“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.” ~ C.S. Lewis.
I was on spring break this past week. It wasn’t a typical spring break in which I would normally spend the entire time out in the yard getting things back into shape after a long winter, though. We had very cold and rainy weather for much of the week (cold for Birmingham, at least), and I ended up doing some school clinics and student teacher observation trying to get ahead before my upcoming surgery. I also was able to spend time with our ailing cat, Kasey- such a gift to have the time to say a proper goodbye.
Kasey will be the fourth animal that Dan and I have lost since we’ve been together. As we don’t have children, our animals have always been a huge part of our family and our focus. Soon after we moved to Chez Gainey, we lost my soul dog, Guinness. A couple of years later, our sweet Dobie, Bailey. Next came Rosie, who had been Dan’s cat when we first got together. Each animal left a special stamp on our home and on our hearts. Kasey is the last connection to all of our animals- the only one to have lived with Guinness, Bailey, and Rosie, and now with Cooper and Sophie. It still feels so strange to think of Kasey not greeting us when we come home by rolling down the steep driveway (intentionally…we called it her ‘trick’) and waiting for us to rub her belly. She has been a daily part of our lives for almost fourteen years since she came to us as a very young feral cat who had given birth to five kittens in our dog house.
We are sure now that Kasey has cancer- it has ravaged her, taking her from a healthy older but active cat to a shrunken, blind, disoriented, and feeble animal in the matter of about four weeks. We can almost see the changes daily now. She is not in obvious pain, but she has lost so much muscle mass that she has little control of her limbs, and it is painful to watch her feel her way around the house. The transfusions, special foods, and medicines did very little to help her, and we know that we have exhausted our options. It is time to give Kasey the ultimate gift of love, releasing her from her spent body. This Wednesday, Dan and I will take her to our wonderful vet, the same kind man who helped my Guinness have a beautiful and peaceful passing. We will hold her and tell her again and again that she is loved, thanking her for being such an amazing animal and for choosing us all those years ago. My eyes tear up just at the thought of the pain to come, but I have no doubt at all that we are doing what is right for her- and that is what is most important.
This part is not pretty or easy, but I am doing my best to be truly present through it all. I don’t want to just remember Kasey as young and healthy- I also want to remember the gentleness of her sweet soul as her body gave up on her. I want to remember how our dogs treated her so carefully once they realized she was ill, and the quiet times we all had together by the fire and all piled in our bed. Death is a part of life, the only sadness being that our animals never live long enough.
This past weekend, the weather finally cleared up and warmed up enough to be outside. I was able to clean up what we call ‘Secret Garden’, my garden at the back of our property. This garden is a special place to me, almost spiritual in nature. I think of it as my memory garden, a place where I honor the people and animals that I have loved and lost through a living tribute of flowers and plants. There is a special stone for Bailey, flowers in honor of my mother, a wind chime dedicated to Rosie…and this weekend, I planted flowers and herbs for Kasey. Each spring as things come up and bloom, I will think of our Kasey and smile, remembering her sweet spirit and the beauty she brought to our lives. The price of love can be very steep, but it is worth it- every single time. Thank you, sweet Kasey…thank you.