Seems like this space is mostly filled with cats—which is great—and their obituaries—which, not so much. But then, why not have a space devoted to mourning for animals—pets, strays, friends, passers-by? This very morning, unaware that another of my old friends was no more, I was reading an article where the writer said how she had howled after her dog died, and strangely enough, I felt glad to read it. Not simply because they deserve it—the cats and dogs and the others—but also because it gives me hope. If we are capable of grieving truly and deeply for them, we may also be capable of loving them so, and yes, that gives me hope. For what a nightmare it would be to live in a world where no one but human beings live, and how nightmarish also would be a world where humans and non-humans forget how to love each other.
I am also becoming increasingly selfish, it seems. Just a few days ago, when the adolescent boy of this friend went missing and I began trying to prepare my mind for the fact that he may never return, I told myself and my parents, “Well, at least we did not have to see him die in front of us. At least we were spared the sight of the inert body, the bloodstain and the still eyes.” Nothing but selfishness, this, but selfishness is a far-too-common defence mechanism, don’t you know. For I have also had moments when I have tried to imagine the adolescent tom, the one who is flatteringly, humblingly attached to me, dead, never coming again, running at my sight or voice, and felt slightly panic-stricken. I have also seen his sister lying in the aforementioned manner minutes after she was playing boisterously with him.
So, today too, when I came home and heard that she was gone in the morning, minutes after following my mother around for fish (“Didn’t even get a chance to eat that fish,” said my mother, who is vehemently against pets in the house.), one of my first feelings was a relief at having been spared the sight of her dead body. Denial is another popular defence, I believe.
She is survived by four. She lost more while she was alive. The adolescent tom is looking after the three few-week-olds, the ones whose eyes are still dark blue. All of them are beautiful, gorgeous, precious, spirited. She was a fighter, the mother. I have seen her hitting toms and kissing toms. I have seen her snarling at one and sitting peacefully with another. A girl with strong likes and dislikes, definite opinions and the quiet perseverance to act on those opinions. (I transferred her latest lot of kittens to the roof, where I wanted to keep them, at least half a dozen times, whereupon she brought them down again to the veranda, where she wanted to keep them.)
I remember one of the times she gave birth. She had a kind of open wound/infection on one side of her face. One evening she came to our home, visibly in pain. (They become silent and sit still, in a safe, hidden place.) The wound was dripping pus and possibly blood. Weekend night: no vet’s chamber. I managed to call a vet home and he prescribed what he could, seeing her from a distance. That very night, in that very condition, she gave birth to a litter under my parents’ bed. I remember shining a torch on them under the bed to take a better look and see what colour combination the newcomers had inherited. And though she knew me and trusted me and I daresay loved me, at this intrusion of her privacy, she curled her paw a little tighter around the babies.
I like to think she’s gone to be with her other children now. I like to think that all of them—the non-humans, the super-humans—are together, in play and in peace.
Pure love, pure grief.