So I've been sharing the story as it's been unfolding but I know not everyone is on Facebook. On Monday we lost Starfish.
(We're going to print + frame this photo and put it up in our new bedroom when we move in spring/summer)
A few weeks ago I took him to the vet for a check-up since he was an older cat and we'd had him for a year, though he seemed healthy. The vet saw something and tried to intervene but it was too late. It was so strange, the vet was saying Starfish was so sick and yet he was still running around being his happy loving self. Until he wasn't, of course. He took a really sharp turn on Sunday and by Monday he was gone. I'm so glad he was still enjoying his life right until the end.
Monday was brutal.
It was the day the Focus Pocus Creative Support Group started. I had been so excited to start this group and we had a live call happening at 1:00 my time. I thought about canceling - but everyone was ready to start! That seemed sucky. I thought about just pretending - doing the call as my happy self. That seemed wrong. I thought about how life is always happening for us, not to us. And that is this was all happening on the same day then it was all happening on the same day and I could be with all of it. The more I thought about it the more it felt ok, like we're exploring how to stay focused no matter what so - let's do this then, let's figure out how to make space for all of it. So I got on the call and told the truth. I talked about how ironic it was, since I am usually such a focused person, and we were starting the focus group on a day when I was TOTALLY unfocused. And I talked about how it doesn't matter - we're not here to do things perfectly, we're here to keep showing up for our dreams in the midst of the mess of every day life. And everyone offered me love and support. And we started the focus group and it was perfect.
Not that I think Starfish had to die for me to have this lesson to share, of course.
But I thought - maybe a part of me did know something was up and that is the part of me who picked the start date for Focus Pocus? I don't know. At the end of our call, my husband came home. I thought he was just stopping in to check up on Starfish, but he was there to do a ceremony for Starfish, to call on the spirits to meet him, help him not be scared, help send him on to the other side and give him strength for the journey. So we spent those last few hours with Starfish praying for him, thanking him for all the gifts he brought us, telling him how much we love him. And we gathered the medicines into a bundle.
My husband explained that ideally Starfish would be wrapped in this bundle to be cremated, so he would be burned with the medicines so he could use them on the other side. So when we Starfish back to the vet we brought the bundle too, just in case. Starfish actually likes car rides, so for his last ride we didn't put him in his carrier. He went up into the back window and you could see he was wanted to be there look around at the world, while also in a great deal of pain. I guess I want to add - of course I spoke to the vet about all possible solutions. I was hoping we could give him surgery or at least painkillers and he could at least live out his natural life without crying in pain all the time. But since the issue is that he couldn't breath and wasn't eating there just wasn't a way to keep him going. It was his time. We were both in tears at the vet, and Starfish was put to sleep quickly while we petted and kissed him. After, the vet did allow us to wrap him up in his bundle, in four different cloths in the colours of the four directions, and send him off right. We always talked about how we wanted to send him off like that, so that everyone on the other side can see right away that this is a special cat and should be treated like a king. It's been a few days and my husband and I both can't feel Starfish's presence in the house at all. We think that means he went right over. My husband said "Wow that means he can be our spirit guide now"
Nothing makes the grief less painful, we just have to feel our way through it.
But having the Focus Pocus Creative Support Group has really helped me feel like I won't lose the plot in the rest of my life. I am learning to make space for all of it - the shitty things that happen that I have to deal with and the day-to-day details of life AND my dreams. There IS room for everything to co-exist. I always used to worry about this kind of thing as a self-employed person. Like one bad happening could throw me off track so much I could lose my livelihood. I don't worry so much about it anymore, I trust myself to handle life as it happens and make space for everything I need to make space for AND everything I WANT to make space for.
These past few days without Starfish in the house have been so weird and sad.
I'm working out of coffee shops more and more since it's so uncomfortable to be at home without him. I'm always looking for him and re-remembering that he's gone. In the evenings my husband and I look at photos and videos of Starfish and talk about him and cry a lot. I am so grateful that my husband loves Starfish as much as I do, and that I have someone to share my grief with. I just figured out how to use that "live" thing in iPhone photos. I didn't really know what it was but was SO happy to see it means there are a few seconds of video on each photo. So amazing to see Starfish purr and move around on my phone. And looking at those few seconds of video reminded me of a Starfish story I'd forgotten, about one of my favourite photos of him:
When he was lying in bed I would often gather him up and hug him like this, and he would let me do it for a few minutes, then he would get himself free. He was pretty independent and didn't like being held, he liked to sit on people and be petted and always be free to walk away whenever he wanted to. But on this particular day, I was really sick (this is when I had the flu in December). I was lying in bed binge-watching The Vampire Diaries and Starfish snuggled in and stayed there, watching along with me. Such a sweet little thing.
This week I started knitting a Starfish.
I want to make a few of them and leave them in his favourite spots. Little memorials. Weirdly (?) I've also had some amazing creative breakthroughs this week. I have big plans for what I want to do with my work this year and I've been in that fuzzy/messy/unknown stage of the creative process for so long, it's amazing to start to come out of that with clarity and new direction. Maybe Starfish is on the other side, sending these amazing ideas to me.