is here.  Every once in awhile, something will happen that will bring fresh tears to the eyes...  I'll be in the grocery store, in the dairy aisle, and will have my hand on one of the smallest milk containers that I used to buy only for her.  Or I'll be cleaning and find a forgotten strand of fur.  Or I'll be looking for something on my computer, and stumble across a picture of her, in all of her imperiousness.  But the "in betweens" are getting longer.

While she was sick, we were fostering a litter of kittens, along with their mother.  We got them when they were 3-4 days old, and guided them through their growing weeks until they were big enough to be adopted.  They made me laugh.  Sometimes, I'd be laughing through my tears of grief, but they were good medicine, even after she died.

There was Lemmy, our little explorer kitten.  Mischevious, daring, bold, yet affectionate and kind.  He was, I am fairly certain, deliberately trying to make us laugh a few times there.

His sister Lita, who was a bit standoffish at first, but really came out of her shell towards the end.  She loved to cuddle with me.

Sweet, affectionate, cuddly, purry little Joanie.  She looks like a little teddy bear.

And Samantha, independent, brave, intelligent and wise beyond her age.

They've not only gone back to the shelter, but have all been adopted by what I truly hope are loving families.  May none of them ever be returned to the shelter when they are elderly and "used up."  Or be found wandering the streets, bedraggled, hungry and confused.  No, may their lives be filled with warm laps, golden sun puddles, bottomless bowls of food, and love.

Their mother is still with us.

Janis is a bit of a special case.  She is very frightened of people, and spent all of her time as a nursing mom hiding from us, and hissing from behind boxes or in the back of dark crates.  We gave her space, because she didn't need anything else to upset her... she was a young (10 months old) mom, who was learning how to take care of four babies.  And she did a good job, in the end., even if there was a bit of a learning curve.

She's coming out of her shell now...  just not with me.  (I'll try not to be insulted!)  She adores Jeff.  She not only lets him pet her without hissing, but is now coming out to see him.  Even jumping up on the bed to visit with him.  She purrs for him, and gives him face kisses.

So there's hope for Janis.  She had her first birthday with us this month, and we are trying to show her that we are not scary.

Our other cats have been very patient with us, though I think they're rather glad that we don't have kittens around anymore.  It was like they breathed a big audible sigh of relief, in unison!

The dogs have been good.  In the beginning, they were why I was able to get myself out of bed in the morning.  And, being the sensitive creatures that they are, they were constantly clowning to try to get us to laugh at them.  They were very worried about us.

We are coping.  My heart is still heavy, and the house definitely feels the loss of its queen.  The other cats are all joys to me, but none of them are Charlotte.  Her force of personality leaves a hole that will never be filled.  And I suppose that is how it should be.

I should add, thank you, thank you to those of you who sent me condolences and healing thoughts.  It helps so much, when one is going through this, to simply not feel alone.  It helps.  Tremendously.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

RIP, Charlotte

I am sorry to have to report that my beautiful tuxie muse has passed away.  She died tonight, at the vet's, covered in hugs and kisses from Jeff and I as she took her last breaths.

I know that I posted a cautiously optimistic post a little over a month ago.  I haven't had the heart to post since then, because she has been steadily on the decline ever since.  At that time, she was eating a few nuggets of food periodically throughout the day; a little less than normal, but enough.  As the month progressed, she ate less and less.  As  of today, she hadn't had solid food in 9 days.

The vet checked her out earlier today, and found that her kidney values had more than doubled since last week, and that the fluid around her heart and lungs had increased.  We couldn't give her more medicine without making her kidneys worse.  In short, there was nothing that could be done for her except make her comfortable.

And we couldn't even do that.  We got her home, and she lapped up a little bit of milk, but didn't finish it.  (Which is a HUGE clue that all was not well in Charlotte's life.)  She kept standing up and shifting around, like cats with an excess of fluid do.  Then when we saw her sitting there, barely able to raise her head, but trying to sleep standing up, that was it.  We made the decision.  We needed to end it TONIGHT.  Making her tough it out so that we could have "one more night" with her was selfish.

And so we opted for one last act of selflessness and took her back in.

God, that's such a hard thing to do.  Even when you know that it's the right thing.

Charlotte won my heart the day that I laid eyes upon her at the shelter; a frightened, angry young tuxie, who wanted OUT of that cage and NOW.  Even when she hooked me with her claws and drug me over to her cage.  Even when she bloodied me in the "meet and greet" room when she panicked about a barking dog.

I grieve that I will no longer have her around to steal my baskets for her own purposes.
Or that she won't be able to give me such perfect photo opportunities like this one.

Or demand a bowl of food with her demanding, queenly "Mrrowr" noise that she would make when she was bossing us around

Whatever it was that she was doing at any given time, Charlotte was a definite presence in this house.  She was the queen.  

We loved her very much.  And I don't know how I'm going to cope with that.  Oh, I will, I know that we humans are good at that in the end, but we'll both feel the after-effects of this one for a good long time.

Good night, my queen.