It’s been a week since our dearest Miles had passed on.
Each day gets a little better. Or, perhaps more appropriately, each day of grieving feels a little less worse. The pain and the loss are never, not, felt. Only in doses a tad more tolerable.
Grief feels like much like medicine – the kind you know you need but hate to ask for. That bitter taste that lingers long on your palate implores you to hope that, somehow, at the very least, it’s working.
When my grandmother passed away several months ago, I had considered grief to be a gift. It felt, to me, the thing you choose for – that you’re willing to take on – when you lost something you loved.
I loved my grandmother, in part, because the integrity of her character required only such a response. She didn’t “earn” my love, per se. But she elicited it from me, in the quietest possible way. I could not, not, love her. Her kindness warranted so much of it, from me. From everyone.
I grieved her because I loved her. I grieved her because I missed the chance to keep loving her in her final moments. I could only love her from far away.
The loss I feel for my grandmother is its own, unique and personal loss. Her memory affects me, and inspires me to this day. Much of the pain, however, has passed, and for this I am thankful.
That which I feel for my cat, however, has not.
I caution myself from thinking that the loss of a relative, or beloved human being, ought to ever feel something more or less than the loss of any other thing.
All life is so, so sacred.
Sometimes the loss just feels far more severe, by proximity.
I had seen Miles nearly every single day since we had left for Malaysia. We received him and his sister, Madu, very early on during our move. Their presence made what we had here, immediately, a home.
Miles had a wonderful habit of letting us know wherever he was in the house. Meowing in empty rooms was his way of informing us that the party he was hoping to start was beginning without us, and we were cordially invited to join him.
I wished he had done the same that fateful morning, on the balcony. I wish he had let us know, ahead of time, where he’d be.
Unbeknownst to him, he went to the one place where we couldn’t join him, or protect him, and the rest, well, is the hard history we’re slowly trying to forget.
I remember exactly where I was when it happened, and I’ll always remember: In the kitchen, making coffee, my morning routine.
The loss is profound because, he was never, ever far away. That morning, he was simply out of reach. It was all too sudden, too soon, and too close to home.
Whatever home we had, feels as though he had taken it away with him.
There wasn’t a single, mean-spirited bone in his body. He never intended to hurt us so deeply. His absolute, unconditional love was far too great. If I could borrow biblical imagery, it felt “vast, beyond all measure.”
It is losing such a love that I had grown so accustomed to – and losing it so unexpectedly – that is the real cause for the pain. It isn’t him, it is the stark reality of life without him.
I had gotten so used to having him but an arm’s length away while I worked in my office, his fat, furry body sound asleep upon the red pillows. I hardly ever wondered where he was; my comfort came in knowing he was simply around, somewhere, nestled intently against whatever soft surface he could find. As if being encased in his own warm, softness weren’t enough. He needed more. Comfort was his idol if he ever had one, and I can’t blame him for that, either.
I don’t know when this grief will go. I pray to God that it leaves me be, hoping peace come quickly in its place.
For my grandmother who had passed some months ago, and even for my other grandmother whom I had lost long before her, I had the privilege of time.
In retrospect, time was the real gift, less so the grief, simply because we were all able to prepare. We knew what felt to be the inevitable. But the sting of the loss will always be. I know this because, during the memorial services for both my grandmothers, if somehow I had found the strength not to break earlier, the pressure to crumble was overpowering. The greatness of the loss, the sheer, burdensome weight of it, will win. It always wins.
But they say that time heals all things. Perhaps, this is true. Time also helps brace ourselves for that which we know to be coming, if indeed, we know.
There was no knowing, with Miles.
And now, there is no knowing when, and how, time will work its mysterious, ancient magic. How ever reliable its powers may be, I can only pray such powers are exercised soon, and dramatically.
Yes, somehow, grief is a hard, yet beautiful thing. To love something lost, so deeply, that causes memories to jolt back into being feelings I hadn’t realized were ever there, is a sacred and beautiful thing, indeed.
It is, also, far too fragile. Delicate, like porcelain. And when it breaks, it shatters – the sound of which, producing a most terrifying sort of music. And yet, you have for that moment, music.
These days, silence is my enemy.
I’d rather hear the whimpering cries of the cat I have remaining, perhaps even the heaving, child-like sobs welling up from deep within myself, than the sound of nothing at all.
I know, it won’t be, forever. I remember days when silence was precisely what I needed. When I couldn’t give anything more for that particular gift – the absence of noise to clear my mind, and mend the heart.
But for today, and perhaps for many days to come, noise is what I need.
The ambient sort that comes from mindless television. The whirring of multiple fans running simultaneously. The self-preserving purring from Madu. Little does she know, it preserves a little bit of me, too.
Sometimes, the grieving calls forth an ugly, unintelligble sound, a garbled enunciation of what were once words, or a piercing shriek of no words at all.
Sometimes, when I sense the silence encroaching, I just speak. I speak to Madu. Or to myself. Or to God, even. At the very least I know, one of the three is listening, though I’m hoping such, from all three.
I do not remember the sound from Miles’ fall. I only remember the sound from my wife, thereafter. I only remember the horrid curses that came out of me that morning. The weeping uncontrollably, I remember, too.
These sounds, I’m willing to part with, fast.
I want new noises – joyful ones. Those that remind me that there is still much life that remains within the walls of our home. Like the skittering, scampering steps from Madu when she chases after her precious twisty-ties. Or the soulful sounds emanating from our record player, inducing us to dance the night away. Or the laughter that can’t help itself from stirring awake, the moments when we remember Miles and his endless cycle of quirky noises – when he got up from bed, when he was hungry, and even while he was sleeping.
While it may feel as though he had, Miles couldn’t have possibly taken home away from us. He only meant to leave us, quietly. To walk away when his time was up, and not come back.
My wife imagines him leaving through the front door, pacing around a little, and then, simply going away. Gone for good, without a sound.
By then, the party would have already begun. My wife, dancing without a care in the world, Madu looking on without a clue, and me, trying to match her moves with my own deliberate awkwardness. By then, Miles would have slipped away, to a place where we couldn’t join him, having done what he came to do.
He always got the party started, that silly cat. It’s now on us to end it well.