December 9, 2011
My dearest, darling Betty,
Two days ago Mom found you in an eternal sleep on her bedroom floor. You had been feeling kind of sick for a few months, but I didn’t realize it was so bad. Betty dear, I want to tell you how much you have meant to me – what a magical presence you have been in my life. I do think that if anyone knew how important you were to me it is you – I really hope you did know, and wherever you are, you still know. I don’t know if anyone else would be able to understand completely what you meant to me, nor can I really put it into words. My love for you was magical, almost religious, and I find those things to be beyond language to me, but I want to try to put it into words so that I can put this letter into your box with you when we bury your beloved, beautiful body in the backyard in your quilt.
We got you from Emmy’s friend Maeve in 1999. She told us that her grandmother had found you under her porch with your kittens. I bet you were a wonderful Mama. Maeve also told us that she used to drop acid and then hallucinate that you were a psychedelic serpent crawling around under her sheets. We thought that was funny because you are so un-serpent like.
Betty baby, when we first met each other I was seventeen years old. I was a high school drop-out and I had terrible panic attacks and agoraphobia and I was dating a twenty seven year old homeless guy. I remember this because I was out with him the night you and I met. I came home around 9 or 10 and you were still exploring your new home, but I met you in mom’s room and we both agreed that you were wonderful. Then you walked around the house familiarizing yourself while I watched tv. Eventually you came into the dining room. I looked at you from across the room and you looked at me, and I think at that moment there was a mutual recognition that we were soul mates. You raised your tail in your signature question mark position, and then you came to me and we had a major love session.
I had always loved cats so much, but I had never loved a cat as much as I loved you. I felt a personal responsibility for and ownership of you, as I think you did for me. I felt I was your mother, but I sometimes wondered if in a past life you were my mother because you loved me so much.
Betty, you helped me learn how to love. Not just cats but also people. My love for you will make me a better mother and I will think of you on the day I have kids. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for coming into my life. You made me a much better person. You connected me to my inner animal and taught me how to love selflessly. You taught me how to never rustle plastic bags because the noise scared you.
Shortly after you came I finished high school through correspondence courses. You helped to achieve what I have in so many little ways. It was at this point that I developed my love of reading. There is a picture of me reading Hamlet for one of my last classes and you are cuddled up right beside me. I also took a creative writing class where I started being interested in writing, and learned to respect my own ability. The first story I wrote was about you Betty – about how beautiful you were and what a presence you had in my life.
You were with me through coming out – on my first date with a girl I was doodling your name with hearts around it on a napkin, and she thought I must already have a girlfriend. When I explained the situation, I think she liked me more because I loved you so much.
You were there with me through getting into university. You were right there on my bed cuddling with me under my electric blanket when broke by heart for the first time and started doing drugs. You were right there on my bed cuddling with me when I suffered and struggled and wanted to die, but all through it I knew one thing – you were good and I loved you – this has always helped me carry on.
Whenever I got home from being out partying, it was as though you could sense who it was coming up the stairs, even if you were in a deep sleep on the second floor. You would coming running down the stairs with your tail up and then throw yourself down on the front hall rug for me to pet you. So many times I came home drunk and lay down on the floor beside you, petting you and telling you all about my problems, and you were the only one who understood everything and also didn’t care that I was a huge mess. Betty, I love you so much.
When I went to rehab I am not ashamed to say I missed you more than anyone. I had never been away from you before and I realized more than ever what a comfort you were to me. When I was scared and lonely and couldn’t sleep at night there I would imagine you were there on the bed with me for comfort. When I came home for a visit after three weeks I was so nervous to see my parents but so excited to see you.
When I came home from rehab I worked hard to get myself together, and you were right there supporting and loving me and being beautiful. I felt so bad for you that you had to accept Brenda into your life, and although I love Brenda I could never love her or any other cat the way I love you Betty. I know it was hard for you to live with Brenda, and you would beat her up and spray the house and hide in the basement. I would go down and hang out in the basement to keep you company. I would never chastise you for beating up Brenda even though it was kind of naughty and I always took your side when Mom and I would debate your feud with her.
I think you got more accustomed to living with Brenda, although you always hated her. At 25 I decided for the sake of my growth that I had to move out of the rents house. Betty, you were the one that it was hardest to leave. You are the reason why I lived at home for so long. Although I would miss my mom and dad so much, I could talk to them on the phone. I was so afraid that you would be sad or mad at me for leaving, or you would forget about me.
You accustomed yourself to living without me very well. You were an emotionally strong, extremely intelligent and deep feeling cat but you knew how to take care of yourself, and you settled down to a different lifestyle, demanding more love from mom and dad that they were happy to give.
You got into a good routine with Mom and Dad, and I am so grateful for you for giving them comfort and company and love when I wasn’t there to do so. Whenever you heard them bring out the toaster, you would come running up because you knew you would get butter. Whenever mom sat at her chair at the kitchen table you would cutely look up at her, waiting for her to tap her lap to show you that you could jump up. Then you would purr while she combed you. You helped dad maintain a routine after he retired by keeping him on a regular feeding and treats schedule. Even though you were so smart, you would always play along like you thought it was a ferocious snake when we dragged a shoelace around the hallway for you.
After I moved out I would visit as often as I could – many times it was every week – and instead of snubbing me or forgetting me, you would rejoice in seeing me again. It was so evident that you remembered me and that I was still your favorite, special person. That made me realize how strong and real our bond was on your side as well as mine. Every time I would come home you would be so psyched to see me and so lovey and purring, and then you would sleep in my bed with me every night I was home, showing me that although you loved my rents so much, you would always pick me given the choice. How much this meant to me, Betty!
