I met Hope one evening while sitting in the American Legion. She sat at the bar and quietly sipping her beer. Our conversation gradually transitioned from the Legion drama, who said what about who, and all the political bullshit between members to the hardships of 2023.
I am typically not known to be a softy. Most people would know me to be abrasive, rough around the edges, forward, and candid. I can give two shits about what goes on here. When people ask me who I trust and who I rely on, I tell them, ‘You’re looking at her.’ I don’t think about companionship because I enjoy the friendships that I do have in the context and capacity they are capable of. I don’t expect people to be more than what they can offer.
To Hope, hell is on Earth because of broken people and relationships. People torture themselves by chasing approval and happiness from other people. People spend their lives chasing happiness in relationships and never find it. She believed that happiness must come from the self and relationships complement their already existing happiness.
And this is where our conversation shifted. Her thoughts of companionship, vulnerability, and connection changed after she met Molly.
Then I met Molly. Molly was a truly remarkable cat. I had a lot of pets in my lifetime and loved every one of them. I cried when all of them died, but none I cried more for than Molly.
Molly was a rescue who was an arson survivor. Firefighters found her in a burning building and they rushed her to a local veterinary hospital. At the time of rescue, she was 9 years old, weighed 2.5 pounds, had multiple broken bones, an ear infection that traveled to her brain resulting in neurological damage and hearing loss, severe burns on her body, and a burned eye that resulted in blindness in one eye. She had a litter of kittens at the time. All of them died but one. She had a neurological impairment and walked like a drunken sailor. The adoption agency didn’t think anyone would want her. But when I saw her online for adoption, I knew she was coming home with me. Her complex medical conditions meant she would not likely live a long life. I knew that my time with her was limited before bringing her home. But knowing she would die didn’t change how badly it hurt when she died.
She had the most beautiful soul, and I was blessed to have three beautiful years with her. I never thought that an animal could fill a place in my heart the way that she did. She was always happy to see me when I came home from work, and happy to see me when I woke up. In her eyes, there was love and appreciation. She lived her life quietly. Because she was deaf, most communication was with body language. When I wanted her to come and eat. I looked at her and she would jump up and run to me. When she was excited, she walked in circles, in the same direction, over, and over, and over again. When she wanted attention, she’d sit right in front of me and wait until I scratched pet and scratched her. It took me years to understand what it was about her that was so remarkable.
In the weeks leading up to her death, I watched her slowly slip away. She spent her days staring out the patio door as if to reflect and appreciate her life. It was as though she was thankful for her warm bed, the annoying squirrel who taunted her on the other side of the glass door, the birds who whizzed by throughout the day feasting on seeds, and the sunrises and sunsets. She went around the house and looked at all her memories as if to say thank you for the toys, her food, her bed, and her chair. Until at last, she turned and gazed endlessly at me, squinted her eyes as if to smile at me and say I love you and thank you.
It was the Saturday before Christmas day Molly’s health rapidly declined. She began refusing food and then water. I became desperate and called every animal hospital in town, but no one was taking patients before Christmas. I felt helpless, desperate, and alone. I picked up Molly, wrapped her in a towel, and did the only thing I could do; I comforted her. I held her, petted her, scratched her, and talked to her. I could hear her breathing get raspier and slower. For two days, I tried to encourage her to eat and drink, but to no avail. All I could do was hold her and cry. I kept calling veterinary clinics, desperate to get her in, but to no avail.
On Christmas morning, death came to me and awoke me from my restless sleep. The air in the house had changed.
“Wake up. It is time to say goodbye,” said Death.
I can’t describe the smell, the feel, or the spiritual sense that I had that morning. I leaped from my bed and rushed to the other room where she lay on her heating pad, where I left her just a few hours before. I scooped her up into my arms, wrapped her in a towel, and held her once more. I watched her closely. Listening. Waiting. Crying.
At that moment, our lives flashed before my eyes. I recall her running around the house with her toy stick in her mouth. I recall her running through the house, leaping into her box of toys, swimming in her box of toys, and then splashing them out like she was in a pool. I recall her sifting through her toy box, picking her favorite toy, and then running through the house once more. I thought about how happy I was to come home and see her happy to see me. She was the best travel companion. She did not care where we went, so long as we went together; we flew to Boston and took road trips to Spokane, Portland, and Salem.
Perhaps what made her so remarkable was her soul. Of course, I believe animals have a soul. But something about Molly was different, and I didn’t understand it until the last moments of her life. I reflected on her soul as I have the many people whom I love and adore throughout my life. And there are some whose encounters are deeper and more spiritual than others. There are some people whom I meet who touch me deeply in ways I cannot explain. When I lose them, their loss touches the deepest parts of my soul. The same way losing Molly did. Fire purifies gold the same way the tribulation purifies the soul. I do not doubt that the first years of Molly’s life were tribulations because she emanated love and gratification.
She loved unconditionally and was completely vulnerable, despite my many shortcomings and my limited capacity to love and be vulnerable. She emanated thankfulness and love. I knew she was thankful for everything she had. There was never any doubt she was happy. I could see it from the expression on her face and the gleam in her eyes.
As water erodes a mountain into the sea, so too did Molly methodically chisel away my invulnerable heart. I didn’t know how much she changed me until she died.
And perhaps this was why I loved her so much. She came during the darkest and loneliest time of my life. No matter how difficult my day was, she loved me unconditionally. No matter what kind of day I had (good or bad) when I came home, she greeted me with warmth and affection. I was just as thankful for her as she was for me.
And with that, I thanked God for bringing her to me. I thanked Molly for the wonderful years she blessed me with. I thanked Death for allowing me the time to say goodbye. And I held onto her as long as I could.”
And with that, Molly died on Christmas day. I cannot explain in a few words how full my life became when she entered my life. Nor can I explain the void she left behind when she died. I didn’t know I was lonely before her, but I felt the pain of loneliness after she died. My life with her was beautiful, and it was full. I know it will be full again someday because she gave me the courage to believe it can be.
~ T. Ivri