Back to Work

A view from below of our black cat Emma sleeping at the top of the cat tree

I woke last Thursday to our cat Sam walking on my chest. I checked my watch and saw that it was nearly 6 a.m. and knew my wife would be feeding the pets momentarily. I must have immediately fallen back asleep because I woke minutes later to our dog Ellie climbing in beside me, having just finished her breakfast, which doesn’t take long. She waits for me to get up because every morning after I make my breakfast I give her a dental bone, which has become her favorite treat.

Everything seemed normal in those first few moments until I remembered Emma died the night before.

I expected a wave of grief to follow but instead I just felt numb. Unable to go back to sleep, I went down to the basement to scoop the litter boxes and realized I was only scooping for two cats now, but I still felt numb and although I had planned to take the day off from work, began to wonder if I was going to be OK to go in after all.

But then I went up to the main floor to make my breakfast and saw a pen on the counter and started crying. Emma’s medications got complicated enough that my wife made a calendar of what she was taking each morning and night, and we’d use the pen to cross off the medicines as we gave them to her, and towards the end also wrote down her weight and how much baby food she ate each day.

As I walked to the cupboard to get my breakfast and Ellie’s bone a wave of grief hit me. My wife gave Emma her pills at her first morning feeding, which stressed her out enough that she wasn’t always able to eat as much, but she was ready to try again by the time I got up. She’d mill about my feet as I made my breakfast and then I’d sit with her in the kitchen to encourage her to eat as much as she could. So much of our lives towards the end revolved around trying to get her to eat, and now her absence broke my heart.

I grabbed my laptop and sent an email to work to let them know I was taking the next couple of days off. I still hoped I might be able to go in on Friday but I knew as soon as I woke that morning that I wasn’t ready. Each day brought healing and by Saturday afternoon I was ready to take down Emma’s beloved Christmas tree. Sunday I went up to my favorite refuge for part of the day, unsure of how long I’d stay, but I had some nice moments and it brought comfort as it often has before.

I’ve been back to work all week and while it hasn’t been my most productive week, I’ve done OK. If I get too distracted by thoughts of Emma I take a walk around the track across from my office, and had to take an especially long walk today, but it’s getting better.

Looking back through my pictures of her has brought as many smiles as tears this past week and has helped push me down the healing path. I took this picture of her last summer, a day after we adopted Boo and the day my mirrorless camera arrived, and was just playing around with the new camera. She’s asleep on the top shelf of the cat tree, I was laying on the ground shooting up towards the ceiling.

It still hurts that she’s gone and will for a while yet, but I’m so thankful for each day we spent with her.

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