You’re either a pet person or not. We’re definitely a pet family. We treat pets like they are members of the family. And when you lose a member of the family, it’s heartbreaking.
We had to say goodbye to Beeson, our 19-year-old orange tabby, this summer. He had health issues and, well, 19 is really old for a cat. It was his time, but our hearts hurt as we spent our final days together.
We always joked that our cat had “cat-titude.” During his last week, I picked up some of that attitude and learned a lot from the cat whose name never made sense to us. (He claimed us as his family when he was 12. We have no idea where “Beeson” came from, but that’s what was on his collar.) Before you think I’m a crazy cat lady, I promise you can learn a few things from him, too.
1. Nothing is more important than making time to show affection.
Those last few days, no matter what I was doing, when Beeson wanted attention, I stopped everything and gave it to him. That meant putting off deadlines and leaving some housework undone. I didn’t care. I knew I’d catch up, and the dirt could wait. Imagine how much happier your heart would be if you let things go every now and then and snuggled on demand.
2. When you’re still, details come into focus.
So often, I’m in rush. I schedule things back to back and always have something else I’m trying to squeeze in. What mom doesn’t? But that last week with our furball, I slowed down. I focused and noticed every little detail: the way his tail flicked when he was happy, the barely audible purr in spite of his body giving out. I hadn’t paused and paid that much focused attention to anything in a really long time. My baby is growing up too fast, and I don’t want to miss any details.
3. It’s OK to make accommodations.
Too often, I want things my way. I don’t want to change plans or alter course. But Beeson wasn’t having that. He wanted to sit on a certain sofa and wanted my attention, no matter what else I had planned. And you know what? It didn’t kill me to give in. It didn’t cause me any heartache to change my course. I need to go with the flow more often.
4. Don’t put off the hard stuff.
My heart knew that Beeson was going downhill. I’d been trying to figure out how to prepare our son to say goodbye, to make him understand that our time was short. I finally explained that when I took Beeson to the vet, he wouldn’t be coming home. It was a hard, sad conversation. But it had to be done. Facing bad stuff head-on is easier than delaying the inevitable.
5. Love is messy. Literally.
Pets are messy. So are kids. The last few days of Beeson’s life, he was especially messy. His body was giving out. So we cleaned up throw up, poop, and half-eaten food. A lot. Every mother has a poop blowout story, a vomit in-her-hands story, and a million other disgusting things we never thought we’d do, but we do what we have to.
6. You always think you have more time, but you don’t.
Beeson was old, and his health was failing. But even his vet thought he had more time. We start out on this mommy road and think it’s never-ending. But everything ends at some point. Don’t assume you have more time. You don’t. Not for the important things.
7. You’re going to miss this.
We all roll our eyes when we hear that. We think, Yeah, you have no idea how wrong you are. I know it’s cliché. But sometimes, we don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone. You are going to miss this, no matter how good, bad, or ugly it may be in the moment.
8. You are enough.
We all wonder. We all think we need to do more, be more. All Beeson wanted was to be with us, his people. At the end of the day, at the end of the whining, when the toy requests, snack demands, and TV begging are exhausted, all our little people really want is us. Messy, crazy, exhausted us.