I didn’t understand death until Stirfry died.
Stirfry was my husband’s Persian Himalayan. He had taken her in when she was a week old. He was on a plane home the day she died, trapped at the Denver airport for an insanely long layover.
I was at home with the kids.
There are no words to describe what happened. I let Stirfry outside the way I did everyday and sat down at the computer to write. Half an hour later there was a loud bang at the door. The neighbor’s voices were muffled as they told me what happened. Stirfry was hit by a car, they rescued her from the road. I caught a glimpse of her on the boulevard, shaking, blood dripping from her nose, her face a mask of surprise and anger.
I didn’t know how to feel other than numb. I rushed over to her and picked her up, cradling her furry body in my arms. Blood smeared onto my yellow tank top as I took her into the house and went to the bathroom. I don’t why I did that but I wanted to see how bad it was. It was worse than bad. I hollered to the kids, called my husband on his cell, left a message, and put Stirfry in the kennel. I caught her sister Black Magic staring at her as I rounded up the kids, put shoes on my two year old, wiped her face, yelled at my five year old to get moving.
I was shaking when we got out to the van. I drove as fast as I could to the animal hospital. Stirfry was meowing at the top of her lungs. Every one of her meows said the same thing to me, It hurts mommy, take me home mommy, fix me mommy. And there was nothing I could do. My kids sat there wide eyed, staring at the huge glob of blood dripping from her sagging mouth and I didn’t know what to do. How do I stop them from seeing this? How do I erase it from their little impressionable minds?
The vet took Stirfry away, yammering reassurances at me. I wasn’t calm. I tried my husband again, straight to voicemail. My two year old fidgeted. My five year old asked me what was happening. The vet returned without Stirfry. Broken jaw, possible internal damage, paperwork, numbers, feeding tube, surgery, all of it made me want to pass out. Why wasn’t my husband there? This wasn’t supposed to happen, I felt so helpless.
“What about the other option?” I heard my mouth say the words but my brain wasn’t thinking them. The vet gave me a withering look and then a sympathetic one. She said it was an option, but that Stirfry would survive. I thought about the paperwork and the numbers. I told her I didn’t know what to do. On the verge of tears I got up and left the hospital. My head was swirling with dizziness as I drove home, tears streaking down my face and neck as I cranked up the radio and let the kids fall asleep in the back.
I called my husband again when I got home. I couldn’t be the one to make this decision. I couldn’t be the one to kill his cat. I called again and again until he finally picked up. He was tense. “Do it before I get home.” He hung up on me.
I felt like someone had slapped me and thrown me in a freezing cold lake. I shakily dialed the number to the animal hospital. I told them to do it. The receptionist sounded remorseful. She asked if I wanted to come back to say goodbye. I said no.
I said no.
I sat and waited. I made dinner for the kids. I watched Black Magic as she watched the front door. I thought about how much Stirfry meant to me, to my kids. She used to sleep with them at night, she used to watch my husband when he worked on his model kits. She used to talk to us in her syllabic meows. Losing her was unthinkable, it was unjust, it was impossible. The hole in my heart kept growing and growing until the phone rang. It was the animal hospital.
“It’s done, she put up a fight.” The receptionist said.
My heart wrenched. She was alone, she was alive, she could have survived, but I didn’t fight for her. I let her die when I didn’t have to. I mumbled something about coming later to pay the bill and pick up the kennel. I called my friend and she came to look after the kids. I couldn’t take them back there knowing that we weren’t there to pick up Stirfry, that unlike the fairytales, cats don’t have nine lives.
Time stopped. For a long time all I did was cry. I cried with my husband and with my kids and by myself.
I cried until I had no more tears to cry.
And I never really moved on. Stirfry wasn’t supposed to die, but she did and it wasn’t until she did that I truly understood how Krishani felt when the mountain exploded. I never understood how much one death could impact someone until I was there, living through the pain, and suffering from the guilt.
I wish had gone back to see her one last time. I wish I hadn’t let her outside that day. I wish my husband had been at home.
Sometimes we don’t get what we want.