Torturing Myself

Some day in the next few weeks, in a more substantial way, I will thank everyone for all your support. Right now, I’m just sitting the couch watching the news, it’s all I can manage.

Today is as bad as yesterday, just a different kind of bad. Now it’s the undramatic ache of life without the creature I loved so much, enjoyed having around so much. He’s gone. Gone. We would have had a million different interactions between waking up this morning and now, and all of that is over.

I just sit here, unhappy, going over what I could have done better, opportunities lost. I’m remembering feeling so happy on Sunday, after taking Buddy to the oncologist. I had hope. I’m remembering the last time I felt over-joyed, when Buddy was eating with gusto.

It feels so much worse than the last time I lost a cat. Do we just get less resilient as we get older, or is it me?

I feel bad when people tell me someday I will just remember the good times. Because when I do that about Beams and Veets, for instance, I just feel sad and miss them. The sadness doesn’t hurt as much, but for me, it’s not like someday I will be okay about this. (Did I already post about this? Am I repeating myself now?)

I tortured myself for hours last night. Buddy had come to me yesterday morning around 5:30 for pets and to curl up. It was out of the blue because he has been hiding out and staying to himself (which helped confirm that it was time). I pet him but I hadn’t slept in days and I fell back asleep. It was my last chance, basically and I felt like I wasn’t there for him. I let him down.

Then, I couldn’t tell if he wanted me around him yesterday morning, he was back to hiding out. So I sat with him for some of the time, and some of the time not. Now I’m feeling like I should have stayed with him, talked to him, etc., etc., etc. That was also my last chance, my last morning with him.

I thought I might feel better posting about this, but now I just feel insane.

PS: I really really appreciate your comments, but I know that sometimes it’s hard to come up with things to say. What is there to say? It sucks. So please don’t feel compelled to comment. I understand.

I was feeding Buddy every 2 – 3 hours this last week. He preferred to hide out in the bedroom, but it was too hard and traumatic getting him out of his hiding spot each time, so I made him this hiding annex in the living room.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

17 thoughts on “Torturing Myself

  1. Hi Stacy,
    I thought about communicating this to you privately, but decided to go ahead and characterize myself as outrageous here.

    My experience suggests that you should not anticipate Buddy’s possible visit immediately after losing the physical vehicle.

    In our case, it was 3 or 4 days afterwards. And then he hung around for a week or two.

    It’s hard to know whether we were simply too overcome with grief to notice his presence, or whether he required some time to become strong enough to make us notice.

    It wasn’t an ectoplasmic manifestation. I’ve seen you on YouTube with pictures of mediums manifesting ectoplasm. Our cat’s presence was not like that, and you can’t really expect Buddy to actually create a visual manifestation.

    It was more like the phantom limb syndrome. You have read about people losing a leg, but still feeling that the leg was unmistakably there.

    Our cat’s presence was more like that. Something just beneath the visible spectrum. Almost trembling on the brink of being visible.

    When he was on my shoulder, I could feel his contours and his ‘weight’, unmistakably.

    So if Buddy pays a visit, you will definitely know that it is Buddy and not some other ghostly creature. There was absolutely nothing frightening about our cat’s visit. So you shouldn’t be concerned about becoming alarmed. He was happy to be visiting us, and we were happy to have him.

    My wife and I both started mentioning to each other that we were having some fairly vivid effects at the same time. In other words, we both started to notice him frankly because he was running around our abode and saying hello and he was happy.

    Now we have moved several times since then, and we always keep his saucer openly displayed wherever we go. Our feeling is that should he ever wish to visit again, he is always welcome. I noticed that just a few days ago my wife put some kitty treats on our cat’s old saucer.

    We have had too many experiences with the spirit world to have any doubts about the continued life of all us physical entities after we lose the physical vehicle.

    The esotericists would say that our cat was lingering for a while in the “vehicle of vitality.” It is that vehicle that you feel when you go down in an elevator and it feels like it’s rising up. It’s regarded as a semi-physical part of ourselves that is a bridge between the physical vehicle and more refined vehicles.

    Sometimes a cat, like a person, will hang around for a while to reassure their loved ones that they are happy and feeling great. A lot of people show up at their own funerals.

    Then they ease out of the “vehicle of vitality” and move over into that region of the collective unconscious known as the astral plane. It is here that cats will have a very paradaisical experience. After the physical vehicle and the vehicle of vitality have been shed, they are no longer subject to the vexations of the food chain.

    In their post-mortem state all of the need to fight, survive, eat or be eaten has been removed, and they dwell in very beautiful natural-like settings animated by an all-pervasive inner light. (This is actually the same light that illuminates dreams. You know, there would be no visible images in the dream state were it not for an inner light.)

    So anyhoo, you could keep some flowers around in your apartment, because that helps give a more vivid display. The cat draws some energy from the flowers.

    Whether Buddy decides to come and visit or not is impossible to know for sure. But he was there with you and Finney for a long time, and his sense of place would guide him back as he gradually acclimated to his new conditions.

    So it is possible that he will make an appearance a few days or a week down the road. Of course you would have to notice, and you can’t be so burdened with grief that your sensitivities are obscured.

    If he shows up, it would be great if you would let us know.

  2. That hiding annex – just one example of the fact that you did everything you could for Buddy.

  3. “What is there to say? It sucks.” That pretty much sums it up. It just really, really sucks. I chose to spend my life with a family of cats, and now they’re all getting older. I’m losing them one by one. My oldest, a 15-year-old Siamese girl named Jesse, started drinking excessively last night, so today I’ve been in absolute terror. Wish I could be one of those who says, “You’ll look back and just remember the good times,” but like you, it’s just the unbearable agony. Cat-shaped holes in my heart. I don’t know that it ever really gets better.
    My heart breaks for you, Stacy. Like so many others, I got to know and love Buddy through your book and your posts. How do we do this? The regrets (I still think back to what I could have done/should have done for my boys I lost – two from intestinal lymphoma). The grief. I just don’t know. Like Joss Whedon said, “I haven’t really found any lessons in death other than, ‘I wish it wouldn’t.'”

  4. Stacy, what Greg said is absolutely true!

    Miss Mouse stayed around (mostly in the dining room where her favorite chair was) for about a week afterwards. I would catch her just out of the corner of my eye, but as soon as I turned my head, she was gone. And that has been true of all who have left me in the past. Sometimes I would feel them jump on my bed and curl up for a second by my leg before they left. Sometimes I would see them go around the corner of the room. And then slowly, they would be gone.

    Billy came back a year to the day after he left me physically. I didn’t realize it until I looked at the jar holding his ashes on the bookcase.

    So, if you look out of the corner of your eye, I bet you’ll see Buddy.

  5. No, it doesn’t get easier because every time you loose one of these wonderful creatures it just adds to the roll call you do when the time comes again (and there will be a next time because what else are we going to do but sign up for this heartache again and again?) to mourn another passing.

    Once in a while I get a visit from one of my boys in a dream. I never know that it’s coming, until I get to the part of the dream where suddenly I find my sweet boy in the least likely place (once, I spotted my Woody while I was flying over Africa, once I found him down in the gym in my old junior high) and I always exclaim, “So THIS is where you’ve been!” Oh, my joy is so vivid, so obliterating, and I pick him up in my arms and he’s all there, his heft and smell and purr, and I carry him home and I tell him to never go away again, and we seem set to spend the rest of our lives together.

    When I wake up I am convinced he has visited me, and we were together again, and I am serene with the fact that I don’t actually have access to him in this life. It lasts a long time, that peace.

    Mourning Buddy feels the worst it’s going to feel right now. it will never feel “better”, but it WILL feel less haunting. You learn to go around with that hole in your heart, and you get used to it, but you never feel “better’ about it. But you WILL one day be at peace with the love and care you gave Buddy, and know that he knew.

  6. I remember those first few days after my dog Bobby died, when my heart was breaking and I knew time was the only thing that would ease the sorrow. And yet, I couldn’t bear the hours and days passing taking me further and further away from the time when she was alive. It’s been years now, and I still tear up when I talk about her. May be silly to some, but I’m no longer embarrassed by those tears. To me they are a little thread of connection to her. An ongoing expression of how much we loved each other.

  7. Okay, I’m probably going to say something controversial…but first, Buddy was a very, very special kitty. I KNOW you loved him, and lots of us out here also loved him due to your pictures/posts. Grief (as I learned when my late husband died) is always different for every individual.

    Here’s the controversial part: I’ve always found that “adopting” another kitty and/or dog helps me with the grief of losing one. No, they can NEVER be replaced…but when I look at all the beautiful, sweet, deserving pets on I realize that my heart will mend faster if I have another lost, needy pet to love and cherish.

    That’s just me. Of course, I do have 3 resident indoor cats and 6 outside cats. Two dogs and, oh, my niece’s dog who comes here (from 2 blocks away) every day the kids aren’t home.

    Take care and know that others are thinking of you today.

  8. Following your cat-butler chronicles, I can’t imagine that Buddy could have had a more faithful friend than you. He’s at peace now, and you can rest. Fall is coming soon; the world is ever-new. When it’s time, rescue a cat (or some other good works, as you so often do) in his memory.

  9. Growing up, I was never allowed to have a “real pet” (although I did get attached to a couple of turtles and goldfish), so almost the first thing I did when I left the Midwest and moved to California and had my first apartment was to get a cat…a wonderful and spirited Siamese kitten who knew he was the most magnificent creature in the world. In the fifty years since, I’ve never been without cat roommates…all memorable and of differing personalities, and equally endearing to me. Needless to say, I’ve had to say goodbye many times and been heartbroken and mourned their passings desperately and haven’t forgotten them, but somehow there’s a bravery that I’ve found to risk giving that unconditional love to another. After reading “Waiting for my Cats to Die” quite some time ago, I know that you’ll have that courage too. I hope you’ll be patient with yourself and not deny your feelings of profound sadness…I guess it’s all a part of loving someone so much when they’re gone. Thinking of you Stacy.

  10. You’re exhausted, numb and in despair. Maybe try to work on the exhausted part for a start? There really are no words to ease your pain and as you said, it just really sucks big time that we have to go through these intense and heartbreaking losses. But, I do have to say, that I wish there was a like button for all of the caring, thoughtful and insightful posts on here! And, by the way, you are so not insane.

  11. Stacy, you are the BEST person a cat could ever hope to have! You did absolutely right by Buddy, even if you don’t feel you did. Reading how you cared, watched, hydrated, comforted, nourished and loved him, it’s obvious he was a lucky, lucky boy. Whatever sad gene he inherited that marked him for a shorter life than he deserved, you gave him the best life a kitty could hope for.

    Doing right by him: It’s the hardest thing in the world to know when to finally let them go, but you did your best to find the right time, and it sounds like you did. He had a little rally, just enough to share a sweet moment with you. That you were there, awake or asleep, was his comfort. You did fine.

  12. In Japanese Buddhist teaching they say souls stay in this world for 49 days after physical death. During this period, we read mantra and pray. Bhudda’s teaching says this world is hollow except our minds. we read this mantra to the dead and to ourselves for 49days.Pray the pet souls can go to next stage so the would not go hell or reincarnate as devils. THey can be cats again,or if really good can be humans.
    Count 49 days. Try to convince Buddy that he can proceed because you are alright. It helps us to deal with death here.

  13. I didn’t think there was anything to be said, but all of you managed to find meaningful, important and helpful things to say.

    I’m still a wreck. Yesterday, I cried and cried when I came home after doing the laundry because it was like I’d washed away traces of Buddy. I felt like I’d betrayed him.

    Sayaka, the mantra I should recite it this: this world is hollow except our minds?

    I am a firm firm believer in getting another cat when your cat dies, but when my previous cat Veets died and I got Buddy, it was great for me, but not for Beamers, the remaining cat. He was an older cat, and I could tell he was miserable about having the kitten around. Then, Beamers died about six months later and I felt terrible about making his last months miserable. I will never forget thinking that he might have liked to have me all to himself.

    I feel like I’m in the exact same position now. Finney, the current remaining cat, is old. I think he’s always wanted to be the only cat. So I think this time I won’t get another cat.

  14. By the way, if I don’t respond to every comment personally it’s not because I haven’t read and been comforted by them. I have.

    Greg: I bought flowers for Buddy, even though I don’t believe in life after death. What the hell. I’m wrong about a lot of things.

    Nora: Thanks for pointing that out about my annex, it helped to remember I gave him that comfort.

    Stacie: I’m sure your vet knows what to do, but drinking excessively could be a bunch of things that are treatable (like diabetes). Even if it’s something with the kidneys, I kept my cat Beamers going for years with sub-q fluids. It’s like at-home dialysis.

    Karen: I did see Buddy for a split second and then had an anxiety attack that I was losing my mind (I don’t believe in life after death)!

    Vivian: Yes, another hole in my heart. Since the feelings are still raw all I can think about is my heart has too many holes.

    Nadine: I figured you would relate to my crying abut doing the laundry.

    Cara: You are definitely a great example of how to deal with loss and open your heart to more love.

    Lucinda: I wish wish wish I could believe he’s at rest. He just feels gone. No more. But I agree other good works is the way to heal, perhaps the only way.

    Mavis: I was thinking of getting a siamese some day. Buddy was more vocal and present than cats I’ve had in the past, which was why I became so attached I think. So I thought I should keep going in that direction.

    Betsy: Thank you for saying I’m not insane. And I agree about all the posts in here.

    Kathy: Thanks for pointing out that I was there for him, even in sleep. That hadn’t occurred to me, but sleeping curled up to me was part of what he loved and needed too.


  15. This is English translation ofHanyasingyo,
    the most popular mantra in Japan.
    Its not friendly or peaceful.

    But it sure helps us to face the world.

    Kanjizai Bosatu,

    Who freely perceives all things, practicing the perfect wisdom, cast the light of perception on the five elements that compose all worldsand saw that they are all emptiness, and thus overcame all afflictions and disasters, and spoke: O Sharishi, form is none other than emptiness, emptiness is none other than form. Form – it is, in fact, emptiness. Emptiness – it is, in fact, form. To sense, to imagine, to will, to conceive – they too are all like this. Thus, Sharisi, all these are, in character, emptiness.

  16. continues

    They are not mere things that appear or disappear. Nor are they things impure or pure. Nor do they merely increase or decrease. And so, within that emptiness, there is no form, there is no sensing, no imagining, no willing, no conceiving. There are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind. There are no sights, no sounds, no smells, no tastes, no objects felt, no realms conceived. There are no worlds, from “there is no worlds of eyes ” to ” there is no worlds conceived by mind.” There are no twelve causes of pain, from “there is no ignorance, and there is no extinction of ignorance ” to ” there is no decay and death, and there is no extinction of decay and death.
    There are no four truths – of pain of desire that is the origin of pain, of the obliteration of that desire, of the pain to that obliteration. There is no enlightenment, and there is no attaining of enlightenment, because there is no attaining of enlightenment. Because one who quests for enlightenment, relies on the Perfect Wisdom, his hearts is free from obstacles. Because he is free from obstacles he has no fear. Released from all inverted thought and dreamlike delusion, he enters into the ultimate Nirvana.
    All Buddhas, all awakened beings of past, present and future, relying on the Perfect Wisdom, attain the supremely correct, universal wisdom, and thus realize that the great mantra. the great mantra of enlightenment, is the peerless mantra, the mantra beyond compare. It can relieves all suffering. It is true, it is not mistaken. And so he chants the mantra of Perfect Wisdom. Thus does he chant : GYATEI GYATEI HRAGYATEI HARASOUGYATEI BOJISOWAKA HANNYA SHINGYO.


  17. Wow, thank you for typing that all out. I’m going to have to study that in order to understand it, I don’t at the moment.

    But I want the truth, even if it’s not peaceful or friendly. I appreciate when people try to give comfort with stories that can’t possibly be true, and they actually do help in their way, but ultimately I want to find a way to live with the truth.

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