you and me

Goodbye, Kayla, My Light Wrapped in Fur.

{Photo credit: Elle Newlands}

 

Dear Kayla,

You were a good girl, and you lived for 11 years in the pocket of my heart. Are you happy where you are?

“She’s crossed the Rainbow Bridge,” they told me. “Where is that?” I asked, eyes brimming with tears, not quite able to understand. “It’s the bridge connecting Heaven and Earth.” Now you are free.

I chose to euthanize you at home. Surrounded by love. Surrounded by the familiar, and in my arms. Choices I made out of love and respect for your important place in my life, carefully orchestrated ahead of time so that you could go gently.

When I woke up on Saturday, December 8th, 2012, your body had changed. Even though the lymphoma had been eating away at you, you were always full of life force and always radiant. Suddenly your skin sagged and your bones felt light, almost like they were turning to dust. The light had dimmed in your eyes, and I knew it was time.

When your paw touched my face, I opened my eyes and there you were, sitting on the pillow, watching me sleep. I saw it then. I saw that the physical pain of the last eight months had truly caught up, and the cancer bird was circling, ready to make its final descent and get its kill. The moment I thought I’d never be emotionally ready for was here. The call I had been dreading to the vet: “Please come, it’s time.”

Thinking back now, after that initial eye contact upon waking — when you let me see inside your soul and let me feel how bad it had become — you never looked at me again. We settled into the couch at 10 am. The next three hours would be the hardest of my life because I knew they were our last.

Rob and I opened the fridge and pulled out every forbidden treat we could think of. Chocolate, peanut butter, bacon… we offered them to you with a heavy heart because I knew I would never have to lovingly push you away from them again.

It was a couple of weeks before Christmas, and I suddenly realized that there would be no leftover holiday turkey for you. I’d never have to push you off my knee at the dinner table, paw swiping my food plate, trying to steal something. I’d never have to apologize to dinner guests when you constantly tried to jump on the table.

But you didn’t want any of it. You simply lay out on my legs, facing the other way, and fell asleep. I stroked your fur, watching how difficult breathing had become for you, how sharp your bones felt, and I wished for you a painless death.

1 pm. Your time of release.

You sat up, and I took a last photo with you. You looked up to the ceiling, eyes wide, and I like to think that you saw something that helped usher you over.

The doorbell went.

You slowly stood up, gently jumped down, walked to the scratch pole, and took one long languorous stretch.

You sat in the middle of the floor, and I watched as the three other cats came and sniffed you. Maya licked you. They had begun to reject you because you smelled differently. Cancer. In this final moment, you closed your eyes and let out a long sigh. Suddenly I wasn’t ready. You were showing me you were ready, and my human will to keep you here forever kicked in.

I was panicking so hard about how to do this right that I forgot to look you in the eyes. I forgot to pick you up and hold you and tell you how much I loved you and how much joy you had brought me in our time together. I forgot to tell you how brave I thought you were and how much dignity you had. I forgot to tell you how beautiful you were. How much peace you had brought to my heart.

I forgot to thank you for being light wrapped in fur.

The vet came in.

You walked right up to her. She picked you up and put you on the towel on the table. The vet asked me to step out for this part. She explained that she did not want me to be the bad guy. She wanted our goodbye to be less fraught. I was panicking because I knew, after this, you would be in twilight sleep. My inner voice was telling me that I still hadn’t looked directly in your eyes and told you it would be okay.

But I didn’t speak up. I stepped back and watched as you fought them when the anesthesia needle went in. Then you were still.

I was on the couch. I lay down and she placed you across my chest, face in the crook of my neck, as you had always snuggled as a kitten. I whispered my love to you, I rocked you and reassured you through my tears, as I felt your hot breath. They shaved a little patch on your leg where the final injection would go. Then you started to fight. You sat up a little and struggled to breathe. Now I looked at you.

Your eyes were glazed and far away. Your soul had departed and left your feline vehicle to fight the last fight. The cancer bird swooped down, and then there was nothing.

I often think that apologies are best suited face-to-face, when you can look eye-to-eye and soul-to-soul. I apologized to you for a long time after, as I just can’t forgive myself for not looking you in the eye one last time. I was so busy jumping to the next step, and trying to make sure I did it the way the vet and I had talked about, that I didn’t take a moment to make eye contact.

Did I do it right, Kayla? People always talk about how their loved ones come back and give them signs. The depth of your departure still echoes heavily in the house. You are gone and your presence is missed every day. I hope that your journey across the Rainbow Bridge was peaceful, and that you felt enough comfort in the end.

I hope that wherever you are, you are at peace.

“There’s a bridge connecting Heaven and Earth. It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of its many colors. Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge is a verdant land of meadows, hills and valleys with lush green grass. When a beloved pet passes, the pet goes to this place. There is always food and water and warm spring weather. Old and ill and frail animals are made whole.

They play all day with each other in the beautiful sunshine.

They are happy and content, but there is one thing missing. They are not with their special person who loved them on Earth.

So, each day, they run and play until the day comes when, suddenly, one stops playing and looks up. The nose twitches. The eyes are staring. And this one suddenly runs from the group. You have been seen, and when you and your special friend meet, you take him or her into your arms and embrace. Your face is kissed again and again, and you look once more into the eyes of your trusting pet.

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated.”

Love,

Elle

***

Elle Newlands is a hybrid, which makes her complicated, but she is okay with that. An actress, photographer and writer, she spends her days juggling characters, words and pictures. Originally from Scotland, she is currently enjoying the sunshine of California, where she hikes with her dog, rides her horse in the mountains and talks to nature. You could contact her via Facebook or Instagram.

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