Creative Nonfiction Inspirational Sad

I’ve had many cats in my life because my mother loved cats and my father loved my mother. In the end, he came to love cats too. I had my first cat when I was two, and there were many in between then and my last cat, Gidget. She began her life as one of the various cats in my parents’ life together.

When I first met Gidget, my husband Burt and I were living about 20 minutes from my Momma and Pops and were delighted to spend lots of time with them. It was fun. Momma and Pops knew how to have fun. There were always cats and dogs around as well. Burt hadn’t been allowed to have a pet as a child, so he particularly enjoyed all the animals. During those years, all my loved ones were active and healthy. My artist mother was painting magnificent paintings in the studio Pops built for her behind their house. She also had a studio away from their house where she gave lessons and did portraits and other commissions. Pops was pursing his career as an educator having retired from the US Air Force as a colonel. He always said that being Momma’s patron was his first job. He was devoted to her and her art.

The first time I saw Gidget she wasn’t quite a year old. She was a tortoise shell with beautiful distinctive markings. She came up to me one day while I was sitting quietly in my parents’ yard writing in my journal. She walked by checking me out and went on about her business. It turned out that from an early age she was quite the hunter. She loved to bring her “kills” to show them off and even had a special spot in the garage where she deposited them. She would come in the house but was more aloof, probably because of the other animals. She clearly preferred being outdoors and on her own. None of us thought she would live long because the house backed onto a desert nature preserve where coyotes roamed and hunted. Many a cat had met their demise as prey of coyotes. But, Gidget managed to elude coyotes and other desert predators such as snakes and hawks.

Years later when Momma and Pops sold that house and moved to a retirement community, Gidget was the only cat still alive. She moved with them and was apparently happy to give up hunting and become a loving house cat. Her ability to adapt to her new life was an inspiration.

Not long after my parents moved to the retirement community, Burt died of a brain tumor. To ease my heartache, I visited Momma and Pops almost every weekend at their retirement community which was about an hour’s drive from my home. It was during those years that I developed a deeper friendship with Gidget. When Momma was in skilled nursing, I often spent the night with Pops to support him and Momma. He gave me the spare bedroom. Gidget sometimes slept with me and sometimes with Pops. She spread her love equally.

Momma and Pops left this mortal coil just three weeks apart. He was 86, and she was 84. She went first and devotedly he followed after her. He simply couldn’t stand life without her. The doctors said he died of septicemia, but I knew he died of a broken heart because he missed her so much.

In those three weeks between their deaths, I was with Pops almost the whole time. One night we were reminiscing about good times we had shared and he asked me if I would please take Gidget to live with me if she should outlive him. I promised I would.

On the day Pops died, I was by his side in the hospital. I was holding his hand. His eyes were closed. He opened his eyes and looked longingly toward the large window with the closed blinds. I knew if I raised those blinds, it would reveal a blazing blue sky.

“Do you want to see the sky?” I asked him. I knew from his pilot stories that he had loved flying.

Pops nodded.

I pulled up the blinds.

He looked deeply out the window as if he were drinking the sky all in; then his eyes closed.

“It’s alright, Pops, fly away to Momma,” I said gently. I kept holding his hand.

An hour later, he took his last breath.

That is how Gidget, the hunter turned house cat, came to live with me. She was a wonderful companion for three years and always sweet even at the end. Her companionship helped me heal and not give up on life.

In the last year of Gidget’s life, I found a vet who made house calls for ailing old cats. That was a blessing. For what turned out to be the last couple months of her life, I had to give her fluids intravenously every two weeks. The vet taught me how and supplied me with the necessary equipment and fluids. She hated it but learned it made her feel better, so she endured it. However, there came a day when I could see it wasn’t working as well to relieve her suffering. I held her gently in my arms. With each breath, she seemed to be saying to me, “No more, it’s my time, please let me go.”

I promised her I would. Holding her on my lap, I called the vet. He said to keep her warm and love her. He would come in a couple of hours. As I said, he was a blessing as a vet. Gidget loved to lie with me in bed. So, that’s what we did until the vet arrived. I told her I loved her and kept her warm. At one point, as we cuddled together, she summoned up enough energy to purr her thanks.

The vet came. He examined her gently and said, “It’s her time to go. She has lived longer than most cats.”

“She told me that,” I replied continuing, “and yes, she’s twenty-three.”

He nodded and explained he would administer two shots. The first shot would put her to sleep and take away all pain. I could hold her for up to an hour if I wished after the first shot. Then, he would give the second shot which would quickly end her life.

I listened carefully and when the explanation ended, I asked, “And then what?”

“I will take her body and, as we discussed previously, cremate her, and return her ashes to you within two or three days. I will call you and arrange a time.”

I nodded. I wrapped her in her blanket and sat down in one of her favorite chairs. I murmured to her that she would soon be set free from her sweet old body that had served her well. The vet gave her the first shot. She breathed and slept in my arms. I thanked her for her love and told her I was sure she would see Momma and Pops on the Other Side.

I let my tears and sweet memories flow for a bit. I do not know how much time passed. Finally, I lifted my eyes and met the understanding, compassionate eyes of the vet.

“Now?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

He gave her the second shot.

“I love you, Gidget,” I murmured.

She stopped breathing just as I finished saying her name.

The vet took her from my arms wrapped in her blanket and put her and her blanket in a carrying case he had brought. I watched silently as he gathered everything together, including the equipment I had used to hydrate her, leaving no trace of sickness for me to clean up.

“Thank you,” I managed.

He nodded. “I will call you,” he assured me and left.

I crawled into my bed and let my grief for all my departed loved ones—Burt, Momma, Pops and now Gidget---cascade in tears until I fell asleep knowing I had kept my promises to Pops and to Gidget.

March 04, 2023 01:17

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Brad Heald
01:43 Mar 11, 2023

Hi Julia: I enjoyed Gidget's story, so heartwarming. The tenderness and personal history of Mom and Dad poured from your heart with love. A clear, natural narrative. I felt the emotion and was reminded of our little dog Bije. Holding her in my arms when she died. Our little animal friends our so dear to us. Thank you.


Julia Corliss
04:14 Mar 13, 2023

Dear Brad, Thank you for your comment above. I was encouraged by everything you said and your connection to your loss of Bije touched my heart. I totally agree that "our little animal friends are so dear to us." Best thoughts, Julia


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