Not sure how to start this post. On Monday evening, dad messaged us that Xiao Quan (XQ), our family cat, has passed away due to illness. It still feels unreal to me and I honestly have no idea how to cope with this. It came too suddenly. He was only 8 years old. And EVERYONE, loves him. And it hurts me so much that I cannot be with my family and share our grief together.
If you’re reading this, and know me personally – this may come as a shock to you, as I probably have not mentioned it, because I don’t know if I’m ready to have a conversation about this yet. I struggled to tell people at work, because honestly I’m not sure if I want all the attention and all the “my heart is breaking for you” messages. I just want to be able to lick my own wound and escape. I know everyone means well, I really do, but as a society, especially in a professional setting, we don’t know how to deal with grief. So part of me wishes I can pretend nothing happened and keep this as a secret – so that I don’t have to expect people to show they care about me personally, and I also don’t have to face the awkward “i’m so sorry for your loss” can messages.
So, I went to work the next day, pretending everything is okay: “I’m okay, just a bit tired. I barely slept last night because our heater kept going off randomly – in this heat!” And this morning, I thought to myself, I have so many meetings, so my mind wouldn’t wander off – great. But after I got ready and checked my bus schedule, I knew I had to be honest to my coworkers. There was no way I could function normally if I went in the office today. I decided to stay home, work remotely (but honestly, not so productively), and give myself time away from people. I’m still dreading the awkward conversations I will have tomorrow (or, the lack of…? not sure what would be worse) but I know I need this time to myself today. And I’m proud of myself for being strong enough to at least be honest and start facing this tragedy.
I was so in shock on Monday night that I had no idea how to react. I just froze, my hands and legs were shaking, and I lost my energy to do anything. My head started spinning. I felt sick. And while I desperately need someone to comfort me, I also remind myself that I need to be strong for my family. I know my parents are in so much more pain than I am. And seeing my parents like this is almost as painful as XQ’s death. I wish so much that I can help ease their pain.
So why am I even writing this? I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll add a few more thoughts in a separate post, when I feel I’m in a better position to discuss how best to deal with grief. But for now, I just know that I’m having trouble releasing all these emotions around people, so I want to take the time to express this, on my own terms. I want to admit how much pain I’m in, how I feel broken, and how I know that for my whole life, this sorrow will always be here. I don’t expect everyone to understand, really. Everyone has different relationships with their pets, and everyone deals with grief differently. But for us, he’s family. He’s “home” to us. He was the constant companion for my parents when they needed the support. He was also my companion/distraction, when I felt everything else was going wrong in my life. He was a reliable friend. When Nora and I felt so sad we couldn’t be with our parents, we were thankful knowing that my parents will be okay, because XQ is there with them.
The only friend I had mentioned this to was JP, who I know has experienced a similar tragedy. I remember seeing her tear up in our dorm room, before we were supposed to visit a professor together. I felt so sad, but I didn’t know how to comfort her. She, of course, did a much better job to comfort me. She told me she understood my emotions and my parents’ emotions. She shared with me that often times, it’s harder to get over a pet’s death than a person’s – mostly because for people, we get the chance to mourn and give thanks to our memories. But for a pet, we sometimes even feel silly to feel this sad. And I’m so afraid that XQ doesn’t know how much we love him.
But JP is right. I need to have the chance to fully honor XQ’s life, and our memories together. I want to share my favorite memories of him. He will always, always live in our heart.
It’s so funny when XQ acts tough and tries to bite us, he actually doesn’t use his nails. So when he hits us with his paws, it is not painful, it’s cute. He acts tough, but really he’s never harmful. I laughed when mom told me that one time, he escaped our home and when he came back, he immediately lost his balance and lied down – because he was so scared out there, when he saw a dog. It just shows how sweet and fragile he is…One of my favorite memories was when he climbed up to my lap and sat there when there was a thunderstorm. I felt so happy to be able to protect and comfort him, especially because XQ generally wasn’t as fond of being held (although dad is always the exception). I miss seeing him with dad, and hearing his meows to dad when I was skyping mom. I miss seeing mom holding XQ, the way she held us when we were babies in our photo album. I miss how XQ will always scratch our bedroom door when it’s closed, and how I’m always worried about his hair getting inside our suitcases…I miss everything about him, even the things I used to complain about. I wish so bad that he can come back to us.
Xiao Quan, we will always remember you, our little furry bundle of joy. We miss you so much. You’re the sweetest, funniest, and most adorable cat we’ve had. Please know how much we all love you, and how thankful we are to have had you. The piece of my heart that belongs to you is now being teared apart from me. For this reason, I know that there will always be a void in my heart, and from time to time, this pain will resurface. But you know what, I’ll think of it as your footprint in me. And don’t worry, slowly, I will start laughing