Grief, a Cat and a little hope.

I wrote the piece below way back at the end of March… It was rather personal but I’d like to share it with you now.

There are a number of emotions that we are all guaranteed to feel in this lifetime in varying levels of intensity, and grief is one such thing. It is also something pretty much being felt the world over at the moment. Circumstances are so surreal it’s almost impossible to comprehend what is happening. As events have unfolded it has seemed as though from a dream. Of course all generations have their difficulties to face and the world is becoming a much smaller place. Yet we have our heroes, our frontline workers. In past conflicts they have been the soldiers that have marched to keep the enemy at bay. We now face an unseeable foe that cannot be contained by military manoeuvres. It is our scientists, doctors, nurses, healthcare workers that are fighting the fight. Our heroes are the postal delivery workers keeping us connected, the shop-workers keeping our supplies of food available – even for those who already have plenty yet still desire more. The prospect of having to reduce what they consume unthinkable, so much so that they would rather throw away their excess and leave others without. My point is that we are ALL grieving in some way at the moment, this may be a loved one, a job, or simply our way of life. Our world, quite simply, has been turned upside down.

There are so many people working to keep us going, to keep us alive and those we love. You will always be remembered for this time. ‘We are all in this together’ I have heard said and in reality that is 100% accurate. Not one of us will have not been affected by these events in some way and how we will come out of it, well that remains to be seen.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” J R R Tolkien

As I write this it is just past 4 in the morning. My thoughts are fragmented but full, my mind now too busy to sleep. Normally I would never sit and write. It is a work night and so I would be doing everything I could to get back to sleep. Failing miserably most times but I would never have opened up this device and let my thoughts explode into it. Why not? Well it just feels wrong. I should be sleeping and I might disturb others in the house by being awake.

Do you ever notice how quiet a house is in the dead of night? Every sound is magnified. Even shifting in bed seems to feel like a small earthquake when you are trying not to disturb others. You see even though I am using an iPad and therefore don’t need to turn on a light I am still conscious of the glow of the screen. I am using the onscreen keypad as I don’t want the tippy tapping sound of the separate keyboard. It makes editing tricky but even there I am offered a certain freedom as I know that I can go back in later and change it. In some ways it offers a certain freedom. So here I am writing. But I am really tired – this is not the first disturbed night sleep of late.

The last few weeks have proved difficult. The world feels silent right now. It is dark outside, even the birds sleeping. The only sounds I hear are my husband breathing, the gently and almost silent tapping of my fingers on the screen and that strange buzzing noise that lingers in my head and is usually drowned out by the the other sounds of life around me. Only a week ago those sounds may have been very different. A passing car would probably have featured, the sound of an occasional aeroplane and even possibly the purr of a cat on the floor beside me or at the end of the bed. I miss that. Perry had such a lovely loud purr. He let it run free in the same way he lived his life – with unashamed abandon. For him the moment he lived in was all that mattered.

He was a very contented cat and he expressed this with abandon in his purr. It was a splendid purr indeed. Always present at food times – which were often (you’re going in the kitchen? Oh that must mean it’s time for biscuits) and quite often when he was snuggled up somewhere comfy. I was always amazed how Perry could pretty much find comfort anywhere. He loved a bag and would happily jump inside any even if they still contained a dirty sports kit and hard, lumpy football boots. ‘That can’t be comfortable Perry’ I would often think or say and he would just blink happily at me. Whether spoken aloud or not he always seemed to know exactly what I was saying.

He liked to be lying on something: a bit of tissue paper, clothes, cushions, shoes – it was all fair game as a bed for him. I would often wake in the night and find the heavy weight of him at my feet, usually right where my feet wanted to be. And would I move him for my own comfort? No, I would simply position myself around him not wanting to disturb his deep, sleep and the comforting purr that emerged from him. He didn’t always sleep with us. More often than not he would find a place where he wouldn’t have to put up with our fidgeting. Clothes left on the floor would prove enticing, a washing basket, and the rug on the landing was a favourite spot, just out of way from feet heading towards the bathroom in the dark but close enough to still be with all three of us. He would happily sleep the night through (most of the time I hasten to add – there where those nights when he decided we should all be up to feed, fuss him and then let him out into the night).

Every morning he would be there to greet me the moment I stirred. His purr often one of the first things I would hear. He would appear at the side of the bed. Sometimes content for a few minutes stroking but if he was eager he would scratch his claws on our divan. It is pretty much the only area he scratched indoors, so carpets and other furnishings were left unharmed but our bed.. he used to really attack it, pulling himself along around the edges.

Once I was up he would follow me into the bathroom and then immediately scratch at the door once we were inside to come back out again. If I did manage to get inside ahead of him he would simply push the door open and wonder in – we had no secrets. Then we would head downstairs for his favourite meal of the day. It’s strange how these little routines stay with you, I imagine the memories will be with me for quite some time and for me it is this time and the end of the day that are hardest, when I miss him most.

Every morning as I walked downstairs he would wonder down by my side, beginning on my right and then crossing over (in front of me) to trot down the left hand side of the stairs. He would pick up speed to race ahead and meet me at the door to the kitchen. Once inside he would have his full purr on and often stand on his back legs, front poor stretched up and leaning on the handle to the oven, nuzzling my leg as I put his food in his bowl. He would then settle down to eat whilst I did my morning yoga or begun to prepare for the day ahead. He would eat most, but not all of his breakfast before asking to go out. Usually he would reappear at the back door a short time later, to come back in to finish his breakfast. Except on that Friday he never came back again. I can still see him heading out the back door. I had paused my yoga to quickly open and close the door. It was a very quick moment, both of us lost in our actions, and then he was gone.

A little colour went out of our world on that day for all three of us. He was a big part of our small home and it feels a very different place without him. For me he was always a great comfort. He was a gentle cat and you never felt the sharpness of his claw (except during high excitement at play time if you weren’t quick enough) or the bite of his very sharp and deadly teeth. He didn’t enjoy being picked up but suffered it with that look of ‘if you must’ about him. He was very free with his head nudges and time. He very much enjoyed our company and would come to sit near or beside you – on occasion he would even honour you by sitting on your lap. He loved nothing more that a little fuss and a stroke on his tummy. He trusted us completely.

Perry had a wonderful character. He would often chat to us, probably about food. Before heading upstairs he would pause a moment looking up, begin to walk slowly up and then just after he reached the bend in the stairs would rush up – we could always hear the tell-tale tread of his paws on the steps.

He would sit and stare at us unblinking for quite some time, it could be quite unnerving at times but then he would give us one of his long blinks before looking away, a smile always seemed to be on his mouth. Those long blinks always seemed filled with so much affection. I like to think he loved us as much as we loved him.

In the grand scheme of things, especially with all that is happening in our world today, his loss is such a tiny thing and yet for us, it is great. I have noticed there are more birds in the garden since he has gone, although I hate to imply we had none but they were definitely more cautious before, That has been a great comfort and I have enjoyed hearing them sing and watching them hop around free from danger. But there has also been fewer aeroplanes in the sky and traffic on the road so their song is clearer and less muffled. Proof that even in challenging and sad times there is still a great deal of beauty and wonder out there.

Our world has changed forever. Once this is all over I think many will go back to heir lives unchanged – consuming far more than they need, abusing and damaging the world with their own wants and needs. But there will also be many who will have become a little more mindful in the way they live their lives. So much of the way we live has become disposable and I’d like to think that being in the situation we are in has made us appreciate that it doesn’t have to be that way – mustn’t be that way. We have a wonderful world, even now during our difficult times it is there for us. Our greatest comfort at the moment might be a daily walk in the sunshine. But what the world is also showing is that it can continue, even thrive without us. We are merely visitors here, making it our home. I hope that we can begin to respect it and appreciate what we have rather than to simply consume it.

It Is The Small Things, Everyday Deeds Of Ordinary Folk That Keeps The Darkness At Bay. Simple Acts Of Love And Kindness” – J R R Tolkien (Gandalf)

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