This week has been all about loss – both expected and unexpected. While losing things I have loved, I have also come to realize how much I have in my life to value, to care for, to cry over – and how lucky I am to have things that, when gone, leave a void that cannot be filled by anone or anything else.
Pet owners will understand – others, maybe not – but this week, my family lost two members. Two cats, to be exact. One of them we had since he was a kitten, for about 11 years now. We called him Tiikeri – Finnish for “Tiger” – even though he was gray and looked nothing like a tiger. The other one, Mytty – Finnish for “undefined pile of stuff” – I found outside our home nine years ago. When I found Mytty, the vet estimated him to be anywhere between 10 and 15 years of age, which was 9 years ago, which would make him around 20-25 now. That is quite old for a cat – around 100 human years. A lifetime, if not more. Tiikeri was 11 this year.
Mytty’s health had been deteriorating for a while now. He went blind a few months back, and our family decided that if he started to be in any kind of pain, we would let him go. That was the least we owed him. He was an amazing cat – which is, of course, something any cat owner will tell you about their own cat. But he was truly amazing. A true personality, affectionate and warm, tyrant and lazy. He would rather have someone lift him on the couch than jump on it himself. When going upstairs, he would stop for a nap half way there. When he ran, his fat belly would jiggle from side to side. He slept next to me when I was home, on his own pillow – and still, I would wake up with no pillow for myself, and two for him. He drooled like and old man, and rubbed his little head against any hand that was in his reach. He also ate, a lot – including some blue cheese kebab while he was being looked after by a friend of mine. He loved to eat, and sleep, and be scratched.
Tiikeri was a different breed. He was a rogue young boy, playful and silly, didn’t like to be pet or held, didn’t cuddle. He would only let him “scratch” you with your foot, rubbing his head against it – until he would attack it and try to eat it off. He wanted to be outside, chasing butterflies, mice and anything that moved – eating grass and then throwing it up – lying in the sun, observing things around him. Earlier this year, he went missing for almost two weeks, and we all went crazy over worry. And then he came back home, almost unharmed, more affectionate then he had been before his great adventure, softened by the hard world he had apparently encountered on his journey. When I went home this summer, he slept cuddled up against my legs, and would let me pet him when he was lying down, pushing his face against my palm. He had changed, but not too much. He was still the same cat we had know for over ten years, just a little bit more soft and more.. appreciative.
Mytty was put asleep this Tuesday. It was time. We wanted to let him go, before he was in any pain. We owed him that. It was hard, but at the same time, I think we all knew it was the right thing to do, for him. It was his time to go.
Tiikeri was found dead in our home by my father on Wednesday – a day after we let Mytty go. This we did not expect or foresee, nor were we prepared for it.
During the entire nine years we had these two cats, it seemed like they either hated each other, or at least really disliked each other. They didn’t eat together, play together or sleep together. It took them years to be able to be in the same room together without attacking each other.
Still – now, when they are both gone, this is what I think: I think, secretly, they were best friends. I think they were brothers. And I think in the end, they decided to leave this world together, and take their last journey together, side by side. That is how I choose to see it – maybe because otherwise, it is too much to take in. But maybe.. just maybe, I am right.
People who own pets know that over the years, pets stop being pets, and start being family members. They are distinct personalities with their quirks and traits, strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad days. And when they are gone, a void is left that nothing else can fill. At first, it seems devastating – it feels like there is a hole in your heart that makes you incomplete. Eventually, however, you realize that there is no hole. Just because they are gone doesn’t mean they never existed, and you realize that all the love, memories and affection that they gave you is still there. They left a void that no one or nothing else can fill, but that doesn’t mean all that was there before was suddenly undone by their death. There won’t be another Mytty in my life, or another Tiikeri – which is a good thing. It means they were something special and unique, something that cannot be replaced – and those are the things one should cherish and value. Those are the truly important things – the things that cannot be replicated or replaced.
This is one of the hard parts about being abroad – Missing these moments and events. Not being there, home, to say goodbye, to hold them for one last time, to give a kiss, to pet, to cuddle. To hug Tiikeri after he was found. To bury them with my family. To pet Mytty while he was falling deep asleep – to tell him that is is okay to let go. I said goodbye to Mytty when I left Finland this past August, because I knew I wouldn’t probably see him again. I didn’t say goodbye to Tiikeri.. but I think he knew how I felt. I hope he did.
I loved these cats, and knowing they are both gone breaks my heart into million pieces. They were just as much a part of our home and family as the rest of us are.
Still… I would never give back the years we had with them. With all the tears, pain and heartache that losing them caused, the time we had was worth all of this. There is a void the size of two cats in my life now, that won’t ever be filled by anything else, but that is okay. It doesn’t need to be filled.