We lost our cat, Desmond, on Friday morning, June 14. He was my buddy.
Karlie and I brought him home along with his brother, Hugo, two weeks after our honeymoon. For 9 years he has been part of our life together and now he’s gone.
I’ve never lost a pet before, so this is new territory for me, and I apologize in advance for my disorientation and uncertainty. I think Desmond was the first animal I truly loved. I’m not sure what I expected when we added two kittens to our home, but I certainly didn’t expect the end to be this hard.
Des was my shadow. My helper. My sidekick. Wherever I went, he followed diligently. Hours and hours of reading with him on my lap. We would build IKEA furniture together (his “helping” consisted of sitting on the instructions and climbing on the finished product). Sometimes I’d lean back on the couch and discover he’d nestled himself in the space behind my back or on top of the cushion behind my head and I’d startle us both. He was just always there next to me.
We even had a nightly routine. He would sit with me as I read late into the night, then he’d follow me upstairs, watch me brush my teeth and take out my contacts, wait patiently for me to get under the covers then saunter up slowly from the end of the bed to lay down by me. He slept curled up like a football under my right arm, propped up on my chest. I became so used to him that I wouldn’t sleep very well without him there. Sometimes I‘d wake up in the night to discover he’d wandered off, so I’d get up, search the house and bring him back to bed so I could calm down enough to fall asleep. Same routine. Nine years.
I’m struggling to understand that he’s gone. Even these paragraphs waver between past and present tense because I’m not totally sure which to use. I’m not fully ready to accept it. It was so sudden and unexpected, and I’m surprised at how emotional I am about losing him.
I’m sure this all comes across a bit ridiculous. My head says, “he’s just a cat,” but my heart won’t let me stay there. It’s weird. Plus, I feel guilty and a bit pitiful because in many ways this is the closest death has come to me personally. Embarrassing to admit, but it’s true.
I’m also stuck trying to figure out what I believe about animals and heaven. I believe in the ultimate restoration of all things, and that all of creation is infused with and reflects the Divine. I also know I experienced love, joy, peace, etc. from Desmond, but my human-centric soteriological upbringing has me confused on whether I’ll ever see my buddy again.
I know I want to see him again. I was out of town when he died, so I didn’t get to say goodbye. I left and he was home, came back a week later and he wasn’t. I don’t even know the last thing I said to him or the last time I saw him. Do I just want closure? Or is there something deeper and more existential going on? Do I just want to see Desmond to say goodbye or do I want to see him because in my bones I believe cats will be resurrected in the end as well? Are there animals in heaven? I’ve never really truthfully considered it because it’s never directly effected me.
St. Francis of Assisi used to preach to animals and plants. He referred to things as Sister Tree, Brother Dog, Sister Moon, Brother Fox, Sister Cow and so forth. The de-centralization of humanity was part of his ministry and legacy, but that wasn’t his goal. That’s just how he saw the world. He knew in his bones that all things reflected the Divine. His ecological understanding was far wider and inclusive than ours today, especially in our individualized Western church and culture, and his praxis reflected that worldview.
Look, I don’t know if heaven is full of animals, but I really hope so. I’m sure there’s a theology out there that comfortably fits what I hope, and I’m sure I could convince myself of its truth and live with that assurance and comfort. And I suppose that’s the point: to hope — to believe in my heart that Desmond and I will see one another again despite how silly and unlikely and unclear it is. His little life was so valuable. It’s strange to say, but he was Christ to me, and it’s disorienting and unsettling to be without his presence now.
Welcome to my grieving process. All caught up in my head trying to figure out what everything means. Gotta get on top of my feelings so I can control the uncontrollable.
Desmond was named after the LOST character by the same name, and if you know your LOST, you know Desmond is the central character in arguably the greatest TV episode ever: “The Constant.” And my buddy was so constant. I took his presence for granted. In fact, now I feel a lack, a void, without him near me. Our home doesn’t feel complete.
LOST’s Desmond also had a bit of a catchphrase: See you in another life, brother.
And, as cheesy as it sounds, that’s what I want to say to my Desmond. But I wish I could say it with confidence. It’s the same message I want to hear from Desmond too. It’s what I want to know in my heart to be true – that I’ll see him again. It’s the heaven I need to believe in and a reflection of the God in whom I place my hope. But for now, all I can do is choose to believe it and live accordingly. I think I believe it. At least, I want to.
Regardless of the future, the infinite, the eschatological…right now, I just miss my buddy. He should be here while I type and he’s not. I can feel where he would be. The space next to me aches like a missing appendage or something. It hurts. It throbs. I suppose it’ll just feel like that for a long time.
We love you, Des. You made our home happier and fuller. You brought us joy and love, peace and comfort. We miss you.
I wish I’d gotten to say goodbye and hold you one more time before you left us. I’m thankful for the years you spent next me.
See you in another life, brother.