I don’t actually know a good way to start this post. Usually I have a witty little intro or story or tidbit, but there’s really no good way to do it this time.
Last week, on 1/21/21 (which turned out to be a great and memorable date), I had to say goodbye to my little furry life companion, Brewer.
Much like I didn’t know how to start this post, I also didn’t really know how to deal with letting him go, or with his death. It wasn’t sudden, but it kind of was. It wasn’t a big deal, but it definitely was. It seemed like a stupid, small thing to worry or talk about in the face of hundreds of thousands of human deaths over the last year, but it wasn’t a stupid or small thing to me. And still, I only told one of my closest friends, who I knew for sure would understand. And thank God, she did.
But the pamphlet from the vet who came to the house to euthanize Brewer tells me “I have the right to mourn this death and express my grief outside of myself,” so here we are. Maybe you can understand too.
I’ve never lost a pet before. Brewer was my very first one. You see, I grew up with a bit of an evil step-dad (let’s not play the evil step-mom trope forevermore, OK?), and wasn’t allowed to have pets as a child. All I ever wanted was a kitten! Seriously, I could take or leave any other furry thing, and to this day, I like my dog, but my cats…they are everything.
I had to wait until college, when I was twenty years old, to get a pet. I lived in the dorms the first two years, so that was out. But the literal day I moved into a cat-friendly apartment (which was a requirement in that search), I got a kitten. That little orange face chose me. I grew up watching Garfield, and always wanted a Garfield cat. Somehow, God and the Universe new, and they brought me and Brewer together that day. We’ve been attached at the heart ever since.
For more than sixteen years, this cat has been my man. He’s slept on my head and meowed me awake on the weekends I’ve wanted to sleep late. He’s snuggled with me when I lived alone, and also when I didn’t. He’s made me laugh with his escapes and antics. He’s defied all cat odds by stealing the hearts of even the staunchest cat-haters and skeptics.
Brewer has moved with me a grand total of eleven times, in fifteen different houses. He’s seen seven different states. He’s found his own little life companion in Boudreaux, when we added him to the family. And he’s survived both the addition of another wild young cat to his territory and kidney disease for longer than we or the vets expected.
And I’m beyond grateful to have had every day we had together. What a blessing a pet is.
I feel funny talking about it, but I also I feel funny not talking about it. In the space of three days around Brewer’s crossing to the rainbow bridge, I learned of three human deaths somewhat close to me. A dear friend from my church CoreGroup’s father passed. A client’s mother passed. Another client’s uncle passed. And in those same three days, 79 people died from COVID in Colorado alone – 13,013 in the United States, I don’t know how many in the world. The scope of all that loss is nearly unimaginable.
I mentioned I’ve never lost a pet before, and in truth, I’ve never really lost much at all in my life. My great-grandmother, who I was very close with, died when I was twelve. But I was twelve, a tween, a combination of totally uninterested and totally unequipped to deal. I’ll never forget that my aunt criticized me for not crying at the funeral, even though I was the closest to my grandma. What do you do with that? Is there a right way to grieve?
I lost my step-dad’s mom about five or six years ago. We weren’t as close, but somewhat. I felt that one more, but I don’t remember crying then either. Honestly, looking back, much of her death was dramatized by my mother anyway, which complicated everything about the situation.
Now that I’ve lost Brewer, I’ve cried a few tears, but not a lot. Though I’m pretty sure I might just spontaneously start weeping uncontrollably one day. I miss Brewer’s big personality presence, even if it only meant he was cuddled up napping in a cat donut somewhere in the house. And I still haven’t figured out what life is really going to be like without him.
I think that’s pretty normal for any kind of deep loss, but who knows? It’s my first time. Maybe, if you’ve ever lost a pet, you can help me figure it out. I’d love to celebrate your furry friend too, send some love to their spirits up on the rainbow bridge, hear your story.
But really what I’m thinking about in this week full of loss is that I think we all feel loss differently, alone and collectively. And no one kind of loss can be compared to another, as my incredibly supportive CoreGroup friends reminded me as they held space for my particular loss. Playing the “this trauma is worse than that trauma” game helps no one.
Life and relationships are complicated, and I don’t think it’s for anyone to judge anyone else’s at any level, even in death, grief, and mourning.
I grieve and mourn my cat more than my human family because he was more my family than anyone else. I grieve and mourn those three human deaths in my friends’ and clients’ lives because they matter very much to me. I grieve and mourn the deaths of people I don’t even know because what if I did know them? What if I could have? Regardless of my family situation, maybe their family and friends’ whole lives have changed with their loss, and while I can’t relate, I can understand.
I just believe we need to understand more, and I hope that we’ll try.
And perhaps, I’m just a little scared that if I talk about my experience, people won’t understand. That you won’t. Like, maybe you think it’s silly or selfish for me to be talking about my cat like he’s more important than a person because you don’t care for cats. But my point is, to me, he was more important than a person. And frankly, I could have the same reaction about your uncle or grandpa or whoever because I don’t really care for them. So really, it serves no one to discount anyone’s loss of any kind. All we need to do is our best to understand. And who knows, maybe this story about my cat will help in some small way.
Brewer spent much of his life scavenging snacks from the floor, the counter, discarded pizza boxes, and plates of food left out on the table with no supervision. God, he was the best. So, on his last day here on earth, we celebrated his Garfield tendencies with homemade cupcakes (yes, I insisted on baking them myself at the last minute) and a cat-sized DiGiorno pizza. He happily ate all the pepperonis and licked up the frosting and we all knew it was a perfect day for him. (I think the vet thought I was nuts, but she played along nicely.)
In a week or two, I’ll head up to the mountains somewhere and scatter his ashes. He’s been a nomad with me for his whole life, so I couldn’t get used to the idea of burying him in one place that wasn’t really home anyway. Brewer’s home is everywhere, and I’m so glad he’ll get to cat around and explore forevermore.
Oh look! I’m crying.
I’m sure that means it’s probably time to stop writing. So, thanks for reading. If you have experienced loss, recently or otherwise, human or otherwise, I just want to send you some love. I welcome your story anytime, and I’m happy to read or listen, and to just quietly understand. Email me anytime.
If you have a few minutes and are so inclined, please visit Brewer’s memorial here. It would sure mean a lot to me, and believe it or not, he’d love it too. Brewer was nothing if not a cat of the people.
Here’s to our understanding, in love and in loss.
And here are a few Brewer pics to enjoy!
From his first year…
So tiny! He quickly outgrew being able to fit on a laptop – to a hefty 18ish pounds for most of his life 🙂
Terrible picture of me, adorable picture of us 🙂
This is one of my top 3 favorite pictures of Brew! RRRAAWWRRR!!
Adventures in mid-life and a new brother…
He was very patient and sweet letting this tiny little crazeball into his world.
Basically every day became a snugglefest.
And the cat could give it back to the dog too 🙂
Buds for life though. They cleaned each other daily, and often played together too.
Just really freaking cute and/or funny pics of this cat…
He had the fluffiest belly! And he loved for you to pet it 🙂
And the CUTEST face in the whole cat world.
He always loved to have at least one paw on Marty, and they often held paws (yes, seriously, though I don’t have a pic!).
Always sleeping on paper for some reason. This was a real problem when I was trying to study in college, actually!
Never met a suitcase he didn’t like.
Ma. Mom. Mommmm!
The one and only time these two were close enough for a picture without fighting and growling…
And our last day together.
He was in a peaceful place 🙂
Our final snuggle 🙂