Sweet Toby: Gone But Never Forgotten
Last September I had to say good-bye to one of the sweetest cats to ever walk this Earth, however briefly. At barely 11 years old, cancer wracking his body, I had to admit the kindest choice was to let him quietly slip away. I decided one night I’d take him in the next morning, then sat with him on my desk, petting him, loving him, and saying good-bye.
The Universe somehow knew I needed a helping hand, and guided me to accidentally give him the wrong dosage of one of his medications. The error stopped his heart, and he died in my arms, convulsing once, then going quiet.
For a while, I blamed myself for making his end so abrupt, for failing to look at the container before administering the fatal dose. Eventually I realized it was for the best.
Yet until now, I’ve kept my favorite picture of him as the background on my computer. With the onset of October, I knew it was time to let him go; let his spirit race with the other cats I’ve loved and lost over the years. So I changed the picture to one of Munchkin and Mulan, two of my zaniest and most loveable girls, and bid a silent farewell to my sweet boy. His spirit no longer needs to linger, watching over me as I extend my grief. I’m ready to turn all my focus on the furry family who I’m allowed to love and care for right now, though each will, in their own time, leave a hole in my life too. May that be later rather than sooner.
Autumn Brings a Season of Endings
October, at least in the Northern Hemisphere where I live means falling leaves, harvest, and shortening days. It’s a time for letting go of what no longer serves us, or, for that matter, what we no longer serve. Not always an easy thing to do, and at times, involving a great deal of soul-searching. I’m finding it also means being brutally honest with ourselves.
I’ve been looking lately at what I’m doing or holding onto that’s holding me back from writing as much as I need to, or growing my business as much as I want to. I discovered a lot can be found in who or what we grieve.
The losses aren’t necessarily due to a death. We enter and exit relationships our entire life, unless we lock ourselves in a cave of our own making and subsist on home delivery. But to do that, we still have to have a way to generate the funds to support our connectionless lifestyle. It’s becoming easier and easier to do both, much to the detriment of our society.
Connections Aid the Grieving Process
I suspect living without connecting removes the problem of grieving. If you never have anyone to love, you can’t lose them so you don’t need to grieve. Somehow, that seems beyond unnatural to me.
Grieving is a natural part of life. Yet when we do lose someone, it’s not only the individual person or pet we grieve, but the connection we had. Because we miss the connection, we’re more likely to step out of ourselves and look for other opportunities to connect. Our grief itself is a means of connection as sharing it opens us to connecting with others who understand loss.
Each time I lose a cherished pet, I share the loss with friends. Each one understands and offers their support while I come to terms with another loss. I do the same when one of their pets or a family member crosses over. It’s the human thing to do, and brings us closer. We can all relate, at least in one area of our lives.
Learning Lessons Better Late Than Never
I wish I’d known this when I lost each of my parents. Instead, I stuffed my grief, anger, self-blame, and everything else into what would become my own personal Pandora’s box. The unreleased emotions gnawed away at my innards leaving me short-tempered, angry, and unapproachable; the exact opposite of what I needed to be. Withholding grief isolated me when I needed most to connect with others who understood loss.
Life has a way of forcing our hand when we’re too stubborn or afraid to do it ourselves. My wake-up call came in the form of a parent’s ultimate loss. One daughter had long since moved out, and the other was talking about moving out too. I realized if and when she did, I’d be completely alone except for my cats. I had no other real friends because I didn’t let anyone see my vulnerable side. As far as I was concerned, I was a brick wall, and I gave no one any reason to look for a gate or try to climb over.
Sometimes What We Need is a Swift Kick in the Gut
I’d like to think I was impervious. Instead, I kept all my feelings; the hurts, the disappointments, the neglect bottled up inside. But glass is fragile, especially when it’s battered and tossed around. My protections were no less fragile.
I believe my daughter did me an enormous favor in broaching the subject long before she took action. It was the fear of being completely alone which had me following her suggestion to start writing about my parents’ deaths. And I’ve been writing about them more and more openly ever since.
These days, I’m quite content living alone with my cats. I have as active a social life as I desire. I follow a healthy routine which gets me out of the house more often than not, whereas I used to go days without leaving the house. I’m interacting with people almost on a daily basis now; sometimes directly and sometimes it’s simply a matter of being in a place where other people are.
And I know when I’ve grieved long enough and need to let go and move on, for my sake as well as for the one I’m grieving. By holding on, I’m holding them back from the next step in their soul journey. I’m sad, and I will shed a few more tears, but I know it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it. Toby and all the rest of my fur babies will always know I loved them fully and completely, and will forever remember them and the piece of my heart they took with them when they left. But they also left a piece of theirs with me, and those pieces make me better for the beautiful gifts they are.
To all the cats I’ve loved before, love now, and will love in the future, I’m so grateful for the time you were a part of my life.
Keeping the Gratitude Flowing
My gratitudes today are:
- I am grateful for the signs I receive telling me when it’s time to let go and move forward.
- I am grateful for the love of so many cats over the years, and the ability to share my home with the lost and abandoned ones.
- I am grateful for stories of people with philanthropic natures and the means to indulge them. It inspires me to reach higher, build bigger so I, too can follow my philanthropic inclinations.
- I am grateful for the variety in my days, some busy and running, others, quiet and introspective.
- I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, friendship, companionship, help when I need it (and can break down my own barriers towards asking), inspiration, motivation, changes in routine, focus, scope, goals, dreams, plans, successes, failures and the lessons they bring, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward.