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Monday, November 30, 2009

A Celebration of Sam's Life

Samuel’s Life

Samuel passed on to the Rainbow Bridge the day before yesterday (November 28, 2009). It was sudden. He collapsed and died almost immediately. I was downstairs when my wife called. The only thing I could do was place him in his cat carrier and take him downstairs while we figured out what to do with his mortal remains. It will be a long time before we get another cat. And I know that when we do, it will be for its own reasons; not to replace Sam.

I held his mortal remains for a while, tears blurring my eyes. Sam accepted me for who I was and loved me unconditionally. There was no demands on me other than: “just love me and cherish me, Daddy.”

When we got Samuel, he was a small kitten. He was with us only three short years. At first, since we were living out of a motel, I was reluctant to bring in a furry pet as it would be a burden on our already meager resources. But my wife insisted. I reluctantly agreed to allow it. I was not happy about it and I told my wife that “It is your decision. I don’t want any part of it!” So we went to the Surrey Animal Hospital where we were shown two kittens; a jet black one and a grayish-brown tabby. They were brothers and my heart just knew that I could not separate either of them from the other. So my wife was looking at me while I was trying to harden my heart and tell her, “We can only afford one!” Well, that failed, not by her pleas, but by my own heart. I walked out of the room, told her “just wait a second”, walked over to the counter and laid down enough money to bring both of the kittens home.

When we brought him home for the first time, Sam had a bit of a situational depression. Going from the vet’s place to a home overwhelmed him and he just would not eat. Finally we took him back to the vet and they got some food and some anti-depressants into him and from then on, he was fine, no more need for more meds, no more depression, he was our cat.


Samuel (November 3, 2006 - November 28, 2009)

Despite having a softening of heart to bringing both kittens home, I stated explicitly to my wife, “They’re your cats, honey.” And stated, “I’m only cleaning the cat litter as that’s the only thing I intend to do. You…” (meaning my wife) “feed and care for them!” After having had 10 cats in total throughout my life, their losses were too painful to want to let another one into my heart. I kept hardening my heart and resolving to let my wife be the one to take care of the two.

Little did I know Sam & Shadow had other plans. They both wormed their way into my lap or onto my chest. When I woke up in the morning; Sam or Shadow would be either sleeping on my chest or lying in the crook of my arm, their tiny paws stretched out over my chest sleeping comfortably. They were working their sneaky little plan to make Daddy love them. They did their usual kitten things that made Daddy smile, like play fighting with one another and pouncing. Sometimes I’d wake up and feel their little sandpaper tongues licking my nose or my face. The two little sneaks wormed their way into my heart. Even as a kitten, Sam had an extraordinarily loud purr and he used it to great psychological effect.

Shadow was fine from the outset. He was a rambunctious little feline. Anyplace he could get into he would get into.

The two of them grew into young adults, but of the two of them, Shadow was the more demonstrative. If he wanted my attention, he would jam his furry head under my chin and let out a “chirrup”. Sam on the other hand tended to play second fiddle. He would only come up when Shadow wasn’t hogging all the attention for himself as if to say “Daddy, can I have a bit of your time?”


Shadow (November 3, 2006 - June 2008)

Shadow, however had an independent streak a mile wide. If we opened the door, he’d be out like a shot and halfway down the block. I’d had to chase him down and catch him several times and told him each time he got out that one of these days, he was going to end up getting lost and we wouldn’t be able to find him again. Horrifically, those words would prove prophetic. One June afternoon, in 2008, he did get out and he did end up missing. We searched all over, went down to the SPCA and checked all the shelters and rescue organizations. We kept looking for him for six weeks, but we could not find one trace of him and we finally, sorrowfully, came to the conclusion that he was never coming back.

When they both came home from the vet, our original intention was that both Sam and Shadow were to be my wife’s cats. But Shadow and Sam decided otherwise. They both decided to attach to me. When Shadow went missing; Sam, despite his own heartbreaking loss, came and consoled me, sleeping by my side, comforting me with his presence. I was not there as I was out and my wife had not noticed Shadow slip out while she was taking videos back up to the video rental and didn’t realize it until after she came home. By then it was too late. When I got home, I wouldn’t stop looking for him until sheer exhaustion. After six weeks of searching, I was an emotional mess. Despite the fact that it was his own brother that went missing, he put his own sorrow on the back burner and chose to comfort me. We clung to each other in mutual grief.

From then on, Sam was firmly attached to my side. If I went to the kitchenette, he’d be there. If I was in bath, he’d curl up by the side of the tub. He feared that if I was out of his sight, I’d go missing, just like his brother. When I went to work, he was unhappy and moped till I got home. When I found out that I had a bad back from a severe fall in January of 2006 that affected my employment in 2008 (I had to resign from a retail position because I was unable to stand continuously for 4 hour stretches of time, which was required and it also affected my ability to lift heavy objects on a regular basis), Sam was there consoling me and telling me with his eyes that as long as he had me, that he was happy.

Sam was also there when I found out the true nature of my own mother and my own maternal blood family. Their dislike of me put me into an emotional tailspin and left me feeling as if I had no family left in this world. He and my wife’s family brought me back from total despair. Sam let me know that all he wanted was love and for me to love him.

In October 2008, our fortunes turned a bit and we moved to a townhouse, and for poor Sam, that probably was the toughest move that he ever had to go through. The poor little guy hid under the driver’s side seat of the moving van, yowling piteously all the way, until we got to our new townhouse. When we managed to pry him out from under where he had crawled into, he promptly dug his claws into my back and clung like a burr, looking absolutely miserable and letting out a heart-breaking yowl every so often while we got him bundled up into the house. His life up to that point had been inside of a motel room and we had just uprooted his whole existence. When we put him inside the townhouse, he promptly went and hid behind the angled mattress leaning up against the wall and wouldn’t come out for 24 hrs except maybe to eat and use the litter box.

Finally he got used to the place and we settled in. And we were a family. We went through some rough patches but we had pulled through. Sam was happy and he settled into a routine. I did photography from home (freelance) and Sam used to curl up beside me, watching me edit photos.

Everything seemed fine on November 27th, 2009. That night, Sam and I went to sleep, he licked my nose and my cheek as he had done so often, and he nuzzled his head and body against my arms and legs, purring loudly all the while. I told him that I loved him and we settled down to sleep, Sam, at his familiar spot at the foot of my side of the bed, right next to my legs. That was the last time that I saw him alive. I came downstairs the next morning when I heard a commotion upstairs and m wife yelling for me to come upstairs: thus the events of November 28, 2009.

One of the hardest things I have ever had to do was to pick up that shovel and bury a loved one. Even though we, as humans, talk about “burying” our human loved ones; we’re not the ones who wield the shovel or the machine that digs the hole that our human remains are interred in. We’re not the ones that have to cover the body with six feet of dirt. We pay someone to do that for us. That’s what undertakers are paid for. We stand around the grave saying “how much we will miss them…” then we wait for someone else to cover the casket. It is our pets, those little furry loved ones that we have to get our hands into the soil to lay to rest. It was hard to stop the tears long enough to dig a hole deep enough to put Samuel’s mortal remains in the ground.

After that I took walk by myself for a while just to get my head and my emotions back on level ground. As I got back from my walk, there was a break in the clouds as if Someone Up There was letting me know that He had Sam’s spirit in His care and Sam was telling me. “Daddy, everything is OK now. I’m happy, I’ve gone to that place. I spent the night of the 28th in spirit form comforting you, but I gotta go be with all your and Mommy’s pets that went before. Thank you for taking care of me Don’t grieve so much. I love you, Daddy.”

The other encounter last night could have just been coincidental, but on our way back from Wal Mart we saw a great Horned Owl, its distinct “horn” shaped tufts were visible in the dark. It alighted on a lamp-post and stared at me eye-to-eye for a long moment. In some cultures the owl is said to be a messenger of impending death or death past, but I preferred to think of it as a sign from Sam again. “Hey, Daddy, Mommy occasionally said you were DENSE! So I decided to send my new friend to tell you unequivocally that I’m OK. Now will you stop with the moping and growling at my human brothers and Mommy and be your good-natured self again?” As it was it was remarkable to see that Great Horned Owl in the wild next to a populated area so close to us and I chose to treat it as a good sign.

Today I asked Sam if, when I feel ready for another furry kid to come into our lives, to guide me to the next kitty-cat that needs us when the time is right. It may be several years down the road. Just as my first cat, Tiger (who I lost back in 1983) guided Sam to me when I needed him most in 2006; I’m sure Sam and Tiger will join forces and guide the next needy furry kid to me

But nothing will ever replace Sam. Not that I expect any cat to. I will miss Sam. I will miss his touch of his wet nose against my face and my hands, his purr, his rough tongue against my cheek and my fingers and his little affectionate, trusting rubs.

I miss his companionship; above all I miss his unconditional love and trust, that no matter how bad things were for us financially, I was the center of his little world and that of all things, I mattered to him.

Thank you, my little friend for your love and your trust, Thank you for making me feel something I thought was long dead. Thank you, my beloved Sam, for just being you. And thank you for coming into my life. I love you, Sam, and I will never, ever forget you.

I will miss my little best friend for the rest of my life.

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