This article is a brief journal of my thoughts over the past week about losing Mewsette, part things I want to tell her, part things I want to tell me. From the time I began writing about my experiences in pet loss with my loss of Namir in 2009, relating what I was feeling and thinking about it as I moved through grief, readers have thanked me, often in private, for my honesty, grateful to know another shared their feelings as they moved through grief, or helped them make a decision.
…and suddenly everything is a metaphor
for how short a time we are granted:…
Last Sunday, the two-week anniversary of the day we lost Mewsette, I was listening to poetry in the kitchen as I tried to get things in order. All the caretaking with Mewsette, then immediately following, Jelly Bean, had me putting aside my kitchen duties to care for them and get my paying work done. I could at least focus enough on those kitchen activities to get something accomplished while thoughts moved around in my background. There’s no dismissing how good something simple and small like cleaning up around the kitchen sink can feel when the rest of your life is on a tilt that’s uncomfortable and hard to balance.
I decided to listen to some writing and poetry podcasts as I worked. Being so emotionally open at the moment I deeply absorbed the words and meanings and metaphors into my thoughts and felt them replenish my own ability to compose.
The two lines above are from one of those poems, Sunday Morning Early by David Romtvedt. Kayaking with his daughter in a beautiful place one early morning he realizes that she’s a young woman, hence the idea of the short time granted. And:
“…I want to say something truer
than ‘I love you.’ I want my daughter to know that,
through her, I live a life that was closed to me.”
Each experience opens our life to a reality we never would have known, each love makes that new reality precious. Realizing that preciousness in the moment and savoring it long before the loss builds a store of memories that enrich daily life and help to buffer a loss. Those moments that are almost painful in their beauty and beyond words tell us the depth of our connection. I have links to this poem at the end of this article; please read or listen to the full poem. It’s not long, but it’s very moving.*
In writing and speaking about and experiencing loss with an animal companion in real time, I have always referred to Shakespeare’s 73rd sonnet which concludes,
“This thou perceivs’t, which makes thy love more strong,
to love that well, which thou must leave ‘ere long.”
We know their lives are shorter than ours, but we should savor every moment, and not avoid love for fear of the pain of loss—in fact we should love all the more fervently with that reality in place. You can find the whole sonnet in this post.
Long before I knew Mewsette had an end-of-life condition I knew the depth of my bond with her, and was savoring the moments with her, as I was and still am with all of them.
My thoughts this third week anniversary
…from last Sunday to this.
That Sunday experience listening to others’ words helped to organize my thoughts enough to be able to write them down. I had been unable to write because my mind was so disorganized; sometimes writing helps my organization but not this time because I didn’t want to organize them—that would mean admitting that Mewsette was gone forever and I stopped well before that point. I tried to record my thoughts, but I was less able to speak my thoughts because saying them out loud just made me cry, and I recognize that I also wasn’t willing to let some thoughts have a voice, I was holding them closed so I didn’t have to accept them yet, and I’m okay with that at two weeks. In fact, I was surprised it was only two weeks because it seemed like forever. I’ll open those packages when I’m ready.
But I grabbed a note pad and suddenly began producing sensible phrases and sentences and I was glad to finally start the flow of thoughts out of my self.
I had intended to write last Sunday, but I went farther into the day than I realized, and I also needed perspective on what I’d noted. Kittens were calling, and Mimi and I were finally feeling better about going out into the yard. And I was glad for the distractions because I’ve been able to add more during the week. This release has helped me in healing, though I’ll honestly say that I still won’t admit to myself that Mewsette is not coming back. Even writing it doesn’t make me believe it.
Addressing Mewsette directly…
I remember the hours passing just two weeks ago, patiently waiting for you to show a sign of recovery; you would sometimes more slowly come around after a stressful incident, especially a bowel movement.
I knew that wasn’t going to happen that day, but I thought the result would only be one more step down to debility, one step back down from what you had achieved. I was willing to keep helping you and wait all day if necessary, days, all my time was yours. All the time in the world just to bring you back to where we were yesterday, to do this a little more slowly, if we must. Time stopped for all of us here while we waited and watched and treated.
But you continued to sink, to back down the steps you’d climbed, as three days before you’d climbed the steps to the deck one by one with Mimi leading, the steps you’d run up and down for years with your sweet little trot when I called your name.
I saw in your eyes the sadness, knowing I could not change your outcome. The end was inevitable, and far sooner than we had both imagined, but I would keep you comfortable and safe as long as I could manage your pain.
I long for those happy moments when I moved smoothly from one activity to the next, leaped into the next painting with abandon and painted as fast as I could to see the outcome, because those are the moments when you, my most constant studio cat, and all the others loved me best, sharing my space in my nonverbal visual experience. All that was possible because of your wellness, and the wellness of this whole household.
Now it’s not even thoughts or memories that hinder me, just the slow grinding of grief, always running in the background, that makes me simply move more slowly and occasionally stop completely, occupies a portion of my perceptions and thoughts though I’m not even aware what the thoughts are, vague areas of mist that cloud the moment so that I lose focus but don’t want to let go of the mist that holds you.
As the hours pass today, I hold you.
A few days later,
Years ago I let myself understand and accept that this amazing quartet of cats would be broken up by loss someday. I gently let myself consider each of them growing ill, growing old and frail, and what life would be like without each one, and how the others might react when that happened, wondering who would be the first to go.
I could imagine, envision and even sense a bit of the experience of losing each of the boys but I clearly seemed to feel Mewsette would live to a very long time, probably comforting each of the boys in their time as she had comforted Cookie and Kelly in her youth. Only then could I consider losing Mewsette. She would be my partner like Cookie was, through many experiences, by my side, and I by hers, all those years.
