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Rebekah King Rebekah King
Recommendations: 21

Shell-shocked


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There is a word that I never truly understood the meaning of until a year ago. I could read all the definitions in the world, but until I'd experienced the sensation, I could never know what it really meant. To have something so horrible happen so suddenly that it leaves you frozen. For a little while, you almost don't feel anything, and then all you feel is pain, regret, sorrow. I could say I'd never known true sadness before then, either, nor had I experienced real loss.


Loss, sadness, sorrow, regret, pain... all feelings that were relatively unfamiliar. All feelings that I learned the true weight of with one event. And all feelings that have clung to me ever since. They say the passage of time heals all wounds, no matter how great. But time cannot replace what was lost, cannot fill the void left behind. Nothing ever truly will; there are only remedies to numb the pain and hasten the healing.


What was lost can never be found - it is gone now, gone from my life forever. This revelation is still difficult to live with even after all this time. And though the remedies do help and the things I do to keep myself busy distract my mind, the thoughts are still there, lingering always. How much time must pass before a memory of someone that's left this world stops causing me pain? That memory was happy, once; meaningful in a different way than it is now. How long before it is that way again? Or will the tears never dry up and the memory always be soured with the longing for that someone to be in my life, still?


They say only time will tell, they say time heals, they same time cures, they say time reveals all things. But how much time do we have to spare for each thing that pains us, each thing that ails us, each thing that hurts us? How much of our lives must we spend in mourning instead of remembering what was once good? How long must the absent-minded smile of a pleasant memory taste the salt of regretful tears? How long must my face be streaked with the sorrow that's left by what once was happiness? I want to dwell on my memories and not feel pain, I want to picture my loved one in my head without the picture turning murky and grey.


The answer is forever. Forever will these memories haunt my mind, forever will the tears flow, forever will I feel the pain. But with each passing year, the memories become a little brighter, my eyes become a little drier and the pain and regret are replaced with fond reminiscing. With each passing year, I will dwell a little less on what could have been, what might have been, what should have been, and a little more on what was. And a little more I will remember that I have twelve years of fond memories with him, and I should not let them fade and be clouded by the present.


I close my eyes now and I can remember you. Your eyes, your ears, your nose, your whiskers, your paws, your fur. The sound of your soft mews when it was time for dinner, or when you wanted to come into my bedroom and keep me company. When you did, the feel of you affectionately rubbing your cheek against my hand, the slight sharpness of your right canine tooth on my finger that fell out when you were eleven years old. The sound of your purring as you slept beside me at my desk and then eventually wormed your way onto my lap. Then the feeling of the vibrations from your body through my skin, exuding your contentment and comfort, and forcing me to smile at your happiness. The way running my fingers through your fur and scratching your chin made me feel calm and at peace.


All of those things are gone now, and even with another feline companion, they are not the same. But I will always have my memories, some of them captured on camera, most of them captured in my mind. And there I hope they will stay forever, so I can revisit them when I feel lonely and remember that you loved me once. I can never know what came after death for you, but I hope you are in a better place, somewhere you're happy and not hurting any more. Somewhere your old bones and fat belly are no longer a restriction on you. Somewhere you can just be without the sorrows of life dragging you down.


Shell-shocked... I know this word now. I felt it when I held your paw as the vet told us there was nothing we could do for you. I felt it as I leant over you and cried for your cruel fate. I felt it when you died, when the life faded from you and twelve years of beautiful memories seemed to fade with you. I felt it when I kissed your head for the last time and said goodbye, and told you I loved you. I felt it on the drive home to lay you to rest, your lifeless body next to me the whole way. I felt it as we placed you in the earth and covered you over and said my last farewells and told you I loved you again. I did love you, I still love you, I will always love you.


Shell-shocked; the feeling of feeling almost nothing because you can't believe that what's happening is true. It feels like a dream, because how could this happen so suddenly? I had only a day to say goodbye to you, and it was not enough. I had no time to prepare, to come to terms with the fact that you would be gone, and neither did you. I always wonder if you knew I was there in your last moments, if you knew any of us were there. Did you hear me whispering words of comfort to you? Did you feel me gently stroking your head? Did you feel anything but the pain? I'll never know, but I  hope you did.


On your last night in this world, your meows of pain echoed through the hall to me more than once, and every time I ran to you. I ran to you and stroked you and talked to you, and it seemed to comfort you, so at least we had that. At least I can know I was of some help to you in the end. You'll never know how much more I wish I could have done. I wish you'd let us know something was wrong so we could have helped you. That's what haunts me the most.


This past year has not felt like a year. Much of the time after you passed is blurry and the sadness was intermittent after that. There were times when I missed you so much I just lay in bed and cried until I was exhausted enough to sleep. So many little things reminded me of you that it was hard to move on. Then I realised I don't have to move on, I just have to shift my perspective. There's nothing wrong with being sad that you're gone and longing for you to still be here, but there is something wrong with allowing that sadness to cloud my memories of the fun times we shared together.


Death is a funny thing - it changes your perspective. Whether it's the death of a close relative, or the death of a family pet, it can still hurt you in a similar way. It makes you think about all the others you consider dear to you and when their times will come and whether or not you'll be able to handle going through the pain again. But it also pushes you to make the most of the people and pets around you while they're here. It forces you to do more things, take more photos, make more memories, because you know that when they're gone, you'll feel a little less lonely with each one. You'll feel a little more like they're still with you.


Rest in peace, Toby. You're still my favourite baby boy.


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