Zoë: A season of love


Crickets.

That’s what we say when we don’t hear whatever it is we were waiting to hear: “Crickets.” As in, gosh, it’s so quiet that even a one-inch bug thinks it’s time to fill the silence with a bit of leg-sawing.

You’ve likely heard a whole rock band of crickets if you’ve been tuning in to the Wiseheart blog channel lately. 

my pretty girl Zoe

My girl, in better times 

It’s been a hard season here at Wiseheart Cottage. We lost our beloved Zoë the evening of July 17 after a months-long journey through illness, fragility, and depths of love and grief and joy that I had not expected to experience, despite a lifetime of dearly cherished pets.

I loved those other cats, too. Certainly, I adored my dog, Buddy, gone three years now. Lucikate, a sweet grey tabby, was so close to me that I called her “Daughter” when no one else could hear. I bawled like a baby when Merrirose died three days after Lucikate passed away, unable to face life without her sister. When my kitten Sassafrass died at 9 months of one of those awful kitten diseases, I thought I would never stop crying. And Cougar. Oh my heart, my tiny babycat Cougar, whose death still has the power to wake me from sleep, my face wet with tears.

And Sparrow. You don’t hear me talk about my Sparrow much. Yeah. There’s Reasons.

(That’s Sparrow up in the right-most corner of my main banner, rolling around on top of a cabinet. Sparrow was littermate to both Zoë and Dusty; lost at age five from an incredibly fast-moving horrible cancer. And to this day, that’s it. That’s all you get, about Sparrow, anyway. Can’t tell you Sparrow stories…yet.)

But this one, man-oh-man, as we used to say in the coastal California of my childhood. This one. This Zoë. Losing this one tore up something inside me. A corner of my spirit, probably. A whole suite of rooms in my heart, certainly, rooms once inhabited by a lively ball of opinionated calico attitude, rooms now just walls and floors where her toys rattle endlessly around the edges, as though looking for their lost playmate.

That’s how this loss feels to me. Empty rooms, where once there was a whole party of a cat. And I’m the first to admit, despite my lifetime of animal companions, how shocked I am at the depths of my grief.

After all, Zoë was, as some might think, and a few have actually said to my face, “just a cat”.

Just a cat.

She is so “just” a cat that living with her, and having the privilege of knowing her and caring for her over the past ten months or so has changed me—no, wait. Not changed. Made me more me. Made Sandi more the person I have been becoming all along. Made me more the person I wish to continue becoming.

And yet: Just a cat.

We do not hesitate to nod our heads in understanding when someone describes the impact that a cherished grandparent has had on us. And once one knows one is safe amongst like-minded animal people, it is a relief and a solace to be able to admit out loud and at length to the crater in our hearts and souls left by the death of an animal who has shared our lives.

For some audiences, however, mention that you are still grieving a small 8-pound critter with a tail and without a voice and you might be met with…crickets. And not the friendly sort of crickets, either. The kind that say, well, now, isn’t that being just a bit overly dramatic? It’s not as though she was a person, after all…

Just a cat.

All summer long, because of those three words, I’ve been stuck, unable to write much of ANYTHING, let alone some sort of blog post, update, or description of whatever yarn is tangling up my needles at that particular moment in time.

Because: Just a cat.

All right, yes. Someone did say those words to me, someone who meant well, someone who does not know me well enough to know how sharply those particular words cut. She didn’t know that in trying to make me feel better by “putting things in perspective”, that she had actually made me and my grief-riven heart feel ashamed and foolish.

Weeks of nights spent sobbing my eyes into swollen onions over my lost furry girl have taught me that if this is foolishness, then let me be foolish about more things in my life. Let me set aside my shame and, in my foolish heart, honour all that is joy in the world, all that is life in the world, all that is love in the world.

If Just A Cat, then: Just Joy.  Then: Just Life.  Then: Just Love.

At the same time as I’ve felt unable to write about Zoë, I’ve also been feeling stuck because I can’t go forward without writing about Zoë. How can I just start chatting on about the fourth sleeve I’ve knit this summer (all for the same hoodie, you understand), or the seemingly endless self-frogging socks, or my sewing machines, or any of that stuff—because, dammit, it is all just STUFF and I lost my CAT. I lost my GIRL. I lost my Zoë, my heart, my sweet kitty-girl, so how am I supposed to jot down a paragraph or two about how cute she was, show you a couple of photos, and then skip two lines, make a new heading, and then let’s talk about what you all are going to knit for fall?

