There's an empty spot in front of our fireplace tonight. And when I walked in the back door today after work, the jingle bell that hangs on the handle made its usual noise, but no one came to greet me.
We lost our cat, Maggie, last week. She died in Mark's arms after a recurrence of her mammary cancer made her health and vitality rapidly deteriorate. She was a very sick little cat, and we are grateful her suffering was short-lived. Mark buried her at my grandparents' house, on land that is special to us, where many other beloved family animals have been buried.
I won't ever forget the day that it happened or the raw sadness and grief that overwhelmed me in a way I hadn't expected. This was the first time I ever really lost a pet, having not grown up with cats or dogs. I'd only ever had two hamsters and some random goldfish, which just isn't the same.
But what becomes more amplified as the days have passed is the emptiness - the places she should be in our house and the things she should be doing. The window seat is empty. She's not pacing back and forth in front of the staircase waiting for us to wake up and come give her attention or shake the bag of treats.
We curled up on the couch to watch Christmas movies yesterday by the light of the Christmas tree she loved to lay under, and I realized that I didn't just miss her - I missed the weight of her on my lap and the soft vibration of her purring. She purred constantly - something I like to think was a marker of her genuine happiness and contentment.
Ironically, she wasn't always that way - the year that we got married and Mark moved into my apartment? Well, she spent most of that year hissing her face off, primarily at me. I was a stranger and so was my apartment - and it didn't help that our upstairs neighbor had cats, and sharing an HVAC system made Maggie constantly think other animals were near that she couldn't see. A move to our house quickly turned it around and the gentle cat that Mark had known since he rescued her as a kitten came back - and we became fast friends.
Last year around Thanksgiving she had surgery to remove the tumors that had developed, and the surgery not only gave her another 13 months, but somehow an even more loving and gentle nature, if that's possible. She even let us put a Santa hat on her for all of 10 seconds. Back in 2009, I never thought I'd say this, but my heart is broken that she's gone.
Maggie stands sentinel in my blog header - both the current holiday version and the regular one. And I'm going to keep it that way, since she will always be a part of the Next Gen House. I hope she could understand in whatever cat way she had, that in my heart, she will always be the first and the best cat.