A cat named Chicken

My sweetest Mama Chuck,

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It's been 84 days since you left me. We had almost 16 years together, which is nearly half my life, yet these 84 days have felt like a lifetime. 

I'm sorry I couldn't be there for you on that day. I couldn't be there with you. You know I didn't abandon you, right? The times I've cried over your loss are typically triggered by the thought of your last day.

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We left the night before to go have a baby, our baby, the baby you so often stepped on in the middle of the night while he was still growing in my expanding belly, where you liked to sleep. We knew you were suffering. Our original plan for the night was to take you into the vet, to help ease you into the next life. I would have held you. I would have kissed your forehead and told you it was okay. I would have told you I was sorry, that you'd given me 16 years of unconditional love, and I couldn't have asked for more or better. I would have comforted you. I would have cried.

Oh, I would have cried. 

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But I didn't get to be there. That day, September 29, the first day of Owen's life, was the last day of yours. The transition of love from one beloved being to another is not lost on me. So many people gave me comfort, told me you, my first baby, were passing the baton to my real baby. Making space in my heart for him. 

But truth is, I didn't need the space. There was -- and is -- space in my heart for both of you. Both of my babies. You don't think I needed you gone in order to make room for a baby, did you? I don't want you to think that. I hate the thought of that. I couldn't wait for you to meet the baby that made you so curious for all those months.

Maybe you met in passing. Owen on his way in and you on your way out. I'm not one to put much stock in holy things and beliefs, but I love to believe you gave Owen your blessing somewhere out there in the ether while you crossed paths. You would have loved him as I love him. I wish he could grow into toddler life and learn to gently pat your head and nuzzle your forehead the way I did. I wish you both could have been with me at the same time.

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We put your picture in a frame in his room, though. I won't let anyone forget you. And Owen will grow up to learn all about the legendary cat named Chicken who made mama's world go round for all the years before he arrived. Because you did, my sweet kitty. And for 84 days, the world has spun a little bit slower. 

My parents checked on you that morning after Owen arrived into the world. You weren't well. It was a Friday, and we weren't going to be home from the hospital until Sunday. You wouldn't make it that long. They knew. I knew. 

My sister, whose greatest gift to this world is her love of animals, agreed to do the hard thing, the impossible thing, and take you to the vet for peace. While I sat in the hospital hours after childbirth, kept away from my baby, who was getting care in the NICU, I was also kept from you. 

Amber came to our home and gathered you. She gathered your things. She did gently and with love the thing I was unable to do. I am forever grateful to her for that, but I am forever heartbroken that I couldn't be there with you. Did you know I wanted to? Did you know I was thinking of you? Did you know Amber loved you, too? 

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I'm sorry, Chicken. 

That night I cried. I couldn't sleep while postpartum hormones raged through my body. I had my one epic meltdown after my loss. You were gone, and I was in the hospital, and my newborn baby wasn't with me, and every single thing in my life had changed in that one day.

September 29, 2017.

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We got home from the hospital and our house was vacant of your things. They were tucked away, protecting me from having to do the duty myself. I left for the hospital and you were there, I came home and you were gone. In the time between, life transformed. 

I don't think I've been able to fully mourn your loss. Life has been a tidal wave of change and love the last 84 days. I don't know if I ever will fully mourn your loss. Having a baby at home has provided a buffer to the deep vacancy your loss left behind. I love him with every fiber of my being. The same fibers that love you, still. 

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I keep your collar on the dresser next to an imprint of your paw. That is next to an imprint of Harley's paw. To realize I'm now without both of my beloved animals is a foreign concept. I was Krista, the cat lady. You were my cats. You were both legendary. But you, Chicken, you topped them all. You loved that collar and I loved the sound of its bell. I hear it now and my gut hurts. There is the jingle, but there is no Chicken.

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Thank you for walking me through my entire adult life. Every home, every move, every heartache, every joy. My pillow is empty without you. My lap less warm. My heart less full. 

You were a gift to me for my 20th birthday. That day, mom and dad delivered you to my house. You were snuggled inside dad's coat, just a tiny, clumsy kitten with a twitching tail and bright blue eyes. 

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You were a gift to me every single day since, Chicken. Every day. 

We will miss you always. 

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