My cat Taiger died three weeks ago. He was my first and only pet, and we had him for 12 years. He was a scrawny little stray when he wandered onto our property, and from the very start, he and I were thick as thieves: he would come trotting up to me whenever I called his name, he followed at my heels wherever I went, and he would occasionally leave a dead squirrel for me in my slippers (gross, I know, but that’s true love right there). On October 25th, we had to put him to sleep.
It was a strangely devastating yet peaceful experience. I was the one who held him throughout the ordeal, and I will be forever grateful that I was able to hold him close to my chest just the way he liked one last time. But death is a very strange experience. It was anything but the quick and definitive procedure I expected it to be. After giving Taiger the injections, the vet had to listen to see whether or not his heart was still beating. Even though his breathing had stopped, at least visibly, the vet could still detect a faint heartbeat twenty minutes after giving him the injections. It turned out this was because of the way my body was interacting with his body: my heart was pounding so hard during the process that it was essentially beating through Taiger’s body, and the vet mistakenly thought it was his. Because of this, we’ll never know exactly what time he died, but it’s nice to know that our hearts were connected in those last moments.
Now I am trying to learn how to relate to the world as a grieving body. I have always been very much in control of myself and my emotions, but I no longer know how to do that. I was the kind of person who cried maybe once a year, but now there is a constant lump in my throat and my eyes always feel that telltale heat that comes right before tears start to well up and blur your vision. I am used to my body being a thing of discipline, but now it feels chaotic and out of control, and I no longer understand how to relate to it. I’m not sure how to act through this new vulnerability, but I’m learning.