Being single at 55, and estranged from family, my pets become my "next of kin". Mine have been 2 cats, Lola (she was a showgirl) and Tucker (because he tuckers me out) . I admit I always favored Lola, with her oh, so soft belly. And a purr that caused her to drool. Everyday I sang to her , "And I love you so..." She loved it, bumping my head the whole time. When she was diagnosed with diabetes about 4 years ago, her liver was involved and they told me she may not make it. I sobbed all the way home, and really wondered how I would survive without my Lola. But we all survived and did well. She never once seemed bothered by her twice a day insulin injections. We were one big happy family until the end of May. I could tell Lola wasn't feeling well, and when I arrived home after work she seemed lethargic so we went to the ER. She had a fever, a high white count. There were more tests, more bad news. Her lymph nodes in her abdomen were enlarged, a biopsy was negative. She had a gallstone, and it shifted and blocked her bile ducts. She needed surgery to take out the gallbladder and take out a lymph node to get better tissue for pathology. The surgery would take 1.5 hours. Four hours later I was still in the waiting room area that had been my home for the previous 4 days. The surgeon came out, said she had done ok in the OR, but had a cardiac arrest while having an X-ray afterwards. Her pupils were fixed and dilated, and she was on life support. What? My knees buckled a little. She walked me back to the ICU, where all the staff was standing with her crying. I sat beside her, put my head on hers , and started singing, "And I love you so". I told her it was OK to go, that she would feel better, and I asked her to forgive me for putting her through all of this. I told her to go to sleep,and she would wake up healthy, with little siblings, and the only thing she needed to do was look for a juicy, pink nipple and latch on! They took me to a side room and left me alone. I was not ashamed of my sobs that echoed through the ICU. My heart was hurting so much. The surgeon came in and said they wanted me to come back to her bedside. After I walked away from her earlier, she started moving, and trying to breathe. The surgeon felt that whatever I had said, thought or done was helping Lola and to please stay with her a little longer. I did stay, and I tried my best, but it didn't save her. The surgeon said it was amazing, that it was like she needed to see me one more time.
And this is where my "STRENGTH" key comes in, given to me by a friend who knew how much I loved my Lola. I couldn't go to work for a week. I needed "strength". I could only imagine hearing a patient talk about their sore throat and me looking at them saying, "my cat died, I don't care about your throat right now". I needed strength. And slowly my strength started coming back. I miss her everyday, especially at 4:40am when she would lick my nose, and I would open my eyes and her face was in my face. She knew she got me. She would bump my head a couple of times and then jump on her kitty condo.
Last week I attended a seminar, and there was a woman present who was grieving the loss of her husband. I didn't know this woman, didn't know her husband or when he died, but my heart hurt for her. I kept holding my "Strength" key, watching her, and I knew that I wanted to share my "strength" with her. So after the seminar I introduced myself and told her I had something I wanted to send her, so my "Strength" is in the mail! I doubt our paths will cross again, but I will pray for her, and hope that "Strength" finds her soon. Now I can "BREATHE" , on Friday when my new key comes in. R.I.P. my Lola Bear, I love you so!!!!
P.S. The photo is a chalk drawing done of Lola by my great friend in England who is more talented than she will ever know.