Call it woman’s intuition– I walked in the house on a Saturday night, fresh off the airplane from a work conference, and the house was too quiet. Something wasn’t right. Then my husband immediately word vomited that our elderly, chronically ill cat had gone downhill while I was away. He didn’t want to tell me until I got home.
In the days to come, I felt a maternal instinct over Bean and everyone in my household. I comforted my husband, who was infinitely closer to Bean, when he realized it was time to let her go. I took care of the euthanasia arrangements, mindful of scheduling it while my daughter was still in daycare for the day. And for Bean, in her final moments; I stroked her fur and recited the Lord’s Prayer out loud until my mind went blank, and I forgot the words. Three days after my flight landed back in Kansas City, Bean was gone.
As a woman, and especially as a mother, I often find that we think that we could have done more, done better even when there was no possible way to. I felt that same pulsating emotion when I reflected on Bean’s final days. One night, I even cried to my best friend that all I had left to give Bean at the end was a half-said prayer, which felt woefully inadequate for such a good feline friend. But that night, I couldn’t cry for too long; my daughter had woken up again and was crying for me.
I felt unmoored in the weeks to come after her passing. It wasn’t just losing a pet, but a milestone. A before and after. I was once just a penniless 20-something who adopted a sad-looking cat for $35. Now I was a mother, a wife, a woman who’d hit the apex of her career– but the cat, almost a reminder of who I was before, was gone. In the weeks to come, I felt like I was drifting; exactly a week later I was swept away by the current of a product launch at work, tethered to a feisty baby, pulled from the grief that broke my heart in a million little ways.
It was then that I realized the paradox of mothers everywhere: I was rooted deeply in grief, but forced to push forward. Motherhood is demanding, even on our worst days. Grief and product launches are demanding too, in their own right.
Where I found my bravery was in holding a creature in their final moments, turning around and showing up for my daughter, then turning around again and pulling a heavy load on a product launch– because in the end, love never fails. Even our love for our pets.