The best there is, the best there was and the best that will ever be
Published 3:16 pm Thursday, February 2, 2023
My cat died on Tuesday. I’m grieving him like a member of my family,
because he was a member of my family. My pack. Two adults, a growing young man, two dogs, and a cat named Lucario. Most of the time, though, we called him Dookie.
It was a sudden demise. Saddle thrombosis, I remember hearing the vet say. A blood clot that broke off and rendered his back legs paralyzed. Just minutes after the diagnosis, he was dead. My wife and I held him and rubbed his favorite spots. Behind his ears and under his chin. I was nose to nose with him when she pushed in the medicine that would make him fall into eternity’s sleep. He died as his was licking my face, and I our eyes were locked. I saw the light leave his eyes, and I felt a little leave mine too.
During the recovery after my back surgery, my depression decided it was time to knock on my door again. This time, it was fiercer than before. When my body felt broken, so too did my mind. My spirit.
But then there was Dookie. He sat with me all day, on my lap or beside me on the couch where I lived for those first few weeks. When I’d nap, he would crawl on my chest, under my chin. He would squeeze himself as close to me as possible. If he could have crawled into my skin, I think he would have.
He could never know this, but he was the light I needed when that darkness came knocking. He reminded me of the virtues of gentleness and love. I’m a big man, and he was a tiny dude. I loved holding him gently, swirling his little hairs in my fingers, listening to his purring that was as loud as a diesel engine.
He made my life fuller in ways I didn’t know were possible. Life before him was grand, but it became somehow grander. Full before, but fuller still with him.
Death isn’t always a cataclysmic ending. For me, it’s an emptying. A lessening of my world. Something about his mere presence made me feel like all was right with my little slice of the universe. And now that ‘rightness’ has been shaken.
I caught myself lowering my recliner softly, as I used to do when he was alive. I didn’t want to crush him if he was under me asleep. I probably still will for a long time. And that’s okay. It’s a reminder that I had him, that he touched my life, and made my life fuller for a little while.
If he taught me anything, it’s that gentleness and love win the day. That light can shine from the most surprising of places. For me, it was a cat I didn’t really want to bring home that somehow opened my eyes to a new kind of beauty. I’m heartbrokenly grateful. One day the heartbreak will go away, and I’ll just be grateful. But not today. And that’s okay too.
Chris Adams is the Rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.