I can’t believe you could remember me so well – sometimes after stretches of months after I moved to Toronto! It really showed me how smart and sensitive animals are.
We continued our long-distance love affair, and I became increasingly obsessed with cats in general. I started a blog about the cats in my neighbourhood and I think this was just because I missed you so much, I was trying to connect to you through other cats.
Betty, when my parents had their house broken into and were attacked in 2011 I felt my sense of reality shatter a bit. I couldn’t believe that such a thing could happen and that the institutions that were put in place to help victims were so ramshackle, bumbling and inept. I felt that my whole childhood, everything I believed about safety and human goodness was thrown into question. I was devastated and horrified and confused, and actually felt sort of on the edge of insanity one night. At a moment when I felt like I was about to crack up, and was questioning whether the world was all just chaotic evil, you jumped up on my bed, asked for pats, and purred your little heart out. You gave me the most powerfully loving, beautiful look, right into my eyes, and I knew that even though everything else had been thrown into question, I could whole-heartedly hold on to one thing – that you, Betty, were good – and not because society tells you to be or because you get something back from being a good, loving, beautiful creature, but because you just are that way, you were born with a capacity for goodness and love and nothing could change that.
I grasped on to that fact to stabilize myself, and I quickly re-built my sense of reality around the central, undeniable, unimpeachable concept of your goodness. I will always keep you, your cosmic beauty and loveliness and our connection at the foundation of my spirituality. Betty, for a lack of better words to express it, you are my angel, you blessed and enriched my life so much and if you are not proof of the existence of God, I don’t know what is.
Betty, you’ve saved my life so many times. One of the last times I was home I kind of saved yours. Or maybe you stayed alive for my sake. It was the first time you got sick, and you had been hiding in the basement all day. I kept going down to check on you and you weren’t yourself. Even though you were so sick you are so nice you still purred when I pet you, but you weren’t yourself. You were crouching in a pained looking little loaf and your eyes were dilated and staring. You weren’t eating much and I kept trying to make you drink water, which you did like such a good girl, but something was wrong. Later that day we couldn’t find you anywhere.
This was on thanksgiving 2011, and while we were trying to enjoy ourselves I just couldn’t hide how worried I was. I knew you were getting older (you were 14 now), but I really didn’t want you to just disappear. When we said what we were thankful for we all gave thanks for you. Later at night after dark I brought a flash light outside and scoured every inch of our front and back yard for you. I finally found you crouched and scared under the porch. You were so sick and scared you seemed like a different cat. You still registered your love and recognition of me, but I could tell you were in a different place. I comfort myself with thinking that when you were in pain you were able to mentally and emotionally go to a different place where you wouldn’t suffer as acutely as you would if all of your sensitive nature was fully switched on.
I was so sad and scared to see you this way I sobbed and sobbed. I pushed a saucer of water and food under the porch for you, and you ate Luvs from my hand. I’ll never forget how cute that felt. You wouldn’t come inside so I asked Kevin to keep Fella in to let you recover in peace. I was so afraid I was going to lose you that night. Early the next morning I ran outside and lied down in the dirt to try to see you, and called your name and heard your little meow in answer to me: you were up on the porch and although you were dirty and hungry you were my same Betty again! You ate and drank and let me pet you, and you stayed close to me for the rest of my visit, purring extra hard. I noticed that you slept on the rug beside my bed instead of on my bed now, but you still purred just because you were close to me. I took you to the vet a few days later because you still seemed a little sick. You hated going to the vet so much and I hated putting you through it. The vet said that you had an extremely high white blood cell count, but she couldn’t say for sure what was the trouble.
You seemed a little better after that, so I went back to Toronto. I visited one last time and the first night I came home you got into bed with me and I pet you for probably six hours and you purred the whole time and gave me such sweet love looks. This visit was our last goodbye baby.
Although your nose became a little less pink in your final years, you always kept your coat immaculately clean and were extremely affectionate and often very playful until the end of your days. On December 7th, 2011 you ate breakfast, you had your butter from mom and your Luvs from dad. Then when my mom lay down in the afternoon you slept with her, up beside her head and purred the whole time. When my mom got up she left you sleeping in a little loaf at the foot of her bed.
When she came back into the room she found you on the floor, lying on your side. Your eyes were open, but you weren’t breathing and there was no heart beat. I am crying so hard now as I write this but I am only sad for myself for losing you. I am truly thankful that I don’t have to feel sad for you. You were only unwell for a short period of time – you didn’t suffer or waste away or have a lot of unhappy vet visits or operations. I think that you would have wanted it to end the way it did. I am very sad for myself and for my family that we have lost you, but Betty I am so thankful that we had you and you had us. I will never forget you. I don’t see now how I will ever be able to love a cat the way I loved you. You will live inside my heart until I die, and I hope that we meet again when I do. I believe that you have a piece of me too that you’ll carry with you into eternity, and that piece is yours – you created it within me and it was one of the best parts of me.
Tomorrow I am going to bury you with the family in the backyard where you lived for 11 years. You are wrapped in a quilt that mom made, which you loved to sleep on, and I’m going to include this letter and a lock of my hair so that a physical piece of me will always be with you forever.
Betty, thank you for being in my life. You took care of me and my family as well as we took care of you. I’ll never forget you baby, or how soft your fur was, or how sweet your purr sounded, or the feeling of kissing your dear head. I love you forever. Rest in Peace my beautiful friend, companion, love, daughter, mother, life-partner, soul-mate, familiar and cat.
With eternal love and blessings with all my heart,