A Time for Goodbye

We lost our beloved cat – Baily – our beautiful Himalayan on New Year’s Eve. Baily was my husband’s cat – when we decided to share a home together, his two cats came with us.  Lucas, the white Persian, left us two months after Ava was born.

Baily celebrated his 14th birthday in December, and 2 weeks later prompty kicked the bucket.  It began like any other night – he was lying in the bed with the husband and kids,hanging out watching tv.  Then I came up from cleaning the kitchen, the dog followed and, as it is between most cats and dogs – Rosco playfully backed up and barked at Baily and Baily, even after 8 months with this pain in the ass, hissed at him and ran off to his basement hiding place.

My night continued as usual, up every two hours testing Ava’s blood sugar… but it wasn’t until about 6am that it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t seen Baily on the bed all night.  And then that feeling of just knowing set in.  Before I went to look for him I paced the hall outside our bedroom, talking to myself.  Should I, or shouldn’t I, go look now?  Should I, or shouldn’t I, wake my husband – who will be devastated when I tell him?  I decided to go look for him, and found him.  Then, I woke my husband.  Two hours later I was the only one fit to drive the body to the vet before they closed early for the holiday weekend.  I loved him, I fed and looked after him, but didn’t have the bond with him that my husband had.  But when I picked him up and held him in my arms, already carefully wrapped in a towel, I had to choke back tears for this cat who had never let me hold him – ever. 

Ava had loved and claimed Baily as her own cat – she would pick him up (which he’d allow for maybe a minute) and hold him, pet him and sought him out whether he liked it or not – daily.  And he was remarkably tolerant of her.  So we knew she would be devastated.  Her questions about where he went, how he got there and why she couldn’t see him went on unabated for most of the early evening after we told her.

It wasn’t until the evening wore on, and she became more tired – at bathtime – that she had a full-blown meltdown.  I miss Baily!  I miss him Mommy!  Bring him back!  The tears streamed down her reddened face, and she just became more and more hysterical.  I didn’t get to say goodbye to him!  All these words she repeated over and over for an hour, the tears falling from a broken dam, her voice hoarse with her pleadings.  And all I could think of, as the hysteria struck me like an electric shock and my own tears fell in unison, was – why didn’t I tell her before I took him away?  It’s something I’m sure all parents struggle with – whether to let your child see a dead pet one last time.  We had little time to waste, given the holiday, and I made the snap decision not to show her the body.  In retrospect, given her passionate reaction, I wish I would have.  Instead she cried in my arms for two solid hours, repeating his name and pleading with me to please, mommy, drive her to heaven so she can see him again… until she finally fell asleep, less than an hour before the ball dropped. 

With any loss it does get easier over time – and maybe it’s a bit faster for children.   In the days that followed, she asked after him and what he was doing in heaven.  I did my best to comfort her by explaining that he was happy and playing with Lucas, who had waited for him a long time.  As I finished writing this, I was going to summarize that now – a month later – she rarely mentions him at all… but just last night she looked at me somberly and said, I really miss Baily.

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