Several weeks ago, a friend sent me an email, late on a Sunday night. It felt different to me even before I opened it—quiet, spare—only a few lines.
She wrote that their cat had died the day before at the age of somewhere between 17 and 20—the vet’s best guess.
When I read the email, tears spilled—for my friend and her husband, for their loss, and for the wrenching in my chest from feeling inescapably mortal—all things must pass.
In my family, when a dog died, we just acquired another mutt from my father’s outside source, usually people moving out of the houses he sold who couldn’t or wouldn’t take Fido with them. There was no family sorrow, barely a mention—Next! I was the only person who grieved, alone in my little red diary.
Loss is loss. And, while I’m not comparing the death of a child or parent or sibling to the death of a cat or dog, the mourning and the missing comes from the same place within us. For whatever complex, human reasons, those of use lucky enough to have a great four-legged companion are hesitant to share that loss with others. And they often are hesitant to give the loss its due. “That’s too bad,” is a common condolence.
I share Violet with my daughter. She’s next to my desk asleep in one of her many beds, hideouts, or throws spread around the house like the toy-stations I made for my daughters when they were young.
This Sunday, September 21st, is my oldest daughter’s birthday and the owner of Violet. I was at the store looking for a card when the woman next to me guffawed at the pet bereavement section. “Really,”she said. Yes, really, I thought and reached across her to choose one for my friend.
When I was filling out my daughter’s birthday card from Violet (yes, I bought a card and the books), I hesitated writing the words “Happy Birthday, Mom.” Then I thought about my friend. So, I wrote “Mom” and decided that the love of a child, a cat, a dog—possibly even a goldfish—all come from the human heart. It’s love and loss, perhaps not in equal measure, but it comes from the same good, deep place within us.