Friday, August 28, 2020

A Visit From the Past

'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."

- Alfred Tennyson

Praline, a tortoiseshell Persian, looking into the camera

The quote above is from a poem from Alfred Tennyson and is about unexpectedly losing a loved one and the harrowing grief process that follows it. 

Today is Rainbow Remembrance Day. This day was set aside by Deb Barnes, from Zee & Zoey's Cat Chronicles, in 2015, in memory of her beloved cat, Mr. Jazz. This day is set aside for everyone to remember all of those fur children who've gone before us who've touched our hearts and lives in some way.

We're going to turn this post over to Mom Paula for some special words.

Pets at the Rainbow Bridge

Photos of a collie and two Pekingeses owned by Mom Paula in the past
Mom Paula's three dogs from the past

Collage of Beignet, Praline, and Muff - cats owned by Mom Paula who are now at the Bridge
Three felines who've been a part of Mom Paula's life who are at the Rainbow Bridge

I've lived with pets my entire life. There were turtles, chickens, fish, birds, dogs and cats. I have special memories of each of them and the unique impact they had on my life. Growing up with pets taught me responsibility, unconditional love, and the ability to care for someone else other than myself. When I was in my twenties, I began sharing my home with cats. I'd never been around cats those first 20 years, but I quickly realized the unique bond one has when they are owned by creatures of the feline persuasion. I've shared stories of my life with my dogs and cats on a previous Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day post. Some of my special memories of my previous dogs are cats are:

  • I remember crying in Tiny's (my first dog) fur when my parents had scolded me. Tiny would sit there patiently listening to every word I expressed. 
  • The devastation of watching Chin die from poisoning and truly understanding grief for the first time. 
  • Saying goodbye to Cheena when I got married and moved away. My parents told me that Cheena searched for me for a long time.
  • Muff taught me to understand the differences between dogs and cats and how cats shared their love for their humans. 
  • Beignet was to be my first male kitten, but he passed away from a sarcoma from his first vaccination. 
  • Praline became my "soul kitty" and taught me about the special connection between humans and animals. Praline also helped me become aware that the special connection continues beyond death.

Visits from Praline

Tortoiseshell Persian cat, Praline, sitting and looking at camera
Praline's sitting post - the same one she had on her visit

Praline lived with me almost 16 years. She came to live with me when I was going through my divorce after 21 years of marriage. She was by my side as I went through the divorce, successfully earned a Ph.D., changed careers, had 13 surgeries over an 8 year period, lost a job, and struggled through clinical depression. I was devastated when I lost Praline! I even took a week off from work after helping her to the Rainbow Bridge, yet my emotions continued to be unpredictable and intense. I thought my divorce was the worst I'd ever felt, but losing Praline was far worse. 

Praline died in late April 2011. By the end of May, I knew there would be other kittens in my life soon, but I still missed Praline and would cry daily. I went to visit a fellow cat blogger in Maryland in early July and while there, I received photos of possible kittens who would come to live with me, which brought a missing smile to my face. I had a great time while visiting Deb and her family and experiencing the comfort and joy of being around cats again (she had 4). When I got home, I suffered extreme loneliness and grief because I was alone with my thoughts and emotions! One night while sitting on the sofa and sobbing uncontrollably, I looked toward the front door and Praline appeared! She was sitting exactly as the above photo near the corner of the hallway and my living room. She remained there for a few seconds and then was gone. One would think this would upset me more, but her appearance brought me comfort. I believe she was telling me it would be okay and she was still with me. I never saw her again. 

Tortoiseshell Persian, Praline, sitting on a stool under the computer desk
Praline's favorite place to sit under the computer

I spent a lot of time at the desk at home when I was a college professor and a program manager at the state government office. I'd placed the foot stool under the desk so I could reach the floor and the keyboard at the same time (I'm only 4 ft 11 in). Praline decided the foot rest was her spot to sit when I was working. So, it was a pleasant experience during that summer when I would feel her soft fur brush across my legs. Those visits brought me a lot of comfort and happened on several occasions until Truffle and Brulee came to live with me.

I hadn't experienced any visits from her until a few years ago when both Truffle and Brulee became extremely ill during a 3-month period in 2018. I was very worried about both of the girls while they recovered from surgery and a long-term stay at the emergency animal hospital. One night, while laying down to go to sleep, I felt a slight bounce from a cat jumping on the bed. I sat up to see which cat had come to wish me a good night's sleep and to my surprise, neither Truffle nor Brulee were on the bed. Coryelle Kramer, an animal communicator, had told me that Praline still came to visit, but she was not making herself known because she wanted Truffle and Brulee to be part of my physical world and for us to develop that special bond. I sat up and said, "Hello Praline, thank you for coming to visit me," and I had a peaceful night's sleep that night after many restless nights. She's visited a few times since then and most recently this past Winter/Spring when I was so sick from suspected COVID-19. Coryelle also told me that Praline wasn't finished with me yet and that she would be back. Having Praline visit still has a calming effect on me.

Is the Pain of Living with Pets Worth the Grief?

Do I still miss her? Yes! Several times recently, I've found myself calling Truffle by the name Praline. Is the pain still there? Yes! It will always be there, but it's not as intense as it was nine years ago. There are a few times over the last 9 years that a memory of her illness and final days on Earth floods back and the raw emotions pour out again. Some of the memories are painful, but I try to focus on the happy memories that bring a smile to my face.

I sometimes wonder if going through all of the pain of illness, surgery, or death of a furry companion is worth it. When Truffle or Brulee are ill or when memories of losing Praline close in, I tend to have anxiety attacks and wonder if dealing with the stress and pain is worth sharing my life with cats. After a few moments of composing myself, I say "Yes! It's worth it! I'd rather experience the love and joy in my life with these precious felines bring me for a few years than to be alone and not experience that special bond."