In fact, each time I considered their losses a quiet voice in the back of my thoughts cautiously said, “Not Mewsette.”
As in, “Please, not Mewsette.”
There is still a part of me that is waiting for Mewsette to come back. She’s upstairs for her long afternoon nap on the pillow on the boxes on the chest of drawers up near the ceiling in my bedroom. She’s at a veterinarian somewhere getting treatment. I just have to be patient.
I know she won’t be back. But I let myself entertain the thought because I can’t accept her loss yet. Though each time I write or say her name I know her life is in the past tense, but I will not let her slip into the past tense just yet.
Even though that tiny black kitten we trapped and are socializing is brave and fierce for her size and makes direct eye contact with me and seems to recognize me, I don’t want any substitutes. Everyone expects me to adopt one of the two black kittens from this litter. There is never a substitute for a love.
I could give a million reasons why I loved you, why you were special, what I miss most about you, your wild affection and unique appetite for non-cat foods, but many of those reasons I could also say about your siblings, and even other cats, though the most unique ones are truly reserved for you. I can’t eat strawberries and whipped cream on my waffles because you loved the whipped cream—along with everyone else—and giving it to you when you were well and then when you were ill is a sweet memory and reminds me blatantly you aren’t here to enjoy it. Along with cornbread and any other baked goods that you would quickly take a big bite from if you got the chance, to suddenly appearing if I had potato chips or crackers.
(Yesterday I picked up some fresh doughnuts for today’s breakfast, and today as I write this your brother Mr. Sunshine pursued that doughnut as you would have, climbing up on my lap and swiping a paw at it. I knew he liked baked goods, but purrhaps he is also having his own memory of you this morning, as am I.)
What there is as a reason is beyond words to explain, how my bond with you was deeper than any others, including Mimi, who reads my mind. Even looking at photos from your first year it was clear then that you were different, and you and I were different.
I had decided I’d keep one kitten from your litter in memory of Lucy and very early I decided that kitten would be you in part because I thought you would seem so distant for a kitten to anyone who wouldn’t understand your need for space and time to perceive and process the world around you. Just as I needed. I considered your brother Mr. Sunshine too because he reminded me most of Lucy, and in retrospect it’s clear the two of you were close, as cuddling kittens at your very beginnings and as equal partners sharing energy and thoughts as adults until the day we lost you.
Thank you for reading this far. Next week I’ll publish a post on doubt, regret and guilt following a loss, and some of the decisions I made on the day we lost Mewsette. As always, I hope that other experiences help you in your time to make decisions.
Grief can be complicated. I’m also currently treating her brothers Mr. Sunshine and Jelly Bean for serious conditions right now, conditions which may have been brought on by their own grief at losing their sister. But I feel we are all slowly healing, and while I know Mr. Sunshine has early cancerous nodes all over his abdomen and Jelly Bean may have something nasty in his throat or esophagus, they are coming to a more stable condition, and so am I.
All the photos in this post are from one session on the morning of May 14, 2023, a morning when everything was truly a metaphor, so sweet and quiet as we enjoyed the abundant buttercups and the last of the forget-me-nots. Mewsette had started up the steps and Mimi was already up on the deck, but she stopped and sat down. I hoped I’d catch at least one photo and I’m glad I captured several different poses as Mewsette looked around at birds and bees in the garden. The raspberry blossoms right in front of Mewsette have borne fruit, and I even beat the birds to two nice raspberries. I had been intending to move them to a sunnier spot, but I think I’ll leave them there for this year, remembering how many times I saw Mewsette in that area, one of her favorite grazing areas.
Read or listen to Everything is a Metaphor.
Text and reading (poem is read at the end), The Writer’s Almanac: https://www.writersalmanac.org/index.html%3Fp=10206.html
The author in a brief interview reading the poem with discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KKNsjhQMQo
This is a link to the category for all the articles I wrote about Mewsette’s medical care since August 2022 and a few photos. I always include valuable information about diagnosis and treatment, including alternative treatments. I also have the link in my sidebar.
I hate to keep asking, but if you’d like to help us with the costs…
As always, if you would like to help me with veterinary costs, Jelly Bean had his exam and has hyperthyroid disease, but his veterinarian also mentioned some possible GI issues, which is the same thing she mentioned with Mewsette two months ago. Giuseppe needs a full workup with our veterinarian along with his heart function. Mimi is due for her annual visit. Morty still needs prescription foods until I can get him back to the veterinarian for some blood tests so we can find out more about his particular condition, and all of them need to eat. I want to keep them all comfortable in whatever way is best for each cat.
- Consider a Custom Pet Memorial Votive for yourself or a family member or friend. Remember that they don’t actually have to be memorials—a votive with someone’s pet on it while they are very much alive is also a nice custom gift!
- Visit www.PortraitsOfAnimals.net. I just uploaded all my new keepsake boxes and votive lamps. I will give you a coupon to shop with when you donate.
- I am building a “One of a Kind Shop” on my website so that it’s easier to see exactly what handmade goods are available, like those keepsake boxes up at the top and all new votive lamps. I had hoped to have it set up by now, but things are taking a little longer than expected.
- And consider even a small portrait of one or more of your fine felines.
If you have any questions, please let me know! And thanks for any help.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
Feline Artwork from Portraits of Animals!
All the years I’ve been here I’ve loved my time in my studio, which was also once my foster room. Read about how this painting is actually both Mimi, who settled there first and turned her head in an interesting way, and Mewsette, who came later but gave me the rest of the pose. Read more or purchase.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Thursday: New Merchandise
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!