“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


The Things We Don't See

One of the last pictures of Maggie. I found several on my cell phone after she'd died and didn't send them to my computer until June so I'm not sure when they were taken. But I remember taking them, remember the sun behind us, beginning to start its downward journey to night, remember her tall shadow, remember all of that. But when I looked at them again a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised by what I didn't remember. That forward posture. The way she's sitting. And really, it's not true that I don't remember it, I remember it like the back of my hand; what I'd forgotten was how sick that meant she was. It's a common posture for cats with kidney disease, and her vet and all the online places said it was more comfortable, that it was helpful for her upset belly, and I'd grown used to it, had watched it progress and you know how that it is - you don't really see those slight day to day changes, especially with those you love, they are just who they are and that's what you see, and then one day you notice your mom's weak arms or your father's growing thinness, or maybe you never do, maybe you just block it all out. After my father died, his sisters and my mother and various assorted cousins and in-laws would watch and rewatch videos of him; I couldn't do it and never did. Maybe a few years later, but not at first. It just broke my heart.

Several months after his death, however, I borrowed a box of old photos from my mom, looking for something, I don't remember what, and I happened upon a picture of him. It was summertime, or maybe early fall, and he was at my aunt's, one of his five sisters, for some kind of something, and he looked terrible. I'd forgotten how much weight he'd lost, I'd grown used to it. Seeing that image was more than too much. The box was closed up and I couldn't go on, I had a panic attack, I got sick, the whole thing that I do, but I will excuse myself this time. It was hard and I was shocked and I wasn't prepared. And now? Now I remember seeing it, but I can't conjure it up in my head. I see him healthier when I see him there or in my dreams.

Except. There is one look I also remember. He was in the hospital, he was dying, and there was a look, one of those right-in-your-eyes-don't-you-dare-look-away looks, a message sent that said he knew he was going, that he was sad to do so, but he knew it was over. That he loved me, but that he was exhausted with the fight, that he was done, that it was goodbye, and it was okay. I will never forget that look.

I have one of Maggie like that also. She was standing right where she is in that image above, but she was looking in the door - it was open a few inches and she found me in the room and looked at me, and I knew. It, in fact, made me immediately think of my father, the look was so similar. She was standing, but her head was hanging a bit and she didn't feel good and her eyes were green green green with the grass green behind her. I see it like it was yesterday. She spoke to me with that look, no one will ever convince me otherwise. And I have felt guilty, felt like I paid it no mind, though that's not true, it haunted me then and haunts me still; I sometimes, feel, however, that I should have stopped her daily treatments then, that that's what she was saying, though mostly I think she was saying goodbye, that she was telling me we'd fought a good fight, but were at last losing. When I look at the picture above, the guilt returns. I know she wasn't in pain, that she was just uncomfortable, some days more than others, that the treatments kept her feeling good most of the time, but I see this image and I feel selfish, I second guess everything. Would I do anything differently? No, no. To be honest, no. She had a couple of good years she wouldn't have had otherwise. She saw a couple of summers she wouldn't have seen, another spring. And she finally found my lap. That took 17 years. Right here you can insert a smile.

So. This picture. It made me cry. A lot. I have blurred it to soften it all up, all those hard days and nights.

And I am taking her cat carrier to work where it will become Lily's. It has been on the back porch since the day she died, way back in April. I have washed it and aired it and washed it and aired it and it survived the flood and more rains and today I have washed it once again and it is drying in the sun, out there on the brick wall where Maggie loved to sit. I feel like I am losing her all over again, so funny how we attach memories to things. But I want it to absorb the scents Lily knows, I want her to know it. In the fall I will maybe try to bring Lily home, let her have time here and time at work also. I don't know if she'll like that, but I may try. We will see.

In the meantime, it is another goodbye.


  1. Oh, you touch my heart so much with this. I know that experience, of not fully seeing changes until later.
    It is amazing what the mind does...
    And I am so glad you had those extra years with Maggie, daily love & help, treasuring everything, every moment.
    And I think it will be new for both of you, different & odd, but growingly good (odd phrase...) to bring Lilly Cat home & to office.
    My heart to yours, dear friend; may each moment be more beautiful for you.

  2. and so I cried, just now, for a whole host of reasons.
    for one goodbye with my last cat that was so like this, a moment afterward that I remembered, later, a moment when I should have seen how sick she was, a moment when she was telling me, trying so hard to tell me, and deep inside I knew it but then I pushed it aside, pushed it away.
    and for my father who is still here, but i can't even think about the time when he will not be. He is the best man ever, he is my hero, and truly, I can't imagine it.
    And for you and Maggie, and the hurt and the guilt and the emptiness.
    Another goodbye. Another hello.
    Time and life.

  3. Yes, those jarred memories do take you by surprise and knock the wind out of you. So out of the blue.
    That look. And the look of goodbye knowing that you will never see that person again.
    Death, like birth is an everyday occurrence in life, but somehow, somehow, I am not equipped to deal with death as well as I am life.

