Right from the beginning Freya was a force to be reckoned with. My husband and I had purchased a scratching post for the three month old, white and gray patchwork tabby addition to our family. Our furniture soon became a silent witness to its lack of use. One day I, unbeknownst to Freya, stood just inside the entrance to our living room. I watched her walk over to our sound system’s not insubstantial speakers and sit down just a few feet in front of them. She waited. I entered the room. She looked in my direction, stood up, and looked at me again. Our eyes met, at which point she trotted right up to one of the speakers, then looked in my direction yet again. If she could have talked I’m sure that she would have been saying: “Are you paying attention?”.She then turned towards the speaker and proceeded to sharpen her claws on it. Our life together had begun.
Freya loved to join in the family fun. In fact she insisted on it. My two kids and I liked playing board games and would often find ourselves engrossed in Monopoly. We soon started to notice the dwindling number of Monopoly house and hotel game pieces. One day I was vacuuming and lifted the grate on our cold air register to clean it. There, under a thick layer of dust, were all of the missing game pieces. Retrieving them, I found myself grinning and possessed by an urge to find and hug one four-legged little family member.
One morning soon after, I finished brushing my teeth and went to put the toothpaste lid back onto the tube when I accidentally dropped it. I watched it bounce across the floor when suddenly, out of nowhere, Freya appeared, scooped up the lid in her mouth and took off. And so the game of “Fetch the toothpaste lid” and “Fetch the Monopoly house” was born. Freya loved it! I would toss the house, she’d race after it, stop, pick it up in her mouth, trot back to me, drop it at my feet, and wait patiently until I tossed it again.
Time passed. My marriage ended and I fell into a deep depression. One day, as I would often do in the following months as I started to heal, I found myself looking for solace in playing the piano. On this particular day, however, I stopped playing as sadness overtook me. There I sat as Freya walked into the room. She then did something that she had never done before. I watched as she headed over to the piano bench, hopped up beside me, and just sat there. It was as if she was saying, “It’s okay now. I’m here so don’t be sad.” I looked at her and my heart melted. With tears trickling down my cheeks I held her close and whispered into her ear how much I loved her and thank you. She stayed very still and just looked at me with those beautiful green eyes.
Something else happened that day on the piano bench. Sometimes it is hard to find words for things of the spirit. As I held this precious creature, suddenly there was no cat and there was no me. There was only love and oneness. I know this may sound crazy, but I’m convinced that we both felt it. From that day on, whenever I played the piano, I was not alone.
Our family saw many changes as the years passed: My daughter and son grew up and headed off to university; Bruce, now my husband of twenty-four years, came into my life; Freya grew old. She would still play “Chase the toothpaste lid”, but she now forgot about the bringing it back part. One day she stopped eating. Many tests and an exploratory surgery later, the veterinarian told us that she had liver disease, pancreatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. He implanted a tube in her tummy, held in place by a red vest. We were to feed her through that tube until she started to eat on her own again. And so began weeks of mixing her food with water, warming it, and then injecting it into the tube to feed her. Every single time that food would make its way to her stomach, she would close her eyes and purr and purr.
Freya didn’t know that she was supposed to be an invalid. On day one of her arrival back from the vets, stitches still in place, we looked on in horror as she leapt off the bed that I had gently placed her on, sailed a few feet through the air, and landed nimbly on our dresser. Her healing had begun. We made her a special little bed in our bedroom so we could be near to her and she to us.
One day as I fed her, she suddenly took off racing through our apartment, tube flapping in the wind – okay, nix the wind; it was an apartment, not the great outdoors – food shooting every which way out of the tube. In a panic, as I chased her all over the apartment, I kept thinking: Her insides will come out; she’s going to die; I’ve killed her; and so on and so on. When I finally caught her, recapped the tube, and tucked it back under the protective vest, she acted as if nothing had happened. It was more like, “Why have you stopped feeding me? I’m hungry.”
One month later the vet removed the tube. That tube gave Freya two and a half extra years of life.
Freya’s final day started normally. She took her medicines, ate her food with her usual gusto, napped, and we shared some cuddle time. Early in the evening she headed into the bathroom.
That’s odd, I thought. I went into the bathroom and there she lay, collapsed on top of the cat litter box. She looked up at me.
She had lost the ability to walk. Years of heavy steroid use that had controlled her bowel disease had taken its toll. I called for Bruce. He gently picked her up and carried her into the hall.
“I’ll get a wet cloth.”
“It’s okay sweetie,” I said as I gently removed the cat litter stuck to her tummy. I looked at Bruce. Our eyes met. It was time.
At the vets as I held her in my arms she didn’t struggle. She just looked into my eyes with love and with trust. I think that she knew it was the end and it was okay. In her own little way she was letting me know that she’d had a good life.
“I love you,” I whispered into her ear as the vet injected the drug that released her from this earth. Afterward he told me that he’d never seen a cat who seemed so peaceful at the end. I will be forever grateful for those words.
This wonderful, loving, mischievous, incredible being taught me what love is. She also taught me what love is not. Love is not about boundaries. Love is about giving and doing for and about oneness and fun. Love is about acceptance. Love is of the spirit. Love is forever.