This morning I sat in my yard crying, out in the rain.
Several weeks before this weeping crumble, my husband and I returned from vacation to learn one of the stray cats who hangs out near our yard had given birth to two kittens. By this point, the kittens, though adorably dependent on their mama still, seemed to be coming into their own. We were shocked. We hadn’t even known she’d been pregnant.
To tell you the truth, we had actually thought she was a he, a he whom we have aptly called Arthur for nearly two years.
Once we realized our mistake, Arthur became Bea Arthur, and we both became smitten with Bea’s adorable babies…
There was a bit of drama not long after, when we learned the babies had been trapped in a neighbor’s garage for three days. We rescued them and everything seemed great. In fact, on the last day of September, as I folded laundry neatly into my suitcase, I saw them following mom around and trying their first attempts at nibbling some of the food we set out for the ferals. In a life season of so much unknown, these two little clumsy kittens brought much joy…
The next day I drove to Michigan to sit at my mother’s bedside for her last days. The week before she’d been hospitalized. On the day that I scrambled to pack my suitcase, she’d been released into hospice and the prognosis was days left, at best. For ten days I held her hand, brushed her hair, laughed with her as she rallied, and cried silent tears as she lashed out. Alzheimer’s is an ugly monster. Many friends who’d lost mothers reached out with advice drawn from their own experiences. A commonality among their words was how, though hard, the process of death and closing those days could be truly beautiful. It seemed crazy, but then for four days she rallied and I saw the sunlight of beauty everywhere. It was after the rallying faded, when her illness once again consumed her and the memory of my face was washed away, that the beautiful was replaced by something I can only surmise as sinister.
Like a switch, we transitioned into a dark and triggering time.
After ten days, I make the trip home. The dark days were difficult. I’d said my goodbyes. There was nothing left to do.
My first day back, as I went out to feed the cats, I saw Bea Arthur and her baby-daddy Tom. Something seemed off, so I tuned in and watched. Seeing the two of them show up, (at their safe, comfortable, feral distance) was not abnormal. As Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday sightings, walks, and evening encounters seemed to still be just the two of them, we began to wonder if something had happened to the kittens.
We have wildlife around. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, and a rogue coyote from time to time. We’d been concerned for them from the beginning, but when we’d stumbled upon Bea and her sister nearly two years ago, they were starving babies themselves. They wouldn’t let us near them, and everyone we phoned said if we caught them they’d be euthanized. Instead we built a heated shelter and feeding/watering station at the back of our yard and watched them grow up.
We did what we could. Even so, it is devastating to think of something happening to those two babies.
Through last night and this morning Bea Arthur stayed hovered beneath a bush near the shelter. Rain came, puddles formed, inching closer and closer to her. Still she stayed there.
Perhaps it is the weight of stagnantly waiting for my mother to leave her life. I was exhausted before that journey began, but now I am feeling so much more so. Also though, there is this other season of loss forever tattooed on my insides. The miscarriages, lost children, aching and empty arms…
There we were, rain falling all around us, this lost mother and me. Her babies seemingly gone. Heartbreak. I tried to pour love into her, as our gaze held tight, a sea of rainwater and grief pouring all around us as we sat suspended there. A cat and a woman, both having lost. Both knowing such struggle.
Was I projecting onto her? Probably. But also, she seems to have been through a hurt that led to the scars of which I’ve carried for so, so long.
Today, October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. This evening marks the International Wave of Light, where candles are lit at 7 pm, light casting globally in remembrance of significant loss. The dark, dreary skies of my city today feel appropriate. For the stray mama tabby and for myself. For the many other women who’ve lost, falling asleep beneath these street lights–expanding unfathomably beneath this entire sky.
Loss is hard. Waiting for it and surviving after it.
I don’t have anything wonderful or wise to say. I’m sad. I remember. I remember the hopes and dreams of motherhood. I remember the few beautiful moments with my own mother, amidst the sea of abuse and trauma.
I remember two clumsy kittens climbing all over their mother…
I remember and I’m sad. It’s terrible. Some days are like this, and that’s ok.
Even when it is hard, we have to pause to remember.