I can’t, that’s how.

JustACat or no, this 16+ year relationship nourished me and challenged me and comforted me and overtook my heart so much so that now I’m also stuck because I can’t write about it, not just yet anyway. Not the way I want to. Not in any hope of doing justice to it.

There are so many things I want to say about this life–this furry life, yes, but this one life, this one small spark of joy and fur that I named after the Greek word for “life” when she was barely two months old. (Turns out that never has a being so lived up to her name in my knowing.) Swap out a vowel or two, and “life” becomes “love”, a short word, a small word, yes, indeed. In size, small; in impact, so beyond quantifying that we use the word itself as the unit of infinity: As long as love shall last. To the height, and depth, and breadth of one’s being: love.

Just a small cat. In size, not so much. In impact, on me at least: As long as love shall last.

Oh, my Zoë. My heart. On this unbelievable gorgeous day nearly six weeks after we parted (for now), your love still makes me see all of life with more reverence, more respect, more wonder, more awe, more joy. And more love. Of course, more love.

But still through rainbows of tears, my sweet little one. Oh Zoë.

How well you loved me, oh my JustACat.

How well you loved all of us lucky enough to be in your tribe.

How much I miss you.

How much I will always miss you.

How grateful I am to have known you.

How grateful beyond words—on beyond all the words I do have and onto those I do not have and thus cannot write, yes, beyond all those and more–how grateful I am for your love, for every whisker and paw, every purr and cuddle, every sweet black ear tuft-tip and every small meep and mew and m(e)ow; for all the songs you sang to me, songs just for me and to me and with me, songs that shaped each day and bid each night goodnight—how grateful I am, for all of that and more, for all the love and life, every day for 16 and a half years.

Thank you, sweet girl. My girl. My beloved Zoë girl.

Oh, the love we did love, my Zoë and me.

(You may point out that I have just done what I have said I could not do: Write about my girl. Perhaps. Or perhaps the above is just a sketch, just an outline, just the barest ghost of a draft of what I might, what I could, what I would write, if I were able to really write, to really tell you about this JustACat, this small life, this Zoë-of-my-heart. My now calico-coloured heart.)

About sandi

Knitter. Spinner. Quilter. UFO Wrangler. Sometime bead artist and weaver. Two toddler-age kittens, 1 permakitten, 2 grownup cats, 1 beloved dog angel, 1 spouse, 1 crazy life. I suppose that the 5 cats make me 1 crazy cat lady; OTOH, apparently, yes, I do need that much feline supervision.
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21 Responses to Zoë: A season of love

  1. Rachel says:

    Oh Sandi, there is no such thing as “just a cat” as you well know. Those people who say that are the same people who think one “gets over” a loss of any loved one in a set time.

    Loss is loss. It does not matter whether the loved one walked on 2 feet or sped around on 4.

    All the hugs and love my dear

    Like

  2. Lee says:

    Those who have never loved wholeheartedly cannot understand grief. Sandi, you have just done a lovely job of introducing us to Zoë and what she meant to you. This blog post will stand as an enduring testament to the joy she brought you. JustACat she may have been in the undiscerning eyes of the world, but you, and we, certainly know better. (((Hugs)))

    Like

  3. Pat aka Westie says:

    Sandi, Your grief is real so don’t let anyone minimize it. I have loved and lost many cats and dogs but there is always ONE that takes huge chunks of your heart with them. He, my Pepper dog, has been gone 3 years and I still feel his loss. Still talk to him and still laugh when I think about the crazy things he did. My little 11 lb chihuahua that I swore I would never own, would never love, thought were just nasty little dogs. But somehow I found him in my arms, in need of rescue and immediately accepted by my “pack”. I had him for 13 years and still miss him every day. Zoe will always live in your heart. The pain will eventually recede and only the bright spots will remain. It’s the waiting for that to happen that tears us up. Hang in!
    Pat aka Westie

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  4. Marilyn G says:

    ❤ No words….

    Like

  5. Elaine says:

    Oh Sandi, I am so very sorry to hear of your loss. The love they all bring into our lifes. Thankful. Grateful. Loving. There aren’t the words. I am glad you wrote. Keep writing.
    She’s right by your side…

    Like

  6. Marilyn Nance says:

    So much not “just a cat”. We have six cats now and miss everyone that has left us. My heart is with you. Marilyn

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  7. Tamara S. Morgan says:

    I forwarded your post to a friend who’s lost her entire bevvy of cats over the past 2 years and has suffered, I know, like you have suffered. I hope your words help her over the next months and years as she remembers her “Zoës”.

