Today, we said goodbye to our beloved cat, Akasha. We did all we could and remained hopeful even through this morning, but we were told she was just too sick to go on. When her heart stopped this afternoon, ours broke.
On Saturday, we took her to her oncology appointment, but while the prognosis for small cell lymphoma in animals is good, the doctor said that something else must have been going on aside from the lymphoma. She was so weak by the end of this week that I spent two nights sleeping on the floor with her because she couldn’t jump on the bed anymore. Still, she tried so hard to show her love and she even snuggled next to me on Friday night, what would be her last night at home. On Saturday, weak as she was, she still put her paw on my boyfriend’s shoulder and nuzzled his face with hers. She rested her head on my arm. I think she knew it was the end. We were still hopeful this morning when they told us that she ate, but the doctor said that even if we brought her home, she wouldn’t do very well. It’s already been so hard to see her suffer all this week. It seems like every glimmer of hope was dimmed by another problem or issue. Despite everything, the vibrant personality she always had shone through and still snuggled with us when she could. In the end, she was so diminished.
This week, I’ve done so much crying the necks of my t-shirts are wet. I’ve cried for her, hating to see her suffering. And I’ve also selfishly cried for me. I miss her so much. With a loss, there’s sometimes a void, but this feels like a vacuum. Eventually it will dull to the emptiness that’s left behind, but now it’s an aggressive loss that takes the air right out of my chest and pulls at my guts.
I suppose there are some who would say she was “just a cat,” but not anyone who knew her. She was truly special. And she was my friend. I know there are terrible things going on in the world—war, displacement, the environment. When I was dealing with my Hodgkin’s lymphoma, people would sometimes apologize for complaining about what they deemed a lesser problem, but I don’t think the fact that bigger problems exist diminish smaller ones. If only there was a finite number of problems and sadness in the world.
Today I feel like I’ve lost one of my best friends and it hurts and I am so sad. And isn’t that part of what makes pets so valuable to us as friends? When the world is terrible and things seem to be falling apart, they are there as constants, as a reminder of pure good, there to comfort with a purr or a paw or a nuzzle. That’s what is so hard about losing a pet—they are not there to console you about their own passing.
Before we went to the hospital today to say good-bye, I tried to rid the apartment of things that would make me sad, like her medications and the blanket still out on the floor, awaiting her return. Usually innocuous objects, after a death, can hurt so much. Instead we have the things that remind us of the happy times with her—a portrait my talented friend Matt painted years ago, another sketch a friend’s husband made for me while I was in the hospital (Akasha was quite the artist’s muse), her collar. The hospital offered a paw print, which we now have. And I may have a few photos of her.
Though it hurts so much now, it was worth the 15 years I was lucky enough to have with her. Even though it feels like they went by too quickly. I was extremely fortunate to have her in my life.
She was extraordinary. I could write about her for days and still not do her justice. Since she was a scrappy abandoned kitten trying to get into a grocery store, she demonstrated a big personality. She wasn’t afraid of dogs and stood up to a German Shepherd, batted at the face of a Weimaraner puppy (luckily for all dogs, Akasha was declawed), and was caught hunting the neighbor’s Yorkie, who obliviously frolicked in his yard as Akasha hid herself in the grass, ready to pounce. She loved hair ties and would tirelessly play fetch with them. She had a pink puff on a stick that she would drag across rooms and up steps when she wanted to play.
I can tell you that one of the best weekends of her life was when fledgling birds emerged from recessed can lights in one of my old apartments in Ohio. One Friday, I came home, and noticed the cats were staring at the lights above the staircase. But cats are weird, so I didn’t think much of it. Then a bird stuck its head out, looked around, and disappeared back into the ceiling. Shortly afterwards, it emerged, and the cats chased the bird, and I chased the cats and locked them in the bathroom. Eventually, after nearly an hour, I got the bird out the window. The cats remained watchful that weekend, and I found them looking hopefully at the lights. They were rewarded Sunday morning, when a new bird emerged. Apparently, there was a nest in the ceiling. I got that bird to safety as well. But as long as I lived there, Akasha would look at that light fixture, ever hopeful more birds would come through.
Akasha loved great shoes and all men. She would regularly cuddle with female friends’ boots and heels when she wasn’t draping herself across their boyfriends. She was a shameless flirt. Her favorite man, however, was my boyfriend. I was practically a third wheel around here. After he moved in with me, a few male friends who had since moved came back to visit, and immediately they greeted their old feline flame. “Akasha, my sweet!” exclaimed a friend who stayed with me for a few months. “Come here!” He scooped her into his arms. They spent so much time together when he stayed with me that she smelled like his cologne. When another friend who spent a lot of time with her came to visit before moving to Europe, he immediately said “Hi, lover!” at the sight of her. She was never short of admirers. She was as beautiful and smart as she was sweet.
Once we came home from a trip, and my mom had called my cell phone to tell me that my answering machine message was just meowing. When we played it, we heard Akasha meowing, with Maceo meowing in the background. I have so many stories about this loveable cat. I know anyone who met her was also often charmed.
I know that if there were reincarnation, we would be reunited, but Akasha would be a woman and I would be the housecat of her and my boyfriend. Maceo would still be a cat, I think.
This past week, I was also sick and stayed home from work for a few days. One day, Akasha snuggled next to me and rubbed her head into me even more than usual, as cats do to claim someone. But even without the cat scent, we will always be hers.
Thank you so much for your support on her GoFundMe page and for sharing your memories of Akasha. So many of you have told me what a special kitty she was. She’ll always remain in our hearts.
I would apologize to Auden for my take on his “Funeral Blues” poem, but I read that he actually wrote this as a parody. So I apologize for nothing. Goodbye, sweet Akasha. I love you so much.
Akasha’s Funeral Blues
Stop all the clocks, take the phone off the hook,
The silly dogs bark without her disapproving look.
Silence the cat collar bells and with muffled sighs,
Let us weep and mourn and say our goodbyes.
As the super blood moon rises overhead
It matters not for she is dead.
Put bows round the succulent necks of unbothered mourning doves
Let go of the mice, catnip and everything else that she loves.
Whatever the problem, she had a velvet soft ear to lend
More than a cat, she was a valued friend.
Her sweet meow and purrs my favorite song,
My love will last forever though she is gone.
Shut down the internet; no more cute photos to share.
Pack up all cardboard boxes, toys and ties for the hair,
Empty the oceans of tuna, let the birds be,
For there will never be another cat as beloved as she.