We picked up Sophie's ashes yesterday, had a good cry in the car park of the vets, and came home very slowly (under advice of the vet: drive slowly when you're crying!). For now her ashes sit on Martin's bookcase in our bedroom along with a few photos. We'll choose a casket for her ashes to sit in, and we're going to put a couple of memorials in the garden, one in the willow patch and one under the chair on the patio, both places she loved to sleep. She wasn't a pet, she was a good friend who made us laugh, who comforted us, who kept us company especially Martin, and taught us how to love and cherish something outside of ourselves. She leaves a hole that will never be filled.
Sophie actually died on our eighth wedding anniversary, so she'll never be forgotten and we'll raise a glass to her every year. Rather than think it awful for it to happen on that day, we think we're pretty privileged she chose that day and it has solidified her position in our hearts forever.
I can't do anything that involves cleaning up her things yet. The litter tray is still there with her little footprints in it, her pouch is still in the cat basket, her special food is still out on the side with the others, there's clean syringes in the cutlery basket, and there's some fish in the fridge awaiting poaching for her which needs to be thrown out now. All her water dishes are still strewn around the house, and the little bandages I took off her IV wound are on a shelf in the kitchen.
I'm walking round the house looking at everything and remembering all sorts of things she used to do, and getting upset. I spent yesterday morning finding her old cat collar. She wore it for many years and it's in many of the pictures of her. We always knew she was coming because the little bell tinkled as she walked, and our most vivid memory of her is trotting briskly down the garden after us with the little bell tinkling as she went. We took it off because after a decade of wear it made her itch and she lost the fur off her neck, which never grew back. I managed to find her ping pong ball too, trapped under the sofa. She hadn't played with it for many months though because she was too weak. Martin says there is a little metal heart with her name engraved on it somewhere that she also used to wear on her collar so I'll try and find that today.
We are absolutely consumed with guilt that we didn't do enough for her and could have done more to keep her alive longer and made her feel better. As if she read our minds, a card from our vet turned up telling us how sorry she was and that Martin and I couldn't have done any more, we did the best we could, that she was the oldest cat in their practice with renal failure and also who had lived the longest after diagnosis, which was testament to the care we gave her. So it looks like this guilt is normal and vets know this.
We've been swapping all kinds of stories about her since Tuesday. There are some we both remember together, but there are some things we did with her that neither of us knew about that have made us laugh. That's been very cathartic.
My favourite memories have to do with her guest appearances every evening while cooking. The minute I went in the kitchen in the evening she would trot straight up the middle of it towards me in a most determined manner, her eyes fixed on me. Every single evening. She knew dinner usually meant meat or fish and she wanted some. She would get right up next to me and howl until I either hand fed her or put some down on a plate, then howl again once eaten until I gave her more, and so on until she had her fill and would walk away content. Content that was until dinner was served and then she was back with us again, sitting on the edge of the sofa arm attempting to get a paw, and then later in life her whole head, onto our plates. She was the most appalling thief when she wanted something.
The last three months she stopped coming down to stay with us in the evening unless she needed the tray or was hungry, and then she'd come into the living room shouting her head off until she got what she wanted. She preferred to stay in her warm pounch in the quiet upstairs. No more demanding food off me when I was cooking in the evenings or tripping me up as I carried plates around. I kinda of missed her. I used to leave some meat or fish out on the side for her, but usually when presented to her later she felt too unwell to eat more than the odd mouthful.
Then 12 days before she died while Martin was away in Le Mans, she appeared in the kitchen with that steely look again just as the bell went on the halogen oven. I was cooking a whole chicken and she'd smelt it and come down with precision timing. She became so insistent and vocal I had to cut up the chicken there and then and feed it to her by hand, burning my fingers on the boiling hot chicken and blowing on the pieces to get then to cool down quickly before I gave them to her. She scoffed a huge amount and went back upstairs content.
She never did that again.
To think I'm never going to hand feed that little food thief again is heartbreaking.