I woke up this morning with a worship song in my heart, thankful for a new day and having such a beautiful full sleep. I was looking to do a quick bike ride prior to church, did a little Bible study and then moved onto a contribution on Social Media. I contribute to a daily VSS (Very Short Story) prompt on Twitter and was right in the middle of creating my mini story for the day when I just burst into tears, just like that.
It’s now been two days since Coco hadn’t returned home. My son had grieved so heavily last night. It hit home to him that the kitty matriarch was gone and he sobbed so hard. It was gut wrenching to watch a child drench your clothes with their tears of sorrow and yet for me last night, I held it together while covering him with kisses. By midnight I heard his breathing had gone into deep sleep so I settled down.
Coco was 15 – in cats years she was approximately 76 to 77 years of age. She was a bit of an old bird and was the boss of our home. The pecking order saw her directly below me with occasions – especially when it came to turkey and tuna – when she was the alpha. She was never fully domesticated and was at her happiest when she was outside. She seemed to sense when I would be mentally struggling and force (literally) her love onto me, in the form of forcing me to pet her or doing completely goofy things enabling a laughter from me, to bringing me so many carcasses – I still recall my horror and admiration when she brought back 6 baby rats after raiding a nearby nest. When the vet told me back in May that she had an aggressive form of feline oral cancer, my blood pressure skyrocketed and my heart physically ached, as I realised that the inevitable was closer than I would have liked. We’d lost Knuckles a year before. The vet had given me pain relief (edited to add: for Coco) enough for two months – I think he knew. When I brought Coco home, I sat with her in the kitchen, prayed for her and then after a moment of silence confessed to both God and her how I didn’t think I was ready to say goodbye just yet. But I didn’t cry. My heart ached but I didn’t cry.
As the days turned into weeks I saw the tumour grow at the side of her mouth and prepared myself for one final trip to the vets with her. The vet had mentioned that as soon as she stopped eating and/or she looked in significant distress as a result of the pain, that would be when it would be time. Until then she would be happier at home. Each time when I thought it was time to make the call, it was as though she could sense that she may be taken to the vets – she would muster all the strength she could get so that she could show that she was strong enough to carry on.
On Thursday 5th August Coco arrived by the kitchen door but her countenance had changed. She was more unstable on her feet and she refused to eat. I gently petted her, gave her her favourite turkey pieces soaked with the medication and normally she would wolf this down, but that day she sniffed at the food but then came to me for some love. As I gazed into her eyes I sensed that she was saying goodbye. She didn’t look distressed but likewise, she had made up her mind it was time but it was going to be on her terms. Mentally I wanted to deny it and began to pray that the Lord gave me more time. But instead I prayed to the Lord that in His sovereign wisdom He would know when it became too much for Coco. I asked God to end her suffering and to grant me the strength to make the trip to the vet.
As soon as I had silently prayed this prayer Coco pushed her head into my hand – an act she always use to do when I was in distress. A peace came over me as our eyes met one last time, and I was able to tell her that I was ready and it was indeed time. She stayed long enough to shower me with love and then she decisively walked to the door and pointedly stared at it. Her way of saying “let me out” whenever she was ready to go into the garden. I opened the door, she paused to give me a slow blink and then she walked outside.
I know we should not attribute human emotions to our pets but she was such a kick-ass cat that if there was some orchestral movie epic music it would have been playing then. She walked to each of her favourite spots, seemingly taking in the memories there. When she reached the bottom of the garden, she walked through the gap in the fence and then she was gone.
Later that day she didn’t return for lunch, didn’t turn up in the evening. Through the rain on Friday, I stood at the bottom of the garden calling for her but the familiar ‘meows’ a few gardens away and gradually getting louder as she approached , was not forthcoming. Yesterday I knew that she was gone.
I’m not sure whether she went into a hiding place to pass away, whether a fox got her or whether a neighbour trapped her, to take her to a vets. Truthfully, I had to stop myself from entertaining those and other possibilities and tying myself into knots about the fact that I didn’t keep her inside that day to take her to the vets.
Ultimately, like the boss that she is, she chose her own way and have left me with so many happy memories of the full life she had as being part of our family. She also made a point to say goodbye to the one person who would have spiralled down into a ‘valley low’ if I had to take her to be put to sleep.
I will be forever indebted to my sweet little kitty BFF who walked with me through some serious dark times and who had such an impact on her humans’ lives. She was the gentlest of souls and yet a velociraptor if she felt we were in danger She will forever hold a special place in my heart and that of my kids.
May she rest in creation until it is renewed.