My husband Preston and I lost our beautiful cat Lila to cancer in March of this year. We referred to her as "the best cat in the world" and "perfection on four paws." And she really was. She was beautiful, smart, kind – pure goodness to her core.
She was diagnosed with lymphocytic leukemia in late January. We tried an oral treatment regimen, then injectable chemo. She wasn't getting better. In fact, she was getting worse. We knew we had to do what was best for her. While we would have done anything FOR her – and we had laid out a course of treatment with her oncologist – we had to recognize when the time came to stop doing things TO her. That time came at 1:24 a.m. on Thursday, March 8. She was only 15. She had been so brave. It was our turn to be brave for her.
I have lost animals before – and even people – whose loss has not affected me like this. Lila and I had a connection. A connection I can't really put into words. I will love and miss her until the day I die.
But when you suffer a loss – even a catastrophic loss – you must find a way to re-open your heart. If you don't, you stay trapped in sadness. There's a fine line between mourning and deep sadness. I didn't know where that line was and found myself in a place I didn't want to be. Even people who "get it" don't always understand the depth of those feelings. I knew Lila wouldn't want me to be sad. And I didn't want to be sad anymore either.
Working at the Richmond SPCA, there's never a shortage of wonderful animals needing loving families. For Preston and me, there was never going to be a "right" time to adopt, so Thursday, July 5 was the day. Seventeen weeks after we lost Lila. One hundred and nineteen days to the day. Just before noon, we became "parents" again. Our new girls are Julia and Charlotte. We loved them instantly.
Three-month-old sisters, they are all kitten. Preston and I have never had more than one cat and we have no experience with kittens, so this is an adventure for all of us. I am the overprotective "mom" obsessing over safety. Julia and Charlotte spend their time between "all out race around" and "all out sleeping." And Preston provides that much-needed voice of reason. He's a good cat "dad." They enjoy our company and are settling into their new life. As are we. And we're all enjoying this journey very much.
As my two girls lay stretched across my lap the other evening, I had a "Lila moment" and began to cry. Little Julia got up, put her face next to mine, and licked my tears.
At that moment, it became clear. We are a family.
Liz Bryant is the manager of major gifts at the Richmond SPCA. To read the biographies of our regular bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.