John Ostrander: The Strange Gift of Micah
The columns here on ComicMix usually are about some aspect of pop culture. I’m not doing that this week. I need to do this instead.
Years ago, my late wife, Kim Yale, and I owned a French bulldog. He was named Yoda because of his outsized ears and Kim especially doted on him. He died suddenly, choking on some food while we were not there, and Kim took it hard.
We went to a grief counselor specializing in pet bereavement. She told us something that has remained with me, a concept I refer to as a “strange gift.” A strange gift is when you receive something of value, some insight or understanding, under circumstances that you would just as soon avoided. It’s there if you are open to it and willing to see.
I’ve had cause to revisit that concept this week. My cat, Micah, died. We found out he had lymphoma two months ago. With medication, he was able to have a mostly normal life although we knew it was borrowed time.
It was always borrowed time with Micah. When we took him home as a kitten he became really sick, so sick I really didn’t think he would make it. However, nobody gave him the memo about dying. Thanks to our vet at the time, he pulled through.
Micah loved both me and Mary but she and I both knew I was his human. He was my buddy, he was my pal. He liked just being near me. He was playful, he was funny, he was smart, he was sometimes goofy. He was full of life, a bright spirit, and he loved being alive.
About a week ago, he went into serious decline. He stopped eating and drinking and he retreated to the basement most of the time. He lost control of his bladder and his hind legs were giving out on him. It was time.
At the vet, Mary and I stayed with him through the end. I wanted him not to be scared as he passed. We both talked to him and petted him. Mary said he was smiling and I know he was looking at me when the end came. Yes, I cried and I’m crying a bit as I write this.
“It was just a cat,” some people may think. True, but he was my companion. He was important to my life.
There are other people who have it much harder than me right now. I know that. Sometimes I don’t know how they handle it but, then again, many people told me they didn’t know how I handled it through Kim’s illness and death. I don’t know, either; I just did it.
So – what was the strange gift that Micah’s death gave me? What insight did I receive? It’s a little soon; more thoughts will come to me, I hope, as time flows past. However, there is this – I know now that love matters right to the end. To his last breath, Micah knew I loved him and he loved me, too. That made it all bearable.
That’s what I know. The purpose of this column is to share what I know. I hope it’s of some use to you.
My condolences John.
And never listen to people who say, “It was just a cat.” Or a dog. Or any pet that you love. Who or what we chose to love is all that is important.
Many years ago i had to take a cat who had been with me for years in to be euthanised. He was fading fast from what appeared to be pancreas failure.
Afterward, talking about it on rec.arts.sf-fandom, i mused “They give us so much and they ask so little in return – just a piece of your soul.”