It's Thanksgiving today, and at least for the foreseeable future, this holiday is going to be a bittersweet one for me. One year ago today, my cat PJ died. We had had PJ--or maybe I should say he had us--for 15 amazing years. Not everyone gets the pet thing, and that's okay, but those who do know more than can ever be explained to those who don't how much a pet can truly become part of a family. The sight of them, the smell, the touch, the funny and stupid and annoying and adorable things they do, become part of the fabric of your life, and when it is taken away from you, as it inevitably must, it creates an ache and a sadness like no other.
Every year on Thanksgiving, my wife and daughter and I drive down to LA to be with my family. We're doing it again today, soon. But I woke up remembering what had happened at this very time exactly one year ago today. After it happened, and before we got in the car, I sat down in this same chair and blogged about it on my old 1up.com blog, as a way to process my feelings, somehow. A lot of people liked that blog and told me it helped them deal with the grief over the loss of their own pet. So on this Thanksgiving morning, I'm reposting that blog here, for me, for PJ, and for anyone else who feels the need or desire to give thanks to someone no longer with them. Happy Thanksgiving, PJ. And Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, too. Thanks for being part of my life and for coming here and reading my stuff.
PJ The Cat. In memoriam. 1992-2007
Posted at Thu, 22 Nov 2007 12:46:16 PST
It seems like a particularly cruel and trying twist of fate to have a family's beloved cat pass away on Thanksgiving Day, of all days. And yet, if any of us have learned anything, it's that life never does make a whole lot of sense, never pauses to ask us first if this is a good day for whatever it has to throw at us.
And so it is that on Thanksgiving Day 2007, my wife and daughter and I found ourselves sitting in a cold and sterile room at a pet emergency hospital at 8 a.m., crowded around the very, very sick form of our cat PJ, as the vet gave him one last shot to let him sleep and rest forever, out of the pain that a horrendous bacterial infection had put him in for over a week, rendering him unable to eat or even move. We fought it, of course, that decision, that leap of sad understanding that many, many pet owners inevitably find themselves forced to make--the one that tells you that you have to let go for the animal's sake, that keeping him or her alive is only a salve for you. That what your pet needs now is rest. For 24 hours we fought this decision, willing him as strong as we could to rally, to fight it off, to get better. But at the hospital this morning it was clear. You could see it in his eyes, in his low moans, in his withered body. You could see him asking to be let go.
And so now after 15 long, wonderful, happy, loving years, PJ is gone on, and we are packing our things here and driving down to Los Angeles to be with our extended family on this holiday--a bittersweet of one as I ever remember having.
Part of me doesn't want to go at all. Part of me wants to tell my family: "Never mind. See you next year." Because...well, why? Why go? Why celebrate? What is there to be thankful for on this cold and cruel Thanksgiving Day?
And the answer of course is that there is so much to be thankful for. Even on a day like this. There of course is the fact that we have each other. And the fact that we have somewhere to drive to, that will understand our pain and offer us the kind of comfort that only family can provide. That in itself is more than anyone could hope to have.
But here in this space, before I take off, I also want to acknowledge all the things I'm thankful for that that big, tough, annoying, scratchy, loud, awesome cat brought into my life.
I'm thankful for the endless hours of companionship.
I'm thankful for all that purring and head butting and body curling that let me know we had a mutual deal going on here.
I'm thankful for the countless laughs as we found you in one ridiculous predicament after another.
I'm thankful for all those poor little mice and birds that you brought to us in sacrifice over the years, even if we yelled at you at the time.
I'm thankful for all that interrupted sleep due to your sudden need to go outside at 4 a.m even though you'd ask to be let back in 2 minutes later.
I'm thankful for never making it 10 minutes through any TV show ever without you needing to either go in or out, depending on which side of the door you were on.
I'm thankful for the countless new places you showed me that, despite my limited human thinking, did in fact turn out to be cool sleeping spots.
I'm thankful for all the scratches on my hands and arms and toes that reminded me who actually was in charge of our relationship.
I'm thankful for you always giving me a reason to want to come home, no matter my mood, no matter the circumstance.
And, most of all, PJ, I'm thankful for that unconditional (well, as unconditional as it ever gets for a cat) love, that solid and steady companionship, that low purr that always made everything alright. And the gentle, steady reminder that sometimes--most of the time, in fact-- the best damn thing in the world to do was absolutely nothing. To sit, be still, breathe, and appreciate the awesome wonder of simply being together, sharing the same space.
Thank you, PJ. I love you, man. Have a happy Thanksgiving up there in cat heaven, and I'll do my best to have one down here, basking in my memories of our 15 years of love and harmony and happiness together.
Happy Thanksgiving, PJ.