Waiting at the Rainbow Bridge

Today’s blogging prompt was “What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned from having pets?” 

Every day with a cat is a delight.
I grew up with cats and I have loved all of the cats that have come into my life.
The only hard day is when the cat dies.
It is said that the cat crosses a rainbow bridge.
It leaves you with memories and stories.
This poem speaks to my heart:

Do not stand at my grave and weep;

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there, I did not die.
–Mary Elizabeth Frye (1932)

Smokey and Zoe were best friends. They played chase games and they cuddled and they fought. Zoe was the smaller cat, but she was in charge. Smokey let her be in charge. He was a sweet lap cat who shared my bed and stole my heart. He was a lover, not a fighter, a “gentle giant.”

I loved him, even when he jumped on my feet in the middle of the night and woke me up with a well-timed meow aimed directly at my ear. I loved him, even when he stood on the kitchen counter and batted at me with his paw for not paying enough attention to him. I loved him when he chased a mouse and played with it, thinking that it was a toy. I loved him with my whole heart. Unfortunately, in 2011, Smokey was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer that is exceptionally aggressive in cats. In January 2012, at the age of eleven, Smokey passed away. He is very much missed by the humans and by Zoe.

Smokey’s death was very painful. We all cried when we lost him. My dad felt Smokey’s loss quite keenly. Smokey loved to sit on my dad’s lap and kiss his face. Toward the end of Smokey’s life, he could no longer jump, and I had to lift Smokey onto my dad’s lap so that he could snuggle.

Seven months later, my dad, who also had cancer, passed away. It was the second painful death in a very sad year.

Zoe is now 16 years old. She is a talkative cat with a lot to say. She has a very distinctive personality. She is truly the cat of many meows. I love Zoe. She is not a lap cat. She’d rather steal my seat than sit on me. Her guiding principle in life: “move your feet, lose your seat.”

The experience of losing both Smokey and my father in one year taught me the hardest lesson about living with precious pets. Letting go when it is time for the pet to cross the rainbow bridge. Saying goodbye. And grieving loss. Remembering the love. The pain is deeper because it is born of love.

Love is everything. With a precious pet, it is worth it to open your heart to that animal. The animal is so full of love. It is worth it, even thought, eventually, that wide open heart will be broken. Eventually, though, there will be another animal to steal your heart.

Smokey, the “gentle giant.”

4 thoughts on “Waiting at the Rainbow Bridge”

  1. I am sorry for your losses. I really love that poem you posted. It makes me think about when my mom passed away and I had inherited her dog, and then when he passed away. So hard!

  2. I am sorry for your losses. My best friend from childhood passed away after a long battle with cancer. One of her two cats had cancer. For a while it was in remission and that cat would cuddle with my friend when she felt so cold from her chemo treatments. But alas, the cat died, and about two years later, my friend did, too. It's a lovely poem but sometimes…I just don't know. I suppose until that day arrives for me.

  3. It's not easy losing our fur babies. The one I have left has always been "mine". A ginger girl that I've had for 12.5 years. I miss those that I've lost a great deal. Sorry for the losses you've endured as well.

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