Eighteen years ago, I impulsively bought a kitten with $89 I did not have to spare. I had no plans to buy a kitten. My son, Keegan and I often stopped to visit kittens at the pet store just for fun, but this kitten was different. She was fearless and exceptionally loving. When she let my 3 year old son hold her like a baby I was sold. He didn’t even have to ask if I would buy her. The illogical emotional decision was made in the instant I saw her give unearned trust to my little son. We took her home and Keegan named her Star.
Eighteen years later she is dying. She has lived a good life and enriched our family. And while the logical side of me argues that she is just a cat, the emotional side of me is devastated by the thought of daily life without her. She is part of the narration of our family story. Our memories are intertwined with her presence. We are going to miss her terribly.
When my husband married me he got a package deal that included me, Keegan and our cat Star. My daughters, Selah and Caiden, have never lived a day without Star. For as long as I can remember the girls have sought out Star the moment they walk in the door from being out. At times that has annoyed me, like when I want them to help carry things into the house, but now I just let them go absorb every moment they can with her. Suddenly, when death is at the door the small inconveniences that seemed relevant at one time are now meaningless.
We are all on high alert. If she meows we check to see if she is hungry, uncomfortable or simply wants attention. Whatever she wants, she gets. As the end draws near my heart aches. I will miss her deeply, but more than anything I dread the heart break I know is coming for my three children when they are forced by death to say goodbye.
Star’s imminent death has been a long time coming. She has a heart murmur, a neurological disorder that makes her shake as if she has Parkinson’s Disease, hyperthyroid, kidney failure and tests show her liver is giving out too. Star was once an obese cat, but now is half her body weight in just skin and bones.
But she is happy. She seems to think she is a kitten again. We are soaking up every moment, cherishing all her purr-therapy and holding her close for her comfort and ours.
For months I have worked countless hours on my upcoming project 360 Degrees of Grief. It has meant hours, days, weeks and months of sitting at my computer with Star contently purring on my lap. Her death seemed postponed by our hours spent together. I am grateful that our goodbye is a long one — each day I am thankful for another day with my geriatric Star.