My wife and I met in college. While we were dating we both found we were cat people. With the future still years away, we would toss around names for our imaginary feline. Eventually, we came up with “Ego”. (So our friends could come over and stroke our Ego.) From that moment on, any time we imagined what life had in store for us, there was always a cat involved.
When we were married, we couldn’t afford a honeymoon so we just hid inside our new apartment and went about the business of turning it into a home. We realized that the time had finally come to meet our imaginary cat. We scoured Craigslist, and eventually we found a girl who had a little orange furball which she described as “a cuddlebug”. We met Ego and we knew immediately he was the cat we were waiting for.
The time finally came for us to go back to work, and we had to leave Ego alone for the first time. We came home and felt awful that he had to be by himself. It was then we got a call from a lady who had a Siamese kitten we had inquired about before finding Ego. The kitten was still available and was ours if we would go pick her up. So we did. We named her Amelie after our favorite movie.
When we got her, she was a few weeks old, and had been largely feral. Apparently they had kept her in a box with several other kittens because she reeked of urine. We gave her a bath and that was when we discovered she was covered in fleas. She fought and yowled at the top of her lungs but we got the job done. We introduced her to Ego, and though they were a little stand offish, within two or three days they were playing together. Amelie wasn’t quite as comfortable with us. Her feral instincts were still entrenched, so she was rarely sweet or affectionate… for the first month or so. One day she made a mess with her cat food, we gave her another bath (which she protested against fiercely) but afterwards, something was different.
Leah and I were sitting on the couch and out of the blue she walked in, jumped up on our laps and started purring. From that moment on, she was our little lap kitty. It worked out well… Ego had become a bit of a mama’s boy, and Amelie was a daddy’s girl. She would sleep on my chest at night, walk into a room and start meowing at the top of her lungs until I pet her, and then happily plop over on her side once I did.
Last night I found her under the bed. She had passed away. We’re not sure exactly why or how. I’m torn between how gut-wrenching the rest of the night became, and how silly I feel for feeling so strongly for a cat. But she was more than that… She was a member of our family. Part of our Clousey Clan.
After we laid her to rest, Leah and I sat on our bed and alternated between crying and reliving our favorite memories of her. During one of the moments in which we had more or less pulled ourselves together, Leah whispered “Death is ugly.”
And she’s right. Amelie was difficult to look at. Looking back on my past experiences with friends or relatives who have passed away, I see that I’ve never handled looking at the body well. Despite the fact that they’re made up and positioned to look as peaceful as possible, that utter and complete stillness haunts me. The sight of the dead reaches into me deeply and plucks a string of thought that sends an electric impulse into my brain shouting “THIS SHOULD NOT BE!”
And it shouldn’t. Because this wasn’t what God wanted for us. We were created with perfection and eternity in mind, it’s only after we mingled with Outside Forces that death entered the picture and ruined everything. I think this is why death is so abhorrent… It’s a dark reminder of the life we were supposed to have, the perfection that is still encoded somewhere in the DNA of our souls that tingles with familiarity when we experience the best things this life has to offer.
At lunch today Leah told me that she’s never heard me cry like that before. She’s never seen me so distraught. I thought about it, and realized she’s right. We’re lucky that after dating for three years and being married for three more, that this is the most significant tragedy that has befallen us. But that doesn’t take away the immediacy of this quiet house. It doesn’t make me worry less over Ego and how much he’s aware of. The bubble of our perfect, untouchable lives has been popped. I can already feel worry creeping up on me, whispering fear into my heart. “What if Ego is sick?” “What if something happens to our parents?” “What if something happens to Leah?” I didn’t take Amelie’s passing well, God help me if I ever have to deal with a person dying.
The human life is lived dancing on the razor blade of eternity. Even if you don’t slip, eventually it’ll wear you down until there’s nothing left, and that’s just the way things are…Fortunately our minds aren’t usually strong enough to contain the concept of Eternity for very long. As short lived as humans are, our memories are shorter. They have to be. If we lived every moment hyper aware of the truth of our situation, we’d be petrified with fear. The secret is learning how to love every moment of the time you’re given, while simultaneously knowing that they’re finite.
Eventually, a day not too far from now, will be a good one. Leah and I will spend time with friends and family, we’ll love, we’ll laugh and that bubble will begin to grow back. Together we’ll navigate the treacherous waters of this life, fully convinced we’re on a luxury cruise liner rather than a rickety raft… And I wouldn’t have it any other way.