Awakenings

It seems spring has finally sprung here in Brooklyn, and not a moment too soon.

It was, in the words of my 4-year old, a long, and "so so so so so so SO irritating" winter.

Agreed.

We lost our cat of 13 years, Nikita. She was spunky and festive and adorable, and just started wasting away over the last few months. It became noticeable when Ben left for six weeks in February, and I took her to the vet, who said we could either go the road of expensive hospitalization and force feeding (it was a liver sickness), or let her be peaceful at home. We chose the latter.

When Ben came back, she just seemed to quietly fade further away. She slept in the office chair as we watched TV at night. She seemed happy enough.

A couple of nights before she died she and I had a moment. She looked at me for several minutes, searching. I looked at her and said quietly, "If you need to go, you should go. It's okay."

I've heard this happens sometimes, with the dying. 

That night she went and slept in front of the crib. A couple of mornings later she stretched out long, and I saw the light just kind of fade from her eyes. The kids were running around, we were on our way to "Adventure Day", and I didn't know what to do.

How do you prepare your kids for this kind of thing? Or, for that matter, yourself?

I thought I'd been prepared, since she'd been sick for so long. but I wasn't. My heart felt tight and too big for my body. I sent the girls into the playroom and picked up Nikita. She was breathing but limp in my arms. Heavy and light at the same time.

In the bedroom I told her to go peacefully, go to the light, but she was already there, I think. I put her on the changing table so she could see outside. I allowed myself a few minutes of hardcore, unfiltered sobbing.

Soon Mirabelle came in. "What's wrong?" she asked.

"Well, you know Nikita has been sick for a long time, and I'm just feeling really really sad that she is so sick." She brought me her teddy bear. Petted Nikita a bit.

Then we went out and had a great Adventure Day, and when we got home later, Nikita was gone.

Ben had come home and we all hugged, crying together in the kitchen. Mirabelle put her hand on her heart and instructed us to do the same. "Now Nikita is in here," she said. Which of course made us cry harder. She went to draw a picture of Nikita.

We spent the rest of the evening looking at old photos of the cats (our older one, Zellie, is still alive) and laughed going through photos of our wedding, our old house, Mirabelle as a baby. She put a photo of Nikita next to her bed.

Apparently in New York City it is legal to bury your pet in your yard, so we had a short funeral the next day. We each tossed in a sprig of pine, and said a few words. Except Mirabelle, who was very quiet. She took the photo she'd brought down and asked, "Which part got left behind? Which part moved on?'

Crap, I thought. How am I supposed to explain death to a 4-year old?

It turns out it wasn't that hard. "The soul, the spirit, where you had us put our hand on our heart, inside, moved on," I said, struggling to get the words right. "The body part was left behind, but the essence of Nikita went to heaven, to be with God. At least, that's what I believe."

Pause. "Okay."

Pause. "Can we get ice cream?"

I didn't intend to write about this today. I wanted to write something super deep about spring, and awakening, and how Mirabelle held my hand tightly on the way back to school the first day after being on Spring Break and said, "You're holding my hand too loose. I don't want you to lose me", and how she is growing and changing and someday she'll claim my grip is too tight and I'll have to let her go. I wanted to make some intense metaphor about spring and youth and life and death.

But I guess today I just really needed to write about my cat, who I miss. And about my family, who I love.

I'm such a big sap.

Wishing you all a very happy Awakening, whatever kind you need for today.