For the past few weeks, I’ve been avoiding friends, ditching work, ignoring phone calls, and staying curiously silent in terms of writing. The reason? Chloe, our beloved Persian pictured above, died last Sunday. It was a blow to both The One and me, especially since we weren’t with her when she passed. The only good that came of it was that she took the decision of putting her down out of our hands. It’s as if she knew we—especially me—were simply incapable of doing it.
But right now, it seems as though the grief and mourning is bottomless.
It wasn’t just Chloe’s death that has caused me to crawl into bed and to sleep 10, 11, even 12 hours at a time. It’s also the diagnosis we just received for one of our other cats, Raja, pictured below. When Emmy, our vet tech, noticed a foul smell coming from his mouth, she thought it was an abscess, and we made an appointment to see the vet. After exploratory surgery, she found he had squamous cell carcinoma in his gums and that it had infiltrated his jaw. The surgeon removed as much as he could, but we were warned that it would return. Two days ago, Raja started bleeding from his mouth. Yesterday he didn’t eat. Tomorrow we see the vet. And most likely this week we will have to put him down.
If you’ve never had pets, you’ll never understand what I’m about to say. The pain is as tremendous and soul shaking as if it were happening to a family member, because that’s what beloved pets are: family. A friend, someone who has since passed, once said to me, “The death of a pet is like the death of a child. But unlike a child who grows up and leaves, a pet comes to you dependent and needy and leaves the same way. They age, but they never grow up.” It’s true.
This is all a long way of saying I’ve stayed away from The David Blahg because writing funny posts with pretty pictures feels so deeply inauthentic to me and insulting to my dear cats. My mind isn’t working. I can’t even cast about for the words to express the pain I feel. Metaphors, similes, allusions, and onomatopoeia aren’t my allies at the moment. It’s as if my brain is dried, cracked earth from which no life can spring. I struggled writing even this post. I kept asking myself, What does this have to do with food? And the answer is: everything. And not in the way you think. It has to do with stuffing my emotions. I’ve eaten everything in front of me. I’ve binged on potato chips, ice cream, pie, peanut butter, doughnuts, tuna fish, hot dog buns, Cheddar cheese, South American Dulce de Leche Cookies, honey, and crackers (including some stale oyster crackers from last Christmas) while I wept on the couch. I’m not even remotely okay without munching on something. I’ve gained at least 10 pounds over the past few weeks. Lettuce and carrots simply aren’t sufficient ballast.
I know the pain will lessen in time, as it has for the other eight pets I’ve lost over the years. And in time I’ll be able to write about my homemade butter and my sour-cherry pie and my new kitchen and my swanky knife drawer—all those things you’ve seen on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. It takes so much less thought and energy to click a button on a cell phone and take a picture than it does to string words together that matter. So be patient; I’m here. I’m just heartbroken.
UPDATE: We put Raja down on July 17th. He went very peacefully, cradled in The One’s arms. Although it was terribly hard, I preferred it to Chloe’s dying alone, as we’d made a promise to our cats that ours would be the very last faces they saw. I’m at peace that we were able to do that for Raja. Our vet, the miraculous Kim Rosenthal, and Emmy, our vet tech, were so kind and respectful of our feelings. We thank them immensely. And we thank you, too, for all your support.
David – I’m new to your blog and this was one of the first posts I read, since I’m a huge cat lover. I have three fur babies myself right now and my oldest is almost 18, so I know my time with him is limited. I am so sorry for the loss of your fur babies. Yes, it is heartbreaking. However, I bristled when I read your comment (a quote from a friend) that compares losing a pet with losing a human child. Please, PLEASE never, ever compare losing a child to a pet. I HAVE lost a child – my oldest son, 7 years ago at the age of 21. I’ve also lost pets. There is absolutely NO comparison. Unless one has a child and that child passes away before you do (which is the most unnatural and cruelest thing in life that can happen), that person has no right to compare child loss with any other kind of loss.
Melanie, first, I’m so terribly sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine anything worse than losing a child. But I don’t think my friend was equating the passing of both exactly. But rather I think she meant that a pet is like a young child, needful, totally reliant. It come to you this way and it leave you this way. They are children, dependent on us. I’m truly sorry if the comment was hurtful. Alas, I can’t ask my friend to clarify, as she has passed, too.