What if she wasn't already dead when I closed the slider at midnight? What if she was being chased, tried to get back in and found nothing but a solid pane of glass I had closed?
What if she was hurt when I noticed her missing and since I didn't go looking for her right then, died alone, frightened and in pain?
What if she was fighting for her life and wondering where I was?
What if years of pushing her away while I nursed a small person or needed moments without someone ON me made drove her out into the moonlight and she never even tried to run?
What if my annoyance at her lately covered her in the scent of rejection and called the coyotes in?
What if all the drama around here sent her looking for some quiet, peaceful energy and instead, she got this?
I looked up the five stages of grief today, curious to see which one I was in:
- There was never denial, I knew from the moment she was missing that she was dead. I could feel it within me and instead, crawled into bed to sleep. Maybe that is denial? Maybe the fact that I didn't go looking for her proves that I thought her still being alive was possible.
- The emotions I can remember having today never included anger. Sorrow, shame, fear, I had those banging around. But I never raised fists to the sky and yelled, "DAMN YOU, CRUEL GOD!" I just dropped to the ground where I found her fur and cried that I was so sorry, over and over again.
- Never once did I bargain with anyone. I didn't notice her missing and say to the room, "If she turns up tomorrow, I promise I'll never eat meat again." I just don't see that as useful here.
- And while I sank deeply into my sadness, I wouldn't have classified it as depression. Yes, I drank some rum & coke and made minute rice for dinner because I didn't have the wherewithal to plan ahead for the good stuff. But I did remember to thaw the sausage and soak the corn for the barbecue, so the hopelessness that depression so often typifies was simply not present.
- That leaves me only with acceptance. Have a spent the last 24 hours there? Have I simply known that this was coming and made myself ready? Was I too ready to accept that she was gone?
I know in a few days the pain will lessen and I'll start to move through each day simply remembering that beautiful cat who used to live here. I remember how shocking that sensation was when my last cat died; how quickly I let him go. Of course, he was only four and Millie spent eleven years purring in my lap. She was my baby before I had babies and frequently showed up in my pregnant dreams; I remember especially vividly the one when pregnant with Lily where I woke to announce to Mark that I had been dreaming about nursing Millie.
I feel guilty knowing that it won't hurt so much soon. As though being without pain is somehow a betrayal. Silly. And yet, there. Mostly I feel guilty for devoting so much grief to a cat when all around me people are dealing with big bad uglies like cancer, unintended pregnancy, babies in the NICU (he's home, by the way) and while Anya is getting sick and Lily is on the verge of Kindergarten and here I am, this sobbing emotional mess who can't seem to work through to the end of anything and let it go.
And yet, I am still OK. I am cancer free (and always have been), not unintentionally pregnant (and never have been), never had my babies hospitalized, know Anya's cold will pass and that Lily will take Kindergarten by storm. My marriage is solid, even when it's not and my home still stands, even living in Southern California. My life is strangely good, even with all this.
But I miss my cat. And she's not even gone yet 24 hours.