The following post was written before something truly amazing happened. Though the loss that prompted it’s writing is no longer applicable, I have decided to go on and post it anyways. The lessons remain the same, and the pain was still real.
My boy had gone missing for quite a while. He was an indoor/outdoor cat in this area for six years before he went missing for nine days. The odds were VERY high that he had died, and I mourned his loss as such. About two days after writing this post, my big guy showed up; home to say ,”Happy Mother’s Day!”
He was dirty, very dehydrated, and has a notable amount of weight loss, but other than that he is alive and well. I could not be more elated!
That being said, I think it is important to touch on the subjects I have here. Properly mourning and moving on in life after emotional trauma and loss is extremely important for mental health and progress. I can now appreciate my blessings all the more for having processed my grief. I cannot believe the immense blessing and luck it is to say my boy is home safe.
I want to thank everyone who was there with words of solace and understanding.
“In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! We are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
My Leroy is gone. I do not know where to begin. I do not know how to write this. I know it will be of no great benefit to anyone reading except for maybe myself. But this may be the only closure I am ever afforded. I may never know what happened to my boy. But my grief is choking me, and I have to write about him, to me, to you. I have to communicate what great love and life and joy he brought to me. I have to honor him. I have to commit to never let the pain of loss allow fear to take over me and sway my decisions. Overcoming grief and mourning means so much more than putting aside the feeling of emptiness. It means loving, and growing, and learning. It means moving on with honor and intent. Whether you are grieving an animal or a human, this remains true.
You may be saying, “This is just a cat. Are you really writing about a cat?” To that I say, no.
No I’m not writing about some cat. I’m writing about my friend. My ally. My boy. I’m writing about a life I stewarded with great love. I’m writing about the first life I was a Momma to. I’m writing about a valuable presence and an unconditional love that touched my soul and changed my life.
I’m writing about honoring a life well lived. I’m writing about overcoming pain and grief. I’m writing about living fully. I’m writing about never letting the fear of what could be hold you back.
You do not have to relate.
How it all began
One night, my senior year of high school I got drunk and stole a cat. On accident.
That is a story for another time, just rest assured that that cat was returned safely after a short thirty minutes or so. But that friendly little bugger lit a fire. I had always been a dog person, but suddenly, I needed a kitten to love and raise. After some sly work I cracked open my parent’s resolve and convinced them that it would be a good idea. They told me, “Alright. You can get a female cat, but she’s living outside.” I have to laugh at that every time I think about it. Less than a week later I was being chauffeured by my sister through a barren, scattered community halfway between Colorado Springs and Pueblo. A woman there had the last two of a litter from a stray female. We arrived and stepped into the house.
She placed this tiny kitten in my hands and my heart swelled. “I think he’s going to be a big boy,” she said, and I laughed at the prospect. He fit in one palm. (She predicted correctly, by the way.)
This tiny little mewling boy is what I brought home. I ran through an endless list of names, every single one was rejected until I got fed up and stuck with the last one I had said. Leroy. A strange name for a cat, they said. But as everyone with animals experiences, they never have one name. The list grew continuously; Choy, Choy Boy, Bok Choy, Mister Choy, Kitten love, Satan, Monster, Felinicus Rex, Shithead, Asshole….My beautiful kitten. I love him so much.
A Life Well Lived
He grew quickly, an incredible source of entertainment and mischief. He taught me so many things. It came time for him to learn how to safely navigate the outside world, and I took great care to teach him. He was harnessed and placed on a line several times a day for weeks before I let him free roam. I wanted him to become familiar with the smells and sounds. I wanted him to be set up for success. I wanted him to lead a free life with the greatest possible preparation. Our house backs up to an open space that accommodates a great variety of wild fauna, and I knew he would always be at risk. A heavy price for the best possible life.
He swiftly became an incredible hunter. Started with moths, I can still remember his joy the first time he caught one. This gangly little kitten had pulled its wings off and played hockey with its body for a straight hour before eating it. He graduated to mice, then to larger varmint. He began to bring home birds and young bunnies.
The larger he grew, the larger his prey grew. It was not uncommon for him to bring home full grown cottontails. We have watched this monstrous house cat stalk deer. He has chased humans off of the property. He has cornered 70+lb dogs. He single handedly changed the rodent situation in at least three neighborhoods including our own. His territory was vast.
At a svelte, very fit 17 lbs. he was a force to be reckoned with. My monster. So smart, so wiley. For six years he roamed the same space as coyotes, fox, bobcats, raccoons, great horned owls and red tailed hawks. He knew the dangers of cars. He knew the dangers of dogs and of humans. He knew his home, and where his easiest meals where. He knew where his Momma was, and where he could find his brother and sister for easy fun and sparring matches. He always came home. But he hasn’t been seen for many, many days, and the reality is that he will likely never be seen again.
I took little brother Charlie and little sister Morgan out to look for him, several times now. We have scoured this open space and his known territory, searching for body, or pieces, or hair, or any clue. We have found nothing. It may sound awful, but I’d rather find remains than not know. It leaves so much open. It makes grieving so much more difficult. Without that absolute certainty, this is a wound that will never fully close. But I have other lives to nourish, and must accept the loss.
The Little Things Hit the Hardest
I will never again see his paw prints on my windshield. The way they elongated when he began to slide down. I will never be startled by him moving in unexpected places. He won’t be waiting at the side of the house to dart into the garage when I come home from work. He won’t be at the back door waiting to come in when I let the dogs out in the morning. I won’t see him curled up on top of the china cabinet. My first steps out of the doors won’t have to be carefully placed to avoid pieces of his prey. I’ll never come downstairs in the morning to cabinets and drawers open after a long boring night of being locked inside.
My five softest blankets have been under my bed for a very long time, carefully arranged into a cat nest of solitude. Someday I will have to pull them out and re-purpose them. His (absolutely destroyed) scratching post that sits in front of the fireplace will have to be removed. His food bowl stored away, his litter box sanitized and used to hold his other belongings in a closet somewhere. I’ll give his food over to a friend with a cat to feed. I’ll cry with every one of these chores, I’m sure.
What I Won’t Let Loss Do
I will not let bitterness take hold. In the future, when I have moved on well enough I will raise another cat. And many more throughout my lifetime, I’m sure. When I can afford the time and have all of the proper resources again, I will foster another adventuresome life.
I will not let losing him change any of my philosophies. I believe cats deserve a life of freedom. To come and go as they please. To have their claws, and use them. To hunt, or sleep, or play, or explore at their behest. To have a home to come home to, food in a bowl, and people that love them; but also to have a place to roam, and learn, and earn their raw meals. I will not allow the fear of losing another beloved kitten hinder their quality of life.
Leroy would not have had it any other way, and neither would I. Of course my greatest hope is that someday he’ll come sauntering up to the back door, loudly requesting food and telling me all about his great adventure. Or that someone from far away will call and tell me how my big handsome guy has been found after traveling some incredible distance.
But the odds are not there. It is likely that he fell into the circle of life and became sustenance for another predator in this area. I greatly prefer to think that that is what happened in place of the possibility that he came to death at the hands of a human.
Leroy was my first cat. He greatly enriched my life. I will honor that.
Honor Life, and Adopt
I want to take this time to encourage anybody that has the means, please adopt a cat or kitten and give them a happy life. Keep them healthy, feed them well, play with them. Enjoy their company and the little lessons they will teach you. Love them deeply. These lives are fleeting, but more than worthy.
Approximately 3.2 million cats are held in animal shelters every year in the United States. An estimated 860,000 cats are euthanized, while 1.6 million are adopted.
Do your part; adopt, spay, and neuter.
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