It has been some time since I have had both time and heart to write a piece for this site. Losing my heart-sister so suddenly last spring was a deep, shattering break that bears far too much resemblance to losing Sunny so although thoughts have tumbled and sometimes whispered urgently to be shared, they have been more often been swept away on the blurring winds of change.
Nonda’s passing was but the first of the dreaded deaths that inevitably come in threes. No sooner had we said our farewells and begun to try and pick up the scattered pieces of lives so irrevocably changed than my cat, a big coal-black beast with golden eyes who would be the last of his kind here and who had been my steadfast companion for the vast majority of his 16 years, was diagnosed with chronic renal failure and, wanting no part of the supportive care that can comfortably buy more time, took his leave of us a mere two weeks later. It was bloody hard to say goodbye and I still miss him at my feet each night when I go to bed. If he didn’t beat me to it, I would always call for him and he would answer with his distinctive meow as he trotted into the bedroom, finishing with a sharp “Prrrup!” as he jumped up. He would come up close to where I sit in bed reading briefly before sleep for some petting and to groom me in return, then head to the foot of the bed and hunker down until morning. While I never trust cats around wildlife, Gandalf took the ever-changing parade of fur in stride and essentially ignored all of them. Only feathers would cause him to stare and so the rare bird was always locked away securely; though to his credit he never tried to sneak into the room while they were here.
There was small comfort that Gandalf had both lived to a decent old age and that we were able to allow him to die here at home; wrapped in one of my bathrobes and laying on the bed he so dearly loved. For such passings are part and parcel of that circle of life and so as the days passed his things were cleaned up and put away and the change in the daily routine became the daily routine.
It wouldn’t last long, though.
Barely 3 weeks later we said a rather unexpected goodbye to Franklin T. Squirrel. Born with congential MBD (metabolic bone disease), almost eight years with him would be a book of stories unto itself. Suffice it to say that after Sunny died, Franklin stepped into the role of primary “house squirrel” and was therefore often underfoot and more often doing his damndest to get into trouble. Fortunately, because he had gradually lost his incisors due to the MBD, he couldn’t chew on anything so was able to roam pretty much at will and his favorite trouble was to torment the other squirrels by climbing on their cages. This particular habit eventually cost him several toenails and almost half his tail since the other squirrels still have all their teeth and don’t cotton to such demonstrations of self-perceived superiority; even from a stodgy, harmless, toothless old cousin.
Normally rather quiet and sedate by nature, Franklin would set himself up with a “nest” of sorts in various places and spend the vast majority of his time sprawled in it. His most favored location, the one to which he returned time and time again, was behind the coffeemaker on the kitchen counter. It took me a shamefully long time before I figured out that a small USPS Priority box and a fleece blanket set there would save us from replacing the roll of paper towels every few days. After Franklin died I had him cremated and when the small box with his ashes arrived I just did not have the heart to put him with the others right then; instead I put him back in his old spot behind the coffeemaker so he may continue to guard it in spirit for a while longer.
There have been other passings here as well since then; the saddest being the eyes-just-opened baby fox squirrel who was needlessly but effectively drowned by its finders with bowls of cow’s milk in between sessions of being passed around by the kids like some live Beanie Baby earlier this fall. Not only starving, she was horribly frightened and wickedly sick with pneumonia; I started her on medication and proper formula but real help had come for her too late. All I could do was sit with her and hold her close until she died; near the end, coming as the most heartbreaking of gifts, she finally relaxed and started to tick the fox squirrel’s “mommy song”.
It was as if the tears would never end.