Exactly one year ago, I lost my best friend and the light of my life.
It seems impossible that it’s been a whole year, because not a day goes by where I don’t think of him and miss him and feel the ache from the hole in my heart that was left after he was gone. For sixteen years, my cat Boo taught me unconditional love and comfort, and brought peace to my soul even when it was the most troubled. And although I will never be able to resign myself to the fact that I had to lose him, I am amazed at how he continues to teach me how to grow as a human being even after he is gone.
I’ve spoken before about how after his death my life took a very dark turn and I struggled enormously with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. It’s not an experience that I would want anyone to have to go through, but as times of trial often will do, it helped me mature and gave me strength and wisdom that I might never have had otherwise. Some of the most important lessons I have ever learned came from my love of one chubby gray cat and I will never stop missing him. But I’ve learned that’s the comfort in loss– just because he is gone doesn’t mean I have to stop loving him. I truly believe that love really is greater than death, because what effect does death have on our love for others? The loss of Boo has not dimmed my love for him even the tiniest bit. It remains as strong and steady as ever. And I truly do find comfort in that; even though he is gone, no one can make me stop loving him.
These realizations have been especially relevant to me lately. On Tuesday, my uncle VW passed away at the age of 73. It wasn’t a complete shock, but can we really ever fully prepare ourselves for death? The utter finality of it is unequaled to any other experience on earth, and I don’t know if that’s something we can ever truly be ready for. But lately I’ve begun to wonder if grief is something that you have to practice. Of course, that is not to say that you can get used to grief because every loss is different. But with every loss of a loved one, I have learned new lessons. And these lessons have helped me go through the process of grief with at least a little more understanding than the last time.
I was terrified when we lost my uncle that I would be plunged right back into the same morass that overtook my life the last time something like that happened. And though I am utterly devastated by his loss, because he was a wonderful uncle and one of the kindest, most amazing people I have ever met, I can take the very, very hard-earned wisdom I’ve gained in the last year and comfort myself that, even though the pain is enormous, it was still worth it to have him as my uncle. And the comfort is that I never have to stop loving him.
But having experienced grief before can only do so much, and it in no way lessens my desire to have my uncle or my cat back. Sometimes at night, the spot against the back of my leg where Boo always used to sleep will feel so cold it’s like there is a block of ice pressed against me, burning my skin–and I recognize it’s the physical manifestation of how much I miss him. And, of course, there have been times when the pain of losing him was so great that I could almost wish that I’d never known him– but then I imagine my life without that cat and I know it was all worth it to have the privilege of loving him for sixteen years.
One of my favorites quotes of all time comes from one of my favorite books of all time–The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I read that book over and over after losing Boo, and a few months later after we so suddenly lost Cash. I have said before that I think it’s an amazing book to help deal with grief, and it has helped me come to terms with losing my baby boy.
In the story, a fox explains what will happen if the little prince tames him. He tells the little prince that, as he is now, he doesn’t know one human from the next, and they all look and sound the same to him– they mean nothing to him. But if the prince tames him, then he will be special to the fox, and when he looks on the wheat fields he will be reminded of the little prince’s bright golden hair. This quote follows:
“So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near– “Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”
“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…”
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“Then it has done you no good at all!”
“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”
I am crying as I write this, and I have cried more tears in the past year than I can ever remember crying before in my life. I’m probably going to be crying about losing my baby until the day I die. But when the pain seems too big for my heart to handle, I will think of sixteen perfect years of love and know it has done me immeasurable good.
I planned to write a long post about this, but I honestly don’t know what else there is to say. A year’s distance from losing him has rather reduced things down to the simple truths of grief– the facts are that I will love him forever, I will never stop missing him, and the pain is not going to go away. There’s the old cliche that time heals all wounds, but really I think time just allows you to come to terms with things. The pain never actually leaves, but you learn to live with it. I told a friend that today is very bittersweet, but the strongest emotion that comes through is, and I think always will be, how much love he brought into my life. And I also comfort myself with the fact that no one could have loved that cat more and I believe he was well aware of it. Just as he gave me sixteen years of utter happiness, I like to think that we did the same for him.
So to finish this post, I think I’ll leave you with another quote from The Little Prince that also helped me to deal with my grief. It’s beautiful and poignant, and worthy of a post about the love of my life, and in memory of the very best uncle anyone could ask for.
“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night… You–only you–will have stars that can laugh!”
And he laughed again.
“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky!”
I miss you so much already, Uncle V.
And I’ll love you forever and for always, my precious Boo baby.