The last few days have been hard. My daughter's best friend of 14 years died.
I'm sure you automatically assumed that this was a person. It wasn't. It was one of her cats - one she got when she was 7 years old.
She felt a special bond with Pumpkin from the minute she saw him. We had found someone in the paper who had a bunch of kittens. My plan was to bring home two because there are few things cuter than cats playing together.
So my daughter and I had an understanding when we got there - I would pick out one and she would pick out one.
It was a big decision. They were all cute and since we were the first to get there, we had several to choose from. I quickly chose an orange and white tabby, who, along with his stripes had a white belly and white on some of his legs. My daughter named him Tiger.
My daughter also quickly found the one she wanted, but it wasn't a quick decision. The kitten-who-would-be-named Pumpkin had some kind of infection in both eyes and I didn't feel I had the time or resources to take on a sick kitten.
She kept insisting that this was the kitten for her and finally I relented. The more I thought about it, I suspected all of them had the same issue (it turned out Tiger did too). I knew we weren't walking out of that house without two cats and so Pumpkin and Tiger left with us.
My daughter and I have had lots of cats. I personally believe that if you live in an area with not a lot of traffic, cats should have outdoor access. I feel that cats are made to be outdoors and I'm willing to risk a shorter life span because in many cases, their quality of life is better.
In fact, the house my daughter and I lived in was chosen with that in mind. It was on a dead-end street, with only three homes on the street (ours being one of them). Across the road, there were several acres of thick woods. I had found a cat door for one of the windows so they could go out any time they wanted.
Anyway, having outdoor access also meant we could have more cats than if we kept them all inside. So Pumpkin wasn't the only one - but it was love at first sight and instantly he became - and stayed - her favorite.
Pumpkin even saved my daughter's life one time. She attempted suicide and Pumpkin jumped up and knocked the pills out of her hand before she could take them. I'm saying that because it's just one way to show how special that cat is and how nervous I can get when something rocks Charlyn's world.
Fourteen years later after that day she picked out a scraggly kitten with an eye infection, my daughter was out of town when the friend she asked to come check on her pets found him. I was shooting a conference and during the lunch and keynote, I got a call from her. She was wailing so loudly she couldn't talk.
Her girlfriend got on the phone and told me what happened. I asked my photography partner and boyfriend at the time if he could cover the rest of the conference and I left to be with her.
It's now five days later. Not only have I been mourning losing Pumpkin myself, but even more so I've been worried about my daughter. I'll never be completely worry-free that she won't go there again - and Pumpkin won't be around to stop her this time.
Anyway, though it's been hard, we've all been making it. We took him yesterday to the vet to be cremated. It was extremely difficult for her to say that good-bye and give him up, knowing it was forever. Her girlfriend and I supported her and my boyfriend came over to support me... and we all made it... somehow. We got Chinese take-out for supper and even laughed some that night (obviously about other things).
I know it will continue to be really hard for her as she lives life without the best friend she's had for most of her life, but I feel that we are out of the woods and she'll be okay.
I didn't tell you that it's possible God may have already provided for a new, similar best furry friend (though there's no way he can be the same). A few months ago, Charlyn had another cat of hers (Serafina) hit by a car. She was the sibling of one still around (Mufasa) who missed his sibling terribly.
So, I encouraged Charlyn to find another cat of similar age and temperament to be Mufasa's playmate. After finding several other pets that she thought would be good for him and having each not work out, we were both discouraged.
Then she found a black long-haired beauty that she named Raven. From the beginning, he showed characteristics similar to Pumpkin. In fact, we both thought at the time that he might be the closest replacement she could ever find for Pumpkin, in case something happened to him, but we were both nervous to talk about it because it meant that Pumpkin might not have much longer with her.
The first-night Charlyn was home from New York, she finally went to bed and Raven was on her pillow, the place that Pumpkin had occupied for years. Of course, that released a flurry of tears but was also comforting. Though I know that there's no way to completely replace the relationship that she and Pumpkin had, at least she's not left totally alone, and Raven might be a close second.
Update: it's now two years later and my daughter has still not gotten over this loss. In fact, as I read through this post, I started crying myself. I remember telling her when she was really struggling that a time would come that she would realize she had gone an hour without thinking about him, then a day, then a week.
That hasn't happened. There's not a day that she doesn't still think about him. Her grief has gotten better but I realized how short-sighted my statement had been.
I've learned there are some losses that one will never "get over." As time passes, the grief does diminish because as humans we couldn't survive carrying that intense grief for a lifetime. But there are times it never goes away.
This was one of those times.
However, I'm very thankful for who Pumpkin was to her and that my daughter is still around, even though I know that the grief of this loss will never completely go away.