Life has taught me many lessons over my lifetime. The most deeply embedded one is that love brings pain and healing. There are so many reasons that this powerful emotion can cause so much grief, joy and sadness — sometimes all at once.
Earlier this year, I shared our experience about adopting our beloved Simon the Siamese. Its hard to believe that in just six short months he was able to so deeply wrap his furry paws into our lives and hearts. We felt like we had become a family, albeit a little one. Tragically, we had to say good-bye to our beloved cat on a Friday in late June.
Sensitive souls suffer more
I knew when I adopted him that Simon would require a bit more time, patience and understanding than the average cat. Even the shelter staff were aware of his sensitive nature. I believe that was what I found most appealing about him. He projected a desperate need to be loved and accepted for who he was, much like myself. One look into his terrified but gentle blue yes and I bonded with him instantly.
As he settled into our home and lives, we learned that Simon had to approach life on his own terms. He would take days to warm up to new things in the house. Simon approached everything with a slow caution that I found endearing and my boyfriend found a little annoying. As for meeting guests, Simon would have none of it. As soon as a new person walked onto the porch, he was under the bed so fast, I swear his paws were smoking. Depending on how long they stayed, he might hide for a few minutes after they left, or would show his indignation by spending the rest of the night in seclusion.
Stress took a toll
During the short time we had him, Simon dealt with more than one kidney infection. Each one took a toll on his body and made the need to reduce the stress in his life more pressing. This is why I know I am responsible for his death. I visit family several times a year, but had delayed this trip longer than usual. While I knew my boyfriend would take care of him, I fretted about how Simon would handle my absence. Worse, I knew that our plans to have my daughter come back with me for awhile would be hard on him.
To my relief, Simon seemed to do okay with me not being home. He hid a bit more than usual at first, but started to accept the change. He didn’t demand as much food but he still consumed his treats without hesitation.
On my return, as predicted, he took to his sanctuary since I brought someone back with me. It was worrisome about how he would cope. We left him alone as much as possible and even moved his food and water into the bedroom, as well as his litter box. As the week progressed, he made more ventures into the rest of the house and even allowed my daughter to pet him now and then.
Our world came crashing down
Six days after my return, Simon threw up on the bed. I was concerned, but not overly alarmed, as he was prone to hairballs now and again. However, within an hour he threw up again and started to cry. We immediately called our vet who referred us to the emergency hospital 30 minutes away as they were overbooked and could not see him. So, I frantically loaded him in his carrier and made the 30 minute drive in the heat and heavy traffic to the clinic.
As soon as we arrived, the nursing staff took him back. I was presented with paperwork and advised that I would need to authorize payment of between $500 to $900 dollars for the initial treatment. Paperwork was tearfully signed and credit card information shared. As my daughter and I waited and cried, I prayed that Simon would make it through this crisis.
It was not to be. The vet calmly and gently explained that with his history of infection and his high sensitivity to stress, the outcome likely would be the same. Even the aggressive (and costly) treatment would probably not be enough to save him. I had to make the heartbreaking choice to save him from more suffering by having him put to sleep.
Saying good bye
His last moments will be with me forever. After all, love is heartbreak and redemption. He broke my heart, but making the best decision for him was redeeming. The staff settled us into the bereavement room and we waited for him. He was wrapped in a soft, colorful blanket. His eyes were huge, more pupil that iris. As they settled him into my arms for the last time, he looked up and me and gave me his trademark rusty meow. We stared at each other and he visibly relaxed. His eyes returned to his brilliant blue.
My daughter and I stroked and loved him for a few minutes. I wept more than I thought possible. Tears of love, sadness and gratefulness for having known him streamed from my eyes in an endless river. I truly felt like my heart was being shattered. Chloe did not wish to be there at the end so she left the room when I finally pressed the call button. As the medication flowed into his IV, he tensed for a moment, stared into my eyes, and then slipped away.
The enormous guilt I feel at causing his illness is still with me today. I can’t forgive myself for subjecting him to the stress that overwhelmed his body. The knowledge that we did all we could to help him eases our pain a little. He did not show any signs of serious illness before he suffered the catastrophic organ failure. Even if we had mortgaged the house to save him, he likely would have gotten sick again in a short span of time.
Life without Simon
I don’t really remember the drive home. Once we arrived at the house, I collapsed in my boyfriend’s arms and wept even harder. If not for my daughter, I don’t know how we would have gotten through the next several days. She helped us focus on spending time with her and sharing Simon stories. Though we will never stop missing him, we are able to smile a little more when we talk about him. After all, she learned early that love brings pain and healing.
As time went on, and my daughter returned home, we realized how empty our home felt. About six weeks after Simon, we decided that maybe we could risk falling in love with another cat. I looked for awhile, not really sure what we were looking to find. Finally, an ad on Craigslist caught my attention.
Good Time Charlie
We made an appointment to meet the cat. He was a three-year-old white tabby who had already been through a few homes. Unlike Simon, as soon as he saw new people, he plowed into our knees demanding attention. He was outgoing, friendly and fearless. We decided to take a chance and brought him home.
His name was changed from Chester to Charlie. He is nothing like our Simon. Charles takes charge and demands attention from anyone in the room. He sleeps on us and covers us with drool from his incessant purring. Toys don’t hold his attention and he is repulsed at the idea of eating anything other than cat food. But, little by little, he is worming his way into our hearts. No, Charlie is nothing like Simon, but that’s okay. We are learning once again that love brings pain and healing.
Love is heartbreaking and healing
Nothing can leave us a vulnerable as loving another creature. Whether human or animal, love opens us up to a journey like no other. Love brings more joy than one can imagine. It also causes more pain. The decision to allow love in, be it a deliberate act or a result of chance, will change us forever. No matter how many times it arrives in our lives, each encounter is different and leaves an indelible print on our hearts.
Sometimes, we realize that love was only meant for a brief moment. When its gone, we are left broken and lost. Other times, it lasts much longer, but with the same effects. We laugh, grow and change with each experience. Love brings pain and healing. ThroughIt changes us. If it doesn’t, maybe, we weren’t paying attention.