Grieving a pet’s death has many similarities to grieving a beloved person. We planned a trip across Canada knowing if we took our 23-year-old-cat, she might not make it back home due to aging issues. We had four choices: cancel our 60th wedding anniversary trip, leave Stormy with a relative, friend or in a kennel, put her to rest before we left, or take her with us. Knowing the last choice would change our activity somewhat, we chose to create a space in the back of our van for her litter box, water, kibble and of course her favourite food, ‘Temptation Treats’. Not to forget her favourite space on my husband’s lap.
I suppose you could call this a driving distraction, but it was comforting for both her and for him.
Since we had anticipated Stormy’s death over the last year, anticipatory Grief during the trip was present, especially in the last couple of weeks as we saw her getting weaker. No, it didn’t spoil our trip. A surprise blessing in the 8000 miles of driving, (sometimes 4 or 5 hours a day), was the special time to hold and care for her. She was happy to stay in the travel trailer and sleep as we stopped to visit with friends and relatives along the way. Her health became a daily conversation as people asked for her and visited her in the trailer or on a lawn. As it took five days to travel through northern B.C. (times two – there and back), I am thankful she slept most of the way through those mountains. I cannot imagine having to think about her death on a mountaintop, as beautiful as they were.
Stormy had a good death – loved and held through . . . to . . and during the end of her life. When she got busy in the dying process, it only took her a day and a half. We buried her in a friend’s garden where chipmunks, neighbour’s cats and a variety of birds, including morning (mourning) doves played.
Two water fountains and a statue of St. Francis frame this special area.
Will it be difficult to leave her here? Yes and no. Over the years, I’ve seen many family members travel from around the world to a loved one’s funeral and cemetery service, and then leave to go home – maybe never to return, yet knowing that all is well. So it is with us.
My grandnephew said, “I’m glad Stormy got to see the Yukon, touch the grass and breathe the air.” A friend said, “You were able to spent more intimate time with Stormy on the trip, while confined to the car through travelling, than you might have been able to take at home.” My niece said, “What an honour – how wonderful to die loved.” One of our adult children said, “I’m just happy Stormy is with you guys, and you are all in a place of peace.”
Isn’t that what grief is all about? Going through the experience the best way you can to eventually end up ‘in a place of peace.”
By the way, Stormy is one of the animals staged in my ‘Come to the Farm” series of children’s stories. Two of them star her in Stormy the Watch-Cat and Stormy’s Mouse. She makes an appearance in Where will Jenny build her Nest? and How will Hetty Hide Her Eggs? plus a few other stories. Stormy will live on in our hearts and our memories as well as through children’s experience as they learn about her life through story.