April 10th, 2022, around 3:00pm, a kitten died.
He was a determined package of what, 5 ounces? Determined, and loud, and with a penchant for climbing out of his box and wandering with no apparent aim. He responded to our voices but I think he was always searching for his mama because no matter how many rice socks we warmed for him, they would never be Mama.
I wept when he died, and I ache when I think of his will to be part of the world. It’s been almost a week since he went limp in our hands and I’m as sad as if I’d just …
When Jake was born four years after I relinquished my heart, my first baby, for adoption, I said, “I get to keep this one. I get to keep him.” I said this every day, and I meant it. He was mine, and I got to keep him, and I was wrong, wasn’t I.
We don’t get to say what we keep.
But what I weep for with this kitten is not about Jake, either. It’s about how it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you still cannot control one ounce of soul. Or five ounces.
I’m reminded of Byron Katie’s words, “It was supposed to happen because it did.” Not that it was inevitable, just that it did happen, and dwelling on it changes nothing but your level of energy. So what do I do with this grief?
What do you do with grief?
I used to think of it as a wet wool overcoat that I could take off and hang in a closet. Now I think of it as a very expensive fragrance.
It smells like Opium perfume to me. One of my last memories of my mother as she grew weaker from the cancer that took her was of her joy in rubbing Opium-scented lotion on her belly. She told me then she’d have bathed in it if she could. I’ve worn it since she died.
But grief is also like Jessica McClintock perfume. People draw closer to find where the scent is coming from; they want to know what it is. This scent carries loss, regret, and empathy for me, and I apply it with the same gleeful joy my mother had for Opium.
Grief draws others to us because loss is universal even though the path is singular. It sucks; it’s exhausting; it’s lonely. But isn’t it also a pure expression of love? I am so glad you were here and wish you still were because your presence mattered.
As long as I breathe the fragrance will be there. I’ve come to accept that I may never know what happened to my son. I may never know the why or any details or if he’s okay and is living his best life with a wife and children and all of those things are loss to me.
The only thing anyone can keep is the fragrance. If we choose.