After yesterday’s post, I thought of the words I wrote under Panther’s picture, about how my grief for him was worse than any pain I ever felt. The words are absolutely true and I hope never to feel a worse emotional pain but, while I know there are people who understand it, I imagine it sounds extreme, to experience such a depth of pain over one small black cat.
My therapist at the time could hardly keep in stock sufficient Kleenex. I sat in my chair, unable to speak, tears flooding down my face. It must have been hard for her, I think, to know what to say. Perhaps talk was not needed. Maybe I just needed to cry.
It had been a depressing time, one way and another.
A few times in my life, I made impetuous moves. One was moving to Seattle. Another was purchasing an enormous house, in the rush to get involved with helping animals. The idea of a large house was to accommodate in comfort, my increasing number of cats, as well as to create a facility for foster cats.
The “Kitty Suites” helped out a fair number of cats and I was pleased with that aspect of the enterprise. But the expenses were high, it was a lot of work that I was not physically up to and it was just plain hard.
It was so hard, emotionally, for someone with severe separation anxiety. For the most part, I was able to keep it in check, but like so much emotion I had suppressed over the years, it got inside me and it festered.
I had had no time, in 1999 to process losing Kay, and it had been a particularly stressful time, leading up to her death. A week later I flew to England to take my widowed father on a promised vacation. I had wanted to cancel it, but my dad was so old, I thought he might die and leave me guilt-ridden.
So I bottled a whole ocean of grief that was never released. Until Panther died.
Panther was the first cat that was not ushered into my life. No one had given him to me or asked me to adopt him.
This makes it sound as though I cared less for all those other cats, which could not be further from the truth. But because no one else was involved, somehow it made Panther different.
Panther was an assertive little chap, that knew what he wanted and he wanted to be with me.
Right away, that made him special.
Panther was to me all the things no person ever was. Even the few people I really loved caused me heartache in one way or another.
But Panther never did.
He heard my voice and he knew when I needed him.
He was always so happy to see me.
His only expectation was that I should come home sometime to give him dinner.( I always told Panther where I was going and when I would be back.)
He liked to share my bed but had no demands.
Panther would sit on my tummy, when I was in bed, and he would stare into my eyes, just as I would stare into his. There was a connection between us on some dimension, I don’t know what to call it, but we knew each other.
When Panther developed kidney disease, I couldn’t process that I would lose him. He was not old.
I could not conceive of being without him.
Each time I took him to another vet appointment, I hoped for a remission, a stay of execution.
How was I to terminate the life of my best friend?
Then one morning I woke to discover that Panther was beginning to suffer and I had promised to never let that happen.
Not to any animal, but especially not to Panther.
In the past, when faced with a serious or highly emotional situation, my brain has seemed to take me to a place where I was able to function as a sensible, unemotional person. Even though I may have appeared to be breaking down, I did not second-guess or swerve from what had to be done. And so it was with Panther’s final visit to the vet.
To my endless regret, I realized later that I had not held him close one last time. It was not even me who put him in his carrier. Suddenly, we were at the clinic and he was on the table. After the second injection was done, the very kind vet pulled me in close, so I said goodbye. Then he was gone and it all hit me.
Panther’s death opened up a floodgate of grief. It was not just the recent losses of 3 close relatives, and the many pets I had loved so much, or the fosters all gone to other homes. It was about all the experiences in my past that had rung the hell out of me. I think, also, I was grieving the life I thought I should have had, that just never happened. And after Panther died, I cried for 18 months, pouring out my heart to my therapist in a whole new way.
Then one day, I found myself on a new path that led me to where I am today.
I owe it to you, my Panther.
and that is why I cried so, for this one small black cat