Lizzie (both photos)
Yesterday was the 2-year anniversary of the death of precious Lizzie.
It was not a work day for me so I took the opportunity to put all my other tasks on hold and set aside the whole day to immerse myself in the priceless photos and videos and memories of my precious guardian angel soul cat. Joy-bringer was a chief mission of hers during her lifetime, and it still is, through all her wonderful photos and videos.
Today is a good opportunity to post this story. Last year I entered a local story contest (“tell us your kitty story in 1200 words or less”), and while I didn’t win, the exercise of writing this story turned out to be a gift in itself. You will get to read about Lizzie, and also meet my kitten Dulcie.
I hope you enjoy it:
My grey kitty story begins with a joyous and magical moment 19 years ago, when as a young teenager I discovered a tiny grey kitten at our back doorstep one Friday morning in late August. Such excitement! Such surprise and delight! I stepped outside and scooped up that little kitten so fast, because finding a kitten was a fairytale dream, something unlikely ever to happen, but that morning I struck gold.
This was Liz. We didn’t know each other yet, but we would grow up together with a bond deeper than any other I have known, becoming practically one in the same over the almost 18 years she was with me.
The very next morning after Liz came to us, we had plans to leave for a mountain camping trip. Undeterred, though unsure whether one could camp with a kitten, we stopped to buy her a harness on the way out of town. Lizzie and I shared one tent while my mom and dad and our family dog squeezed into the other tent. It was a marvelous time. Liz stayed in her red harness, barely big enough for it, and I’d carry her in my arms for walks around the campsite or to watch my dad make Camper’s Stew on the propane stove. We all went for a long hike and I carried Liz in a cardboard cat carrier, where she fell fast asleep from the rhythmic swinging. We stopped in a moist, shaded area and I took her out of her carrier so she could experience the soft moss on her feet. Mom took her picture:
These were the blissful first days of a long, wonderful life together. Sometimes I think back and consider the near-miss of it all. What if she’d gone to our neighbor’s doorstep instead, where the house was vacant? And our other neighbor, an elderly couple, wouldn’t have wanted a kitten. What if I’d slept late that morning, missing her completely? Or if she had come just a day later, on Saturday instead of Friday, we would’ve been out of town for the weekend.
Unsettling possibilities since Liz turned out to be not only a beloved, steadfast friend but my vital lifeline as the years proceeded. She would fall into critical roles as she was needed, such as 24-hour Grief Support after my lifelong best friend and soul sister was killed suddenly at age 19. Then when my health unraveled and I got very sick, Liz went into Nurse mode, keeping very close tabs on me, hanging near me as if it were her job, and sleeping as close as she could possibly get, sometimes on my head, adjusting and readjusting herself to try to be even closer. There were long, scary pneumonia nights where I would open my eyes to find her sitting over me, fully awake and watching me.
When the illness turned into a chronic nightmare over subsequent years, she was not only Nurse, but my Anchor to the Earth when it seemed easier to let go and fade away.
Lizzie was the healthy, happy, precious center of the family and we have years and years of treasured moments and memories. When she got sick with a cancer under her tongue, I got to nurse her intensively and our spirits grew even closer during that cherished time together. She tried and tried and tried to live forever so we could be together, but nobody escapes the inevitable – even with the best medicine and the strongest love in the world. She lived as long as she possibly could, and died when she couldn’t help it anymore.
Because her health was otherwise good, her body supported her right to the end, so she maintained her weight (even after she got her feeding tube) and her spunky spirit, and she felt and acted like herself, doing the things she loved to do. She had a great quality of life until the last week.
She didn’t want to be put down, so we were together right to the very last moment, surrounded by all the comforting familiarity of Home. Even on her last day on Earth, we were outside enjoying the fragrant springtime air, sunshine, and lilac blossoms in the peaceful backyard. The last days were tough and rough to be sure, but even still, her tail continued to do its usual light tapping “all is well” sign. I found this interesting. I may have been more afraid than she was, since she also tried to reassure me as much as she could with her special noises, purring, nuzzling, and deep eye contact.
Liz was an extraordinary cat; a very special being – a guardian angel to me. She brought me such joy and she radiated love so constantly that I knew I could always count on it.
Words are flimsy and inadequate to describe how precious and dear she was – and how awful it was once she was gone. Brokenhearted and utterly hollow and bereft…I felt deadened and empty. Those first moments, days, and months, were excruciating. Part of my heart died with Liz. The very one I needed was now gone. I was lost and didn’t know how to express how much I missed her, so I just cried.
I cherished the pictures and videos I had of her – especially those videos – but Liz was a huge piece of my life and I was so, so sad.
Near the end of that year, someone at work put up a Cat Care Society Santa Paws Festival flyer. To see how my heart would react, I went to their website and looked at the adoptable kitties. I didn’t feel ready for another cat; I didn’t want another cat – I wanted Liz.
I thought maybe I’d get an older cat someday when I was ready. But one day I realized something. I’d probably never be ready for another cat. But also, I didn’t want to let my heart close forever. I thought maybe I could get a cat in honor of Lizzie, like a scholarship, since she had once been a homeless stray.
Then one night I went to Cat Care’s website and there was a 4-month-old kitten who looked exactly like a mirror image of Lizzie. I was so struck that I burnt what I was cooking on the stove. We were at Cat Care’s door the minute they opened the next morning. I was still very unsure, but something in my heart knew that kitten needed to come home with me.
I adopted this precious, fearful little Liz-kitten with a long-lingering respiratory infection, the last one of her litter left. She is a sensitive, dear, sweet, loving thing – exactly as Liz was. Very fearful at first, Dulcie has now blossomed into such a fun, confident kitten, and she reminds me so much of Liz in so many ways it’s the most incredible thing.
I miss Liz so much still, but Dulcie’s presence has made a big difference. She’s a living reminder of Liz, and delightful in her own ways, and it helps my heart feel better. Lizzie was a healing gift to me, and now Dulcie is carrying forward that baton – that healing gift.
Liz (top) and Dulcie (bottom)
Liz (top) and Dulcie (bottom)