Last week, I had to say goodbye to a huge piece of my heart. My cat Misha, a gentle, sweet and loving presence in my life for almost 15 years, became very sick overnight and was taken from me in less than a day. Misha was not only a pet but a friend – the purest, most unconditional source of love in my life. I’m fortunate to have many people in my life that I love and who love me; yet like all relationships, these aren’t without stress and angst. In what has been, personally and professionally, the hardest year of my life it was a greater comfort than I can put into words to have someone waiting for me at home from whom I received nothing but unequivocal affection.
Misha and I were inseparable and my ex-boyfriend would always shake his head at us in bemusement; whether I was snuggled up with her on the bed, trailing her behind me as I walked around the house, or absent-mindedly playing with her paws while immersed in work, “You and that cat”, he’d say. It was a joke between us that if I had to choose between him and the cat, the choice would be a no-brainer – I once presented him with this picture I found online and though we laughed, we concurred that it probably wasn’t far from the truth:
I’m bereft of her sweet and gentle personality that seemed unique among her sort, who are typically feisty and scrappy. Despite the inordinate amount of fuss I made over her, she never once scratched me – or anyone else, for that matter – in all her life. She would tolerate all antics patiently and if they got too overbearing, she would eventually just squirm away rather than put up a fight. We would laugh when we heard storied about cats chasing off bears or attacking burglars – I often saw her fleeing from birds or looking highly alarmed when the doorbell sounded. She was the very definition of a scaredy-cat. Just like me, she was a girly-girl and loved her accessories; every time I brought home a new collar she’d sit still and purr as I took it out of the packaging and fastened it on her, and I’d often find her curled up with one of my handbags or a pretty scarf. Her diminutive personality was pronounced by her inability to meow properly; she was known for her characteristic squeak, which she’d emanate with all her might especially when she was happy. Every day when I came home she’d jump up to wherever I sat, kneading, purring and squeaking away.
When I cried, she would appear by my side in moments, and show me so much concern and affection that I had to stop – my sadness this week has been painfully acute and lonely because I know she isn’t coming to slow my tears. In past moments of abject grief and bereavement, I have often resorted to guilt: typically regrets, or lost opportunities to show someone how much I cared for them. With Misha, there was never a moment that I didn’t shower her with love, whilst painfully conscious of my fear of losing her one day. I knew this day would come and I was terrified of it – but at the very least, I can be certain that I never took her for granted and believe that she always knew how much I adored her.
The depth of my grief is something I’ve tried to keep to myself this week as I went about business as usual. As absurd as it sounds, I “scheduled” my bereavement for the weekend simply because I couldn’t expect my peers to indulge my loss on their time. Meanwhile, I developed a questionable and probably unhealthy attachment to my phone case – I don’t know whether this was because it looks like a cat, or because when I got it the week previously, Misha immediately cuddled up with it and went to sleep.
In spite of my attempts to keep my feelings private, I was overwhelmed by the support I’ve been shown by family, friends and colleagues who understood and respected my attachment to, as someone aptly put it, “my special friend”. It’s been an immeasurable comfort to hear from those who knew and loved Misha too, and others who relate or simply are sad for my loss. Someone said to me, “There’s a hole in your heart that will never go away; but you’ll learn to live with it.” Not a single person has belittled my grief and perhaps it was unfair of me to expect that of anyone. As I sit here by myself on the sofa I feel the void beside me and miss her desperately, but also I know how lucky I am to have had her in my life, as well as so many caring people who are there in times of need. This is a theme of BE One that I’ve always appreciated, and that’s why I wanted to share it here – but also because I wanted to put something out there that would preserve, for posterity, such a small being that gave me so much love and joy. Thank you for being mine, my dear, sweet, Misha, and for letting me be yours – I will adore you forever.