A Mother and her Two Daughters

16 September 2010

Putting Loss in Perspective

I’ve been thinking about the whole process of loss.  It’s only natural because yesterday morning, Tim and I had to put our lovely little kitty to sleep. 

Atticus Finch came into our lives in April 2009.  At the time we were a volunteer foster home for a local rescue organization - Feline Rescue & Re-home.  Atticus was only two-days old when we took him in, abandoned in an attic by his feral cat mom, thus the name Atticus. We bottled fed him for weeks, tended to his every need, took him with us everywhere we went.  Those in the veterinary and foster care community didn’t give him much of a chance.  But not only were we determined to get him through these critical early weeks, Atticus was a high-spirited little fighter who seemed to be destined for life. 

I can remember taking this tiny infant kitten to soccer games, the office, a Mother's Day weekend trip to Eureka Springs, even feeding him with a kitten bottle while attending a chamber of commerce meeting.  We assumed our responsibility of caring for his every need very seriously.  Atticus’ digestive system was very compromised and his kitty constipation would cause him to have fever and dehydration.  Atticus was hospitalized twice and was a regular patient at the veterinarian.  The vet eventually taught me how to give him a kitty enema (seriously!), which made life for him and for us much easier. 

When it came time to find him a home, we simply couldn’t deal with the thought of losing our dear Atticus.  His health was still so fragile and who else would or could care for him like us?  So, Tim officially adopted him.  And for the past 18 months, Atticus happily lived with Tim and became his best friend roommate.  This was one very loving, affectionate and attentive kitty, a personality unlike most felines I know.  And Tim was the very attentive and doting kitty father.  They were quite the pair. 

Unfortunately, about two months ago, he was diagnosed with a fatal, incurable kitty virus called feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).  Yesterday morning little Atticus Finch went to cat heaven, where he's now climbing trees and chasing butterflies.  We are feeling an incredible sense of loss right now and will miss Atticus terribly. 

A very good friend, but not a terribly big fan of pets, said to me yesterday, “You need to put this all in perspective.  Your cancer is in remission.”  True, and I’m a big believer in putting things into perspective.  However, my cancer status does not take away from losing Atticus, which is why I’ve had this heavy subject on my mind. 
Loss is loss.  Tragedy is tragedy.  Misfortune is misfortune.  And like the old “the grass is always greener” adage, you can always find somebody else with a more tragic or misfortunate circumstance.  But that doesn’t translate into feeling better about your own unhappy event. 

I remember a few months after my late husband died, reading in the newspaper about another tragic automobile crash in Arkansas where the mother survived, the husband and two children were not so fortunate.  Was this terribly tragic accident supposed to make me feel better about the loss of my own husband?  Well, it may have made me feel fortunate to still have my Allyson, but it certainly didn’t make me feel better about our own circumstances. 

Several months later, I found out about two friends, married for several years, who were experiencing relationship problems, ultimately a divorce.  I asked my friend, “Why didn’t you share this with me?”  He said that his marriage problems seemed pale in comparison to my own loss.  But he was my friend, and I loved them both, and cared for their happiness very deeply.  The loss of this marriage was still a terrible tragedy. 

Several years ago, a friend of mine suffered from breast cancer.  She had a lumpectomy and then went on a five-year regime of an oral chemotherapy.  Recently she said to me that she was embarrassed to say she was a breast cancer survivor after watching my own battle with chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, upcoming radiation and the rest.  I said to her, “You hold your head up high because you too are a breast cancer survivor.  There is no cancer that is an easy cancer.  It’s all bad and it’s all tough!” 

Two weeks ago a beloved colleague lost his son.  And this week, another friend is at her son's hospital bedside in ICU as he fights a fierce pulmonary infection.  Both of them, very different circumstances, are feeling a terrible sense of pain right now.  

Whether it’s the death or grave illness of a grandfather or child or a beloved pet, Stage I or Stage IV cancer, recovering from major surgery or a home fire, unemployment or denial from your dream college, the feeling of misfortune and loss is very real for all of us, no matter the circumstances.  A tragedy or misfortunate doesn't require being a 10 on a scale of 1-to-10 in order to feel as if your world has been turned upside down.  I hope that I never find myself in that place that everything has to be put in such “perspective,” that I lose my sense of compassion for life and love and the people and pets and experiences that we cherish most in our lives.  Who wants to be the kind of person?    

So right now, I will remember Atticus, mourn the loss of this precious little kitten who taught us much about hanging tough and fighting for life. 

That is how I will put all of this in perspective today.  


  1. Rainbow Bridge

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
    There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
    There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
    The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

    Author unknown...

  2. I always cry when I read the writing about the Rainbow Bridge. Losing Atticus makes me cry too, not because I knew him up close, but because I was involved in his rescue, and I knew all all these tiny details about him from you; teeny tiny kitten being bottlefed and all. He was your baby, and such a pretty boy, that lovely black and white, just wonderful and loving. I'm so sorry he's gone, it's sad loss.

  3. Another nice post, Stacy. Lots of good thoughts in it. I like the comments too!


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