Well I’m almost completely moved out of the apartment and turn in my keys tomorrow. Last night as I was collecting all the miscellaneous items around the apartment to place in boxes I did one last run-through of the bedroom to make sure I hadn’t left anything. As I looked towards the closet I saw there was still an over-the-door hook up top. I walked over to the closet and opened the door to take down the hook and as I rounded the corner of the door I saw that hanging from the hook was your favorite flannel shirt. My heart stopped for a moment because I realized how devastated I’d have been if I’d left that shirt there.
While I kept a few things of yours that didn’t really have much significance, I mostly kept items that meant something to me or to us. And the pieces of clothing I kept were primarily things which you wore often or which I have pictures of you wearing. If I can’t have you here, the feeling of your favorite sweatshirt keeping me warm is a calming replacement. A number of people have told me, “it’s not the things, it’s the memories” that make that person and to some degree I would agree with them. But for me it is still very important to be able to see, hold, feel and touch things that you once held. It only enhances those memories and my connection to you.
Something else happened this week that I’ve been wanting to tell you about because, though it won’t be obvious to anyone else but me, it dug up so many feelings for me about the sadness of your last few days and your eventual death. On Wednesday I spent my lunch hour at the apartment doing some final cleaning and just moments after I’d left to return to work I saw something horrible. I saw a man hunched over looking down at a cat lying in the street as cars swerved around him, uninterested in whatever was happening. I knew something was obviously wrong so I immediately pulled over and parked my car. As I walked closer, the man’s girlfriend told me the cat had just been hit by a car and the driver did not stop and the cat appeared to not be able to walk. The young man picked up the cat and brought it to the opposite side of the road and set it in the grass and began to walk away. The cat was still alive and there was no way I could live with myself if I didn’t try and help so I picked her up and carried her to my car.
She was struggling to breathe but relaxed into my lap and occasionally looked up at me as I cradled her head in my right hand. I drove all the way to the vet that way– with her on my lap and her head resting in my hand. Occasionally she’d shudder and I feared she wasn’t going to make it. For a full minute or better I thought perhaps she’d passed but then she’d gasp for air and I’d let out a sigh of a relief as I kept talking to her and saying, “Stay with me, sweetie, stay with me. We’re almost there, please just hold on… I’m getting you help.”
As soon as I parked in front, I carried her inside to the vet and immediately began to sob as I told the young man at the front desk, “Someone hit her. They drove away. It’s not my cat.” After the vet tech took her to the back, I stood there crying, smelling of cat urine as they offered me water and an entire box of tissues. It was only about 2 minutes later when the vet came out to inform me that she didn’t make it. It likely seemed odd to them that I would be that emotional over a creature who was not known to me, so I was a little it embarrassed at the amount of tears I was shedding in the presence of a room full of strangers. But they were quite kind. They took down my contact information and assured me they would do their best to locate the cat’s family, if one existed. I got back into my car feeling defeated and brokenhearted and I let go in my car and wept for this little creature whom I had only known for about 10 minutes.
That little life I held in my lap brought up so many painful thoughts about you, your death and how I was unable to help you. I guess there was a little part of my mixed-up brain that thought by helping this helpless creature that maybe I’d be able to free myself of some of that guilt I’ve carried for not being able to save your life. But the part that really got me the most, was being with that little life as she was leaving this world. I’ve been so tormented over your life not only ending in suicide but that you took your last breath alone. I don’t know why I’ve been so hung up on that part, but I really have been… and it hurts to think that you may have been feeling unloved in your last thoughts. As I looked into the face of that dying creature, a piece of my heart truly felt as it she were saying to me, “Perhaps you can do for me what you couldn’t do for him.” I realize how terribly strange that sounds… but it’s true. And yet… she died, too. It truly felt like another failure on my part and I felt your loss so intensely as if it had just happened all over again.
It was a few days ago now, and that cat has been on my mind so much ever since. I just can’t get her face and the sounds of her painful, labored breathing out of my mind. I’m devastated that she didn’t survive as I had imagined a future where she pulled through and that perhaps, if no family had claimed her, that I would care for her and give her a loving home. The only piece of comfort I’ve been able to collect from that experience was that I gave her all the love in my heart in her last moments here.
If you see her around wherever you are, please give her a special hug for me and tell her I’ll never forget her.
I love you.