    And I will show up for you whatever you write; it’s not the content, it’s your heart I love.

    Tamara

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  8. sewsable says:

    If it’s “just a cat” then they’ve obviously never really lived with a cat who’s a member of the family. Once you’ve done that then you can appreciate the depth of loss. I have kids but our cats are just as much a part of our family as the boys are and when they eventually go there’s no way we’ll be saying “she was just a cat”. To us she was a cat, she was family and she was part of our hearts.
    Hugs, from mum to Smokey who left us 9 years ago but is still remembered as our perfect cat (don’t tell Star and Ray I said that though!).

    Like

  9. Margo says:

    Sandi, my deepest condolences. Our pets are not “just” a cat or “just” a dog, they are part of our families. We grieve their passing. Hugs to you.

    Like

  10. *HUGS* and love! It’s so hard to lose a beloved pet. We are slowly losing one of our cats – my son’s, she’s 16 and he’s had him since he was 4 years old. She had a stroke and it’s so hard – we’re cherishing every cuddle right now but dreading the end. We lost another cat to cancer last year. They take a little piece of your heart with them.

    Like

  11. Molly says:

    It’s practically impossible to put into words how much ‘just a cat’ can mean to a person, to a family. You, my dear and perfectly named Wiseheart, have done that and any of us who have loved and been loved by a small scrap of fur with a purr absolutely ‘get it’.

    Like

  12. leslieileen says:

    There is no such thing as “just a cat.” My babies Rachael Rebecca, Sassy Frass, Baby Sweet, Hollidae Wilson, Sibeau Phillippe (the little creep), GB and Perry Penelope will all stand in line to tell you that in a loud chorus complete with thrashing tails and flickering whiskers. They live within our hearts forever and will be waiting for you when you graduate to catdom. Love you!

    Like

  13. Barbara G says:

    We had our first cat for 18 years. He was the best cat ever: he was at the door when I came home from work, he’d come when called and spent every minute possible on my lap (he’d even jump up to my lap when I sat on the toilet! His health declined to the point I had to make THAT decision to send him over the rainbow bridge when I returned from a weekend away. I came home to find him on the living room floor. He took that hard decision from me. We’ve had and lost 2 more sweethearts in the past 15 years, but Watson will always be in that special place in my heart. JustACat who loved me unconditionally.

    Like

  14. Betty says:

    They are never “just… ,” but you know that. Hugs and love to you. .. ❤

    Like

  15. teabird says:

    “Just a cat”? No such being. So much love — 💜💛💚💙

    Like

  16. Marta says:

    Love you, Sandy! There are pets, and there are companions. My companion for 19 years was Nick. I still miss him after 16 years,. I still hear his sweet coo-like chirp ❤️

    Like

  17. Jerry says:

    Sandi,

    Your words from the heart have touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. You wrote my deepest truth when you wrote “honour all that is joy in the world, all that is life in the world, all that is love in the world”. I honor the bond you shared, a bond that goes beyond time and beyond space and thus reflects what is eternally true and eternally beautiful

    Jerry

    Like

  18. Freyalyn Close-Hainsworth says:

    Sending love. I can see the tears you shed writing his. All our loved furry friends, all gone before and those still with us.

    Like

  19. Heather C says:

    I am so so sorry about Zoe. She was so very much more than just a cat. I’m approaching the one year mark of losing my Daisy girl and still grieving over her loss. Her company is so missed. Six weeks ago we lost Pup who was my daughter’s cat and our head of household around here. Without her running things, we are a little lost. Empty. Our home just feels empty without them.

    Like

  20. Kathleen Ranney says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your love of Zoe with all of us!! Those furry family members are dear to our heart and some just burrow in deeper than others, for whatever reasons. You are loved as Zoe was loved. Allow your grief and don’t apologize; some will just not understand the depth love for our furry family. Big hugs and healing ripples sent your way

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  21. Donna Lee says:

    My Zoe’s name was Kubla Kat and I think she and I were soul mates. I didn’t believe in ghosts until she died and I will always believe that I saw her walk around the corner of my bedroom doorway right after her funeral. It’s been 20 years and I miss her with a ferocity that surprised me sometimes. Grief is a weird and wonderful thing. It lets you think you are healing and doing better and then creeps up behind you and slaps you upside your head, “don’t forget ME!”.

    Like

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