Not to state the obvious, but there is never a “good” time to lose someone. As children, we think we’re immortal. When we get into our twenties, that perception only marginally changes. It’s why so many of us twenty-year olds blow through our budgets like we’ve got an all-access pass at an online poker tournament.
Some people, unfortunately, experience death and loss from a young age. Perhaps a grandparent passes away, or a parent gets into a tragic accident. It’s an unfortunate consequence of the human condition that we, as mortal beings, will encounter the specter of death and sorrow at some point. It will visit someone close to us and, inevitably, ourselves.
Memento Mori, and all that.
However, tragedy doesn’t often come in such obvious, expected ways. We don’t live in a Hollywood drama with a script and an arc that wraps itself up in an hour. Thankfully, my family and I are not dealing with such a sharp loss, like that of a loved one. At least, not of the kind you’re thinking of.
My family and I lost our cat.
Her name was Nancy. Her fur was gray, black, and brown, with white paws. She had green eyes. She’s the second cat I’ve ever had, the first being a male named George who had to be given away because of his tendency to be violent towards baby me. Nancy has been a part of my family since I was in elementary school, and we celebrated her eleventh or twelfth (we’re not exactly sure) birthday on May 4th. We not the kind of obsessive cat owners that makes cake and sets up decorations on a pet’s birthday, but we do keep track of these things.
Nancy was quiet, shy, and well-behaved for a cat. It was an oddly appropriate match for a family of introverted nerds. We never had to work hard to keep her in check. She only scratched when provoked and never knocked anything over (at least, not on purpose). When she wanted something, she would come over and poke a single claw into one of our legs as if to say, “Hey, I want food. Did you hear me? Food. Gimme. Mrow.”
All in all, she was a member of the family, and we brought her with us even when we moved countries. Our new place is smaller than the last one, but we had roof access in our apartment, and she enjoyed running and hunting up there for birds and bugs.
When she vanished, it took a day for any of us to notice. Nancy tended to spend long stretches of time on the roof or sleeping on, under, or beside beds and tables, so when she mysteriously vanished, we were none-the-wiser. It wasn’t until we realized that none of us had fed her and that her food bowl was untouched that we noticed her absence. We scoured the roof, the neighboring roofs, and under cars and yards a block around the apartment (living in a chaotic city is a lot harder to search than, say, a suburb). We have found no sign of her. Nancy was (is) simply gone.
What happened? We can only conclude a couple of possibilities. She either escaped from the roof, most likely by jumping down to another apartment, or she somehow slipped out the front door without any of us noticing and escaped via the stairwell. Nancy has left us before, so why didn’t she return? Did she end up stuck somewhere? Was she chased away by stray cats? A dog? Was she run-over and “cleaned up” before we noticed her absence?
We have no idea, and unfortunately, we’ll probably never know. We don’t live in Hollywood, where magic is real, and closure is not just expected but a requirement. Imagine how much it would suck if in “Saving Private Ryan”, Ryan just vanished after the invasion of Normandy, and we never find out what happened to him? It would be realistic, as soldiers did end up disappearing after having died in woods or enemy territory or somewhere else where their body was unrecoverable. It would make for a crap movie, though.
But that’s life. Sometimes, it’s crap, and we don’t get any real answers. Things just happen, and there’s no script to tie it all together at the end.
The Grief… or lack thereof
What I think has struck me the most from this whole debacle is our response to it. We searched for Nancy, yes, and we now keep an eye out when we look for her, but… that’s it. I’ve never experienced something like this before, as my family gave away George when I was too young to be all that emotionally connected to him. My mother’s parents passed away before I was born, and my grandfather on my father’s side passed away around the same time, but thankfully the rest of my relatives are alive and well. This… was a new experience for us.
In a movie, you would expect characters to comfort one another in their time of grief. The husband clutches the trembling wife with their arms around their kids as they grapple with their new reality.
Nothing like that has happened for us, though. We did our due diligence to look for her and then… moved on. We simply do our daily routine. We watch TV. Talk about the news. Complain about the government. Eat. Laugh. Smile. It’s as if Nancy has been excised from our lives and the only remnant of her presence in the food bowl in the other room.
I’m not an exception.
I do my classes. I watch YouTube videos. I eat, and sleep, and write. It’s not until the quiet moments when I spare a thought about her. I feel like I should care more. To put it in more flowery language, I feel like I should be rending my heart out of agony and scouring the streets day and night to find my lost friend.
But I’m not. Instead, I’m sitting here like Mycroft Holmes, trying to work out what happened from the comfort of my office chair. I’m even taking advantage of the situation by writing this article. I’m being paid by the word to write about this tragedy. They say write what you know, but here I am, exploiting a family loss for profit. It hasn’t even been a week since Nancy vanished.
In short, I don’t know anything.
I don’t know if how my family and I are reacting is normal or healthy. I have heard that people react to grief in different ways, so perhaps abject apathy is one of them. Or maybe we’re right at the beginning of the five stages of grief and still in the “denial” phase.
Or maybe we’re all sociopaths.
I don’t know the answer, and I’m sure as heck not hiring a therapist or a psychologist any time soon. Our rent comes first. All I can be sure of is that we’ll work through this. We’re alive, and we’re together, and that’s what matters. Maybe this will sting more in the long run than it may initially, I don’t know.
Sharing is Caring
I don’t know who is reading this, or anyone ever will. If you have stumbled your way to this website, and then to this article, and have stuck with me long enough to reach this segment, then God himself determined that someone should read this, I guess.
Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. Perhaps the complete opposite. Perhaps you came here hoping to find a way to ease a pain that I have yet to experience. I’m sorry that I don’t have the answers. I suspect that time is the greatest medicine, along with the company of those you love and cherish the most in all the big wide world.
Don’t take what you have for granted. Be grateful for everything you have. I’ve never been rich, and I won’t be any time soon. But I have my health, and I have my family and a roof over my head and food in my belly.
We will survive, I suppose, as we always have. Hm, I could put in more pretentious language than that, though. We were struck by a tumultuous storm, but we held firm and have refused to be dashed against the rocks and washed away… or something. I’m not a poet.
My point, I guess, is to be grateful for what we have, rather than covetous of what we don’t. Nothing is permanent, and everything changes. Life goes on. I’ll cherish the times Nancy curled up against me on my bed, or when I held her in my arms, or how she would randomly sprint from one side of the house to the other. I hope I never forget.
Everyone on the news always talks about stock prices, or bitcoin, or inflation. Costs and value. However, they never mention the most valuable resource we have: Time.
Living in the moment is often taken to mean that you should throw your responsibilities aside and party like it’s 1999. I think a better interpretation should be that you shouldn’t just disregard any given moment. Appreciate them. Cherish them. Love them. Each moment is unique, and you’ll never repeat any given one.
Memento mori, my friends.