  4. Oh sweetie!! What an intensely beautiful and difficult post. When I first saw this photo, I thought...oh this kitty looks sick. But what really strikes me is her shadow. Big. Strong. Like her spirit. Maggie will never leave you...her spirit walks beside you and nestles in your neck while you sleep.

  5. She finally found your lap. There was time enough. Time enough for that. Hang on to that smile, my friend. Hang on.

  6. Skye - Thank you. We will see about Lily; she has her own mind. :)

    Kelly - xoxo

    Paula - Thank you for stopping by and for the wise words. And yes, knowing that death is as much a part of life as birth makes it no easier. Memories.

    Caroline - You made me cry. Maggie had such a big, strong spirit. She loved her life and fought for as much as she could get. I still dream she meows me awake each morning. The meows awaken me totally, her morning meows, It makes me feel she is still here. xoxo

    Relyn - She did, she found it and stayed in it. That always makes me smile, It brought such happiness to me and outweighs the sad. xoxo

  7. My heart goes out to you after reading this post. I have 2 cats that I love dearly, and I can't imagine my life without them. Sending comforting wishes your way.

  8. oh debi....
    how this one made me cry. words that wrapped around my heart and squeezed it so hard.

    i agree with caroline...just look at that strong shadow. how amazing is that ?

    and i think lily will like being at home with you.....in fact, i'm sure of it.

  9. Becca - Thanks for stopping by. Maggie has been gone over 3 months and the letting go is one big step and then a lot of unexpected steps. It is okay. There are days, however, that something triggers the grief anew. It is a letting go in stages. Thank you again, :)

    Beth - Putting her cat carrier in the Jeep was hard. Funny in a sad way. And re: Lily. We will see. I am only thinking of it now - she would love to visit the outside more, but she has lived in our building at work for over 4 years; it is her territory. I want it to always be her territory. I've never known or had a cat who moved from one place to the other from day to night. It will be interesting to see if we can make it work. xoxo

  10. You make me mourn all over again for Shadow cat and Peaches. They came home together as tiny kittens and died 17 months apart. For weeks, I'd catch glimpses of Peaches out of the corner of my eye. But when Shadow died, she simply went away. No after visits. He was my guardian, she was my heart.

  11. it is so hard to say how many good-byes it takes to pass beyond grief. through each of them, i am here with you.


    xo, graciel

  12. This made me cry, too -- for the love and the loss. It's so true that we often don't see what is before us each day and we see things so differently once they're gone.

  13. i have known that look as well from both parent and pet...i am filled with memories reading your post today..such tender words moving forward yet looking back

  14. I cried. For my father, for your father, for Maggie, for you. Such a strange thing... my father's illness and death was quite different. I never saw that look from him, and the changes he underwent were so frequent and so drastic that I never did adjust to them. And yet, somehow I know exactly what you are saying, and the responding emotion it kindles in me is undeniably strong and deep.

    I hope that if you do try to bring Lily home, it works beautifully.

  15. Have experienced this on too many fronts and the tears fall for all involved.

  16. And they arrived in early May: Whisper, Shadow, Chippewa & Pumpkin -- gifts from Hope, the barn cat. My 11 year old house cats, Shawnee & McCoy, can feel them near. This newness, this freshness - something for us to fall in love with - and that is O.K. These littles remind me to open my heart & that the answers will always find their way home.

  17. Meri - Your story just touched me. Reminded me of my mom's cats - 5 who died within a couple of years of each other, all quite old. The last one was Shadow, already dealing with kidney disease, who just stopped trying when the one before her went, unexpectedly. My mother says she never heard or saw anything later - they were just gone.

    Graciel - That is it exactly. I forgot there would be so many. xoxo

    Lola - I sometimes wish we could change that, but sometimes I think if we saw all the changes daily, we would stay so sad, look so hard for happiness. I'm thinking later is probably okay. Thank you.

    Elaine - It is a look you never forget. Yes, moving forward, but unable to not look back. How biblical. xoxo

    Amy - My heart goes out to you. I hope things are better with your heart now. As for Lily? Maggie's carrier is in Lily's space now and she investigates a bit, then walks away. :) We will see how this goes.

    SE - It is just so hard and yet, we are powerless to do anything but be there and live through it and go on. Bless you.

    Kari - Oh. I cannot imagine what fun they must be! (And they DO pry your heart open, even if you think you aren't ready.)


  18. Hello again my dear friend...

    You have cookies? Chocolate chip maybe? Oh, how I would love a cookie. (has that cute little message in your comment box always been there, and I never noticed it? No, surely not...surely my eyes would have spotted the word cookie instantly!)

    Oh, I read these words and I know I am in for it. I don't know what I am going to do when my little Taro leaves me. He is 8 now (bunnies live 8-10 years..sniffle) but still looks healthy and happy....but for how much longer? I know I will be headed down this same emotional road in the near future.

    I keep seeing the word guilty show up in this post. Debi, you loved that cat SO DEEPLY. There was nothing but love...which leaves no room for selfishness or guilt.
    Oh, my heart goes out to you and Maggie.


come. sit under the emma tree & let's talk. i have cookies . . .