Katja Willemsen
On losing my soul cat...
6 March 2015

Loss is a soft word, with gentle consonants and a single tender vowel. A word whose friends are soul and sadness and savour and slow… words without speed or anger or fear. Words with tenderness and quiet in their make-up.

We can’t fight loss and we shouldn’t. But hell, loss and I have bashed heads in the past. Being a workaholic, gym bunny, or excising someone from my life with a karate chop Bruce Lee would have been proud of -  were my ways of fighting loss

It never eased my aching heart.

These days, my reaction to loss is a more subtle thing. Like a bemused bystander, I watch the effects of age on my body and my face, and to my ongoing surprise, loss of youth isn’t one of my fights. Over the years, I've begun to see I can't fight these little losses whose job it is to prepare me for the Big One, my own death.

But yesterday, loss punched me in the gut. 

Vespa, my sage, my crazy soul cat, trotted up the stairs to the kitchen and stumbled once, twice, and fell over. I was right beside him as he convulsed, and meowed in confusion, then he lay still, not moving at all. 

I was sure I could feel his heartbeat but his eyelids didn’t flicker when I touched them, my strand of hair didn’t flutter when I held it in front of his mouth, his chest didn’t move with his breath. Fifteen minutes later, the vet confirmed my beloved Vespa was gone.

Between the tears and heartache, I feel so grateful that I was with him when he died, that I know how he died, that he was part of my life in Paris but also in the mountains, that he knew my single and my married life, that he and Dave adored each other, and that now in death, he's got me in front of my computer, writing again, after two long years of renovating our home. 

Vespa talked to me with his eyes, loved me with his head rubs and belly paddles, and as a chunky ten-year-old Buddha cat, he still showed off like a kitten with his mad look-how-I-climb-this-tree stunt.

Now, a little more than 12 hours later, I see that this loss too, can’t be struggled against. It’s better for me to breathe in the cool, late-winter air then breathe out again, setting both him and me free.

Katja's bookshelf: read

Last Lovers The Red Tent The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness Homage to Catalonia Pigeon English Venture to the Interior

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