Thursday, March 31, 2011
Cole’s birthday is Sunday, April 3rd. He would have been 16 years old.
Cole, my beloved pet, companion…my baby, passed away on March 29th, 2011. He died on the same day my stepfather passed 7 years ago – the day before my eldest nephew was born. Now I have another angel up in heaven.
I’ve had pets my whole life it seems. I’ve owned five cats prior to Cole, each of them special in their own way. And they’ve all passed on, so this isn’t the first time I’ve experienced a pet’s death. But for some reason, this feels very different.
I adopted Cole when he was just a month old, right after I graduated from college. My first thought wasn’t to unpack, or to look for a job. It was to get a cat. I had gone 4 years without a pet while in college, and my heart was longing for one. I went to a pet store in the mall and decided to pick out a kitten. There were two in a cage - one white, one black. I thought they were cute, but nothing was pulling me toward either one. Then I saw something. Two eyes were glowing in the dark from the back of a little cave within the cage. I asked the attendant to see what was back there and she said, “Oh, I forgot about him.” She reached in and pulled out a beautiful charcoal grey kitten with blue, green eyes that sparkled. That was Cole. I carried him out of the store around my neck so he wouldn’t be afraid. He slept around my neck for the next two years, close and safe. I’ve loved him from the moment I saw him.
I wondered if I should write a post about losing Cole. Unless you’re a pet owner or an animal lover, it’s hard to understand the grief someone feels after losing a pet. I didn’t think anyone would really sympathize, because the assumption is that the loss is minimized by the fact it’s an animal and not a person.
But to my surprise, I’ve gotten nothing but an outpouring of love from my family and friends who know exactly what I feel and what I’m going through. The cherished relationship that most people have with pets is a loving, mutually affirming one. I’ve always felt that having a pet had physical as well as emotional benefits, and they love you in a way that speaks of acceptance. Pets love you despite your imperfections. They love you in a way that humans can’t. For some, a pet is a sole companion. For me, Cole was a member of my family and like a child to me. He was my baby.
When pets die, human hearts break. My fragile heart is now broken, and I’m praying for it to be put back together again. The past couple of days have been emotionally and physically exhausting. I didn’t realize how much of my identity was captured in the relationship I had with Cole. Anyone who knows me well knows that he was as much a part of me as the clothes I wear, the music I listen to and the stories I tell. Ours was a special relationship that I will always treasure.
I’m at the beginning of my grieving process, and I can’t stop thinking of how much I miss Cole already. Selfishly, I just want him here with me, even though I know now that he’s no longer in any pain, isn’t suffering, and is resting peacefully. I know that eventually, rather than wishing he were still with me, I will choose to cherish and remember. I’ll recall great memories, laugh at the silly things he did that brought a smile to my face, frame pictures of him and write this post in his memory to commemorate the bound we shared. Part of my healing process will not be about letting go, but in holding him close and dear in my mind, and keeping his spirit close to my heart.
I thank God for bringing Cole into my life – for most pets invite us to grow, love and expand in some special way – so the loss hurts a little more because now I have to re-connect to a self that has been permanently changed by his death.
I feel blessed to have shared time and space with the best cat in the world for the past 16 years, and I’m thankful that he held on for me, comforted me and loved me. I’m thankful that God called him home after I was able to spend quality time with him in his last days and in the comfort of my sister’s home where he was surrounded by family. And I’m especially thankful that Cole let out his last breath in my arms before his spirit soared to the heavens. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect transition for him, and I pray that now he is resting peacefully.
Cole, I love and miss you always.