Just a few years ago, our beloved cat Hank died after a long bout with kidney disease. He had spent 14 years with us and had become an integral part of our lives and work. Shortly after he passed on, we brought Vincent and Theo, two young kittens into our lives. I’ve always considered Vincent and Theo my “business partners”. They hang out in the office with me and keep me motivated, amused and calm during the most trying of situations.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck last Friday when Theo, seemingly healthy and so lively, died suddenly at age 3. Writing about Theo is difficult; it means that I have to admit that he died, that he’s gone and that he doesn’t live with us anymore. In other words, I have to trick my mind into believing the unpleasant truth, and start moving painfully ahead with the healing process.
We don’t know when we’re going to die, or when anything or anyone in our lives will die. But we still go into life and into relationships with expectations that they will last for a long time. They call it “life expectancy” for a reason. Theo unfortunately did not meet expectations. Though he exceeded expectations in love, exuberance, agility and beauty, he fell short, so short, way too short on longevity.
So much of my enjoyment of every day came from watching Theo, or watching Theo and Vincent together. Theo’s energy and appetite for playtime was relentless, and he often pestered me for hours in anticipation of a play session with his favorite wand toy. He could leap almost 4 feet in the air to catch it, twisting his body and landing gracefully. He felt and appeared weightless, balancing himself on top of the stair railing or whatever high perch presented itself. For Theo, life was to be experienced as an extreme sport. Even when he would head-butt me in affection, it was a full on blow to my chin, no helmet, going for full contact.
If our office had a class clown, Theo would have been the appointed one, hands down.He made us laugh so many times with his crazy poses, his ability to put himself inside just about any bag, box or container, the way he wrapped himself around his brother Vincent, and his hilarious sleeping positions.
When Theo wanted attention, he demanded it and got it, no matter what. He would take no attention that was divided. Attention meant being the center of attention, even if that meant blocking the computer screen, the newspaper, a meal, or whatever else might be in the way. When it was time to wrap up the day and collapse on the couch, Theo would instantly leap to my lap and curl up within a nano-second, as if he’d been waiting all day for “our” time together.
Maybe it was because he threw himself into life so fully, but for whatever reason Theo was as intense a sleeper as he was an athlete. He loved to sleep in the spare bedroom, buried deep beneath the covers where no one could find him or disturb him. At night, he would burrow himself between my knees and his tiny body would become an unmovable weight; it would sometimes take four or five tries for me to rouse him if I wanted to turn over. When he finally woke and let me adjust my position, he would usually take the opportunity to come up and perch on my chest briefly, his rhythmic purr soothing me back to sleep.
One of the hardest things about losing Theo is that he was part of an inseparable pair. He and his brother Vincent had never known life without one another. Now, I watch Vincent carrying on with life, still following the routine he had with his brother. When I put the food dish down, Vincent waits (Theo always got to eat first). When he sits with me on the couch, he sits by my side, not on my lap (Theo always got the lap). In these ways, Theo is still here and maybe always will be.
It is so, so hard to think about not being able to touch Theo’s glossy white fur, look into his gorgeous blue eyes, or stroke his soft, pink feet anymore. While losing any animal is heartbreaking, I have found myself totally unprepared for the pain of seeing such a vibrant, healthy life cut short so suddenly and unexpectedly. The whole rhythm of our family and work life is disrupted, no longer the well-oiled machine. It still runs, but with a limp that reminds us at every other step that things are not the way they used to be, and that they never will be the same again.
Theo, we love you and we miss you. I hope that wherever you are, that you are too busy playing, climbing and exploring to be sad, but not too busy to remember the joy that you brought and left behind.