Friday, July 8, 2022

requiem to my true north

i always knew the cliff i was building for myself, every time i punctuated a post about najah with an aside about her incredible age. the point was always that i was just astounded at how lucky we had been to have soooo much time with her, and i saw it as an opportunity to recognize it. ultimately, i was just ridiculously proud to know her

but i knew that the flip side of that was that eventually i would have to fall from that cliff, and how much it was going to hurt when that happened


she could not possibly live forever  though sometimes i wondered  and on tuesday morning, we had to say goodbye to her. we didn’t want to, of course, but she had fought so many things so hard for so long against all odds, and for the first time it was clear that she couldn’t win. all we could do for her is spare her that last, losing fight  


anyone who has followed my posts over the past … well, for as long as i’ve been on social media, because she was actually older than social media, knows much of her story, and i don’t want to take this space to repeat the various mortal afflictions she basically laughed off for two decades. or the vet who told us not to get too attached to her … 17 years ago. or even tell the story about the way i came up with her name for the millionth time. (tho i’m happy to do that one if you ask)


i have had at least one cat continuously since 1987, when i was in college and still living with my parents, and it isn’t lost on me that being a cat guy, like pink cocktails, is part of my personality. all of our cats have been great – razzle, meeko, jazmine; i could tell you stories about them all – but najah was simply next level. i just can’t believe how smart, willful and affectionate she was. and how easily and effectively she communicated with us. she had huge, expressive eyes, and it just never seemed unclear what was on her mind at any given time. if she could have talked, she could not have made herself more clear. she had opinions on everything, and wasn’t shy about them


she had an infinite supply of love. she was a huge fluffball and was happiest when there was a lap to curl up on or a leg to curl up against. and when she thought it was time for that to happen, she was perfectly willing to go sit next to a chair or couch and stare judgingly at you until you relented and sat to become the thing she would curl up on. and then you better not have anything planned for a few hours. she seemed to cherish that time as much as i did, to the point that i felt literal guilt when i was out of town and we didn’t have our couch time


this may be a weird non sequitur, but i can’t remember ever being angry with her. not once. i honestly can’t remember her ever doing anything wrong


i haven’t posted a positivity list for june, and i’m conflicted about it, because i kept one, and there was a lot of good stuff in it. there were also a lot of empty spaces for days that were too hard, and there was a lot of stuff that was outdated by the time that i would’ve posted, and some that became unbearably painful by july 5. because most of the month involved najah’s care. there was a vet tech who was shocked to learn that she was treating a cat that was only 2 years younger than she was (gulp!). there was the night in the vet ER when i was sitting up with her late at night, and at the shift change, i heard the vets excitedly talking about getting to meet the 21-year-old lady that was in the house. and there was the moment of painful poignancy when i was at the paul mccartney concert and he played “let it be” and “live and let die” back to back, and it was more than i could take; it was the first time i’ve ever cried at a show, as far as i can remember. and, i mean, i crumbled


there was also the day she came home from the ER, and the day that she started eating with a bit of vigor, and it looked like maybe she was pulling through yet again


but it all just feels like a lie at this point. so i didn’t post it


which is the worst possible tribute to her. without fear of overstatement, it’s possible that she, more than anyone or anything, made that list – and that general attitude – possible. she made it nearly impossible to be anything less than positive. because no matter how bad my day was, i knew that she would be there when i got home, waiting to curl up on my lap and make me forget anything bad that had happened up to that point. it was soooo easy for her, and it was endless. surely if it was that easy for her to erase the stupid of the world, then there was probably more of that energy out there, if we just looked for it, and took the time to notice it


i haven’t started a file for july yet. i’ve seen and felt things i’d otherwise include. i got to talk to one of my favorite artists after a show and thank her for playing a song i love for the first time at a show i was at. i got to cook for a friend going through his own pain. kind friends who know I’m gutted have reached out to make sure i’m ok when they know im not. a line in a counting crows song connected with me in a new, visceral way. but i’m still overwhelmed with the grief of knowing i can’t just go over to her bed and give her a quick squeeze anytime that i need it. or she needs it. or we need it


but i can feel her big judgy eyes glaring at me. “did i teach you nothing?” so we’ll see

and if I have to make an entry for july 5, it would be that i am profoundly grateful that i was there, sitting on the floor with her curled up against my leg and my hand wrapped around her furry torso at the very instant we lost her. it seems insane to be grateful about the moment a huge chunk of my soul evaporated, but the gift was in how she filled it as long as she did. i wanted to be able to look into her eyes, hoping that she could read mine as easily as i could hers, so she would know in that moment, like all before it, how much i loved her. but she seemed as comfortable as possible under the circumstances against my leg, and that seemed most important. it was the hardest thing i’ve ever had to go through, and days later i’m still breaking down into ugly cries at mere, unlikely triggers. (if you interact with me, be aware that i have no idea how long that will last.) but there is nothing i wouldn’t have done for that cat


it was an honor to know her for more than 21 years, and to be there with her until the last minute

postscript: when i need comfort, i turn to culture where i can. i created a playlist of songs to help me get through. its a work in progress, but here it is if you're interested. 

also, i found a poem from the early 20th century called 
faith. an excerpt:

One more dark passage to come,
One more sharp sorrow to bear;
But still in the sunlight I'll lift up my head,
And feel its warm radiance there

                                     najah woodward

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