On 15th August 2015 my Billi died. Billi was my cat. My first cat. I got him in June-July 2002. He was only 7 weeks old. I had always had dogs for pets while growing up. My my last dog had to be euthanized because she was in way too much pain from cancer, I had promised never to get another pet. They die and leave you heart broken. That was in 1991.
Fast forward to 2002. I was now married, and had a 4 year old gorgeous daughter who seemed to love animals like I did. We pet sat my friend’s cat – Gracie. And that was my first experience with a cat. I realized how misunderstood cats were. Especially by “dog people”. I was a dog person. Then I expanded into an “animal person”, loving all animals, no matter who they were.
Gracie showed me how cats are very loving. They just have a very subtle way of showing their love. They just sit and gaze at you lovingly. You need to pay attention to them to really know what they are saying. They don’t jump all over you, but gently come and graze their soft delicate bodies about your legs. They give gentle head butts, or even a few delicate kisses. They purr and generate a feeling of “all is well”. You instantly calm down in the presence of a cat that loves you.
When Gracie went back to her owner, I missed her a lot. That’s when my friend Laura asked me why I didn’t get a cat of my own. I said, “But they die and leave you heartbroken”. She said something that made complete sense to me. She said, “Yes they do. But think of it this way. You give a chance to an animal to have a good life”. And that sealed the deal.
Together Laura, I, and my daughter Natasha went to a cat rescue. Laura told me, “You don’t choose a cat. Cats choose you”. I went for an older cat who seemed to be meowing a lot at me, and reaching out to me through her cage. I thought of an older cat because almost everyone wants kittens and puppies. But when I sat in a room with the cat, she was absolutely not interested in me. She just wanted to be out.
I was naturally drawn towards a peacefully sleeping black and white kitten. He was absolutely beautiful!! But I tried to move away from him – after all he was a kitten, and a gorgeous one at that. Anyone would select him. So I tried to go to another cat, who didn’t want me either. Saw a little girl pick up the black and white kitten, and then put him down. I thought I should go touch him at least. So I went and picked him up. He opened his sleepy eyes, looked at me, and then settled into my arms comfortably as if he belonged there. I fell in love. Natasha too had wanted this one. So we picked him up, and he was our cat.
We named him “Billi”. “Billi” in Hindi means “cat”. Billi could be a complete zen kitty, and then suddenly transform into spiderman in a moment. He and Natasha grew up together like Calvin and Hobbes. Inseparable. And they were inseparable even as Billi breathed his last on 15th August 2015.
He was my child. My son. I loved him, and still love him beyond words can express. To me he was no less than my human child. He was not a “pet”. He was my child.
Towards the end of his life he developed kidney disease, and got sick, and weak very quickly. I did all I could stubbornly to keep him alive. The daily subcutaneous fluids, his medicines, force feeding him his special diet, force feeding him water. Sometimes he seemed to get well, and get stronger, and then finally nothing seemed to help.
He used to sleep in my closet, and spent a lot of time in my closet. Natasha slept with him there at night, keeping an eye on him.
Finally that day, we gave him permission to go. He couldn’t walk anymore, he couldn’t see anymore. He was like a rag doll. I didn’t ever think I could tell him – it’s ok, you can go…don’t suffer. But I could not bear to see him suffer. Natasha held him in her arms and told him it was ok to go. I knew he was holding on just because of us. Because we were not ready to let go. After Natasha told him he could go, he did let go. She had him in her lap, and I and my son Ujjwal touched him, stroked him and gave him Reiki, and he breathed his last, leaving us heart broken.
I cannot bear to think that I cannot touch him anymore. Thankfully my son is still little, and still psychically open, and can see Billi’s spirit around us. That helps, but still hurts so much, it feels like someone has reached inside and wrenched my heart out.
Losing a pet is so painful…I think also because no human can love you the way an animal can. Your pet is the epitome of unconditional love. No matter what you do, they forgive you. No matter what you do, they love you. They see every lump, bump, wart on you, and don’t care at all about any imperfections. There are no complications in an animal’s love towards you. A human relationship, no matter how wonderful, is still full of complications. But with animals, at least their side of the love is pure, untainted. And losing a love like that rips your soul apart.
If you have lost a pet, I am sorry for you. I truly am. I understand what you are feeling.
What is helping me is looking through all of Billi’s pictures through these years, talking about him, watching his videos. I am working on creating a photo-story book with his pictures and stories about him. It will be for me, for Natasha. What is helping is the fact that my son Ujjwal can see Billi so clearly. I have talked to people who have crossed over, and see them in my mind. But I have never done animal communication, so I feel lost with losing Billi. What helps is, I am giving myself time and permission to grieve, to feel, and telling me it’s ok, he is here with me. And I know he is.
I have two more cats at home. And while looking for Billi’s pictures, I realized that I did not have too many pictures of him. I always took it for granted that Billi will always be around. His death made me realize once again, how short lived our pets are. I will make sure I will take pictures often. Of the animals, and the people in my life. One never knows when we will say bye to someone we love. While pictures cannot erase the pain of loss, they certainly soothe you with the beautiful memories.
Will I get another cat? Yes I will. I will do it to give a better life to another cat, and to be blessed by the kitty’s love. I will not do it to replace Billi. That will not be fair for my feelings for Billi, or for the new cat.
Am I scared of another pet dying and leaving me heart broken? Yes I am. But the love between me and Billi was so much more than the fear of death. I will love again.
UPDATE: I also learned that being clairvoyant can be very useful in coping with grief. One morning, not much later, I felt a cat standing on me, sniffing my face and trying to wake me up. When I opened my eyes, I saw him!! I saw him right there…looking at me with the same concern that he always had if I ever overslept. He would come to check on me and wake me up with that look on his face, “Are you ok mom?? Wake up already!!” I learned once again the truth I have learned before — we never lose anyone we love. Even death does not part us. They remain with us forever. And we with them.