Will the grief be any easier for any current or future cats? No! I admit, I wear my emotions on my sleeve and experience grief and disappointment very intensely. When it's time for Truffle or Brulee to cross that bridge, I once again will experience devastation and grief. I know there are stages I will pass through, each in it's own time. However, the pain will become less powerful and another will help to heal the hole left in my heart.

As I reflect on all of the animals I've shared my life with, I realize I've been blessed. Each is unique and provides something different in my life. The joy of sharing my life with them far outweighs the despair when I lose one. Take a moment today and remember those special pets who've lived with you. I encourage you to share some of those memories in the comments.

There is so much research on the physical and mental health benefits one experiences by sharing her life with pets. The bond that develops between humans and pets is so strong. I find it amazing that this bond continues beyond death and relish the visits from Praline and any future pets.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Yes, it is. Years ago there was a book of Letters from Vietnam, and one mother had written I would rather have had you for 18 years and lost you then never to have known you at all."

  2. Sending you many purrs on this day of remembrance.

  3. Beautiful tribute to all your angels. XO

  4. Yes, it's tough, yes, it's totally worth it, the love, the joy, the smiles, they outweigh the pain. Hugs.

  5. When they help us through terrible times, the loss seems deeper and more painful. They carve out a place in our hearts that will always be a bit tender.

  6. *Bows head* as I remember your losses. Grief is just love with nowhere to go.

  7. Purrs and hugs as you remember your sweet Praline. The sweet experiences and memories are such treasures but the partings are so difficult.

  8. Our missing friends live forever in our hearts.
    Purrs and hug on this remembrance day.

  9. We're remembering your angels with you today. With everything I've read about Sweet Praline, I'm so fascinated by her! I find myself with tons of questions and wanting to know her better. Isn't it weird how some cats we've never met just resonate with us so deeply?!? I feel that way about Praline - which started with the post from last year, "National Pralines Day" about Praline's horoscope and personality.

    1. You should go to her blot at https://www.sweetpraline.blogspot.com

  10. Lots of purrs to you today. <3

  11. Memories of each and every one are sweet ... yet of course, as you know ... your Praline lingers in my own heart, always and forever. With love, Ann

  12. It's definitely worth it. Your memories and you spotting Praline made me cry and cry. She still checks in to make sure her mom is ok <3

  13. This is a beautiful post and I echo your sentiments. Each day that passes in my household, I know is a day closer to grief and pain, but is it worth it? Yes, absolutely. Our pets need us as much as we need them and with time the pain subsides, but the love and memories never leave us. Purrs from Deb and Mr. Jazz of Purr Prints of the Heart.

  14. What a beautiful post, Paula. Gentle purrs and hugs to you as you remember your special girl.

  15. Your posts are always so heartfelt, Miss Paula. I sense that momma's white kitties that went OTRB years ago, visit her from the clouds from time to time. She has told me stories about them and I know she loved them very much as you did your Praline.

  16. What a beautiful heartfelt post. I have tears in my eyes! I, too, have had signs in the past from my angel Huskies Gibson and Harley and I do think they are comforting and bring us peace when we most need it from missing them so desperately. I've often been asked is it worth it having such a bond with my dogs only to have lost three and one day the other two (hopefully far, far off in the future). Yes, I agree, it is worth it. Just the other day I received a disturbing phone call and I walked and talked it out with my boy, Wolfie! All the love over all the years...the comfort, the smiles, and even the exasperated moments (very few) are all worth it, indeed. <3

  17. Well, this post has really brought tears to my eyes. It's a lovely post and I feel all of the emotions you describe. I wonder the same if it's worth the heartache having animals, but I realise I wouldn't have it any other way. Life would be too boring and they give so much love. Anyone who has never had pets really don't know what they are missing!

  18. This is such a beautiful post. I cried while reading it! Hugs to you as we remember our pets who are no longer with us. <3

  19. Sending hugs your way, when Baby passed I would lie in bed and feel her on the bed at nights with me and it stopped when I rescued Layla but she is very much part of me to this day.

  20. I remember writing a post like this for Dash. he was such a character on Twitter and loved. We would rather have them for a short time because they change our lives wouldn't we. They are alwasy missed but such a rich part of our lives.

  21. I remember writing a post like this for Dash. he was such a character on Twitter and loved. We would rather have them for a short time because they change our lives wouldn't we. They are alwasy missed but such a rich part of our lives.

  22. I remember writing a post like this for Dash. he was such a character on Twitter and loved.

    We would rather have them for a short time because they change our lives wouldn't we. They are always missed but such a rich part of our lives.

  23. Animals are so amazing that it's not a surprise Praline would still be a big part of your life. They are definitely worth having in our lives.

  24. There is no downplaying the pain of losing a pet - They will always hold a special place in our hearts. However, I firmly believe that the pets that I have held dear in the past would be happy to know that I am loving another rescue today ❤️❤️

  25. Yes, the pain is absolutely worth it. I wouldn't trade a single memory of my life with Shep. Every tear I shed for him reminds me that he taught a cold, dead heart how to love.

  26. We remember Jasmine almost every day. Things she did, things she liked ... we have the place where we live now thanks to her. Her memory is deeply embedded in this place; it is even named after her - Ranch Jasmine.

  27. Grief is very powerful and sometimes it does seem like it may destroy us. However, I firmly believe that the love we experienced is why we grieve so much. Without that joy, life would not be as rich. That being said, I'm dreading the days when I have to say goodbye to my senior dogs. I'm not sure how I'll get through that. It makes me cry just to think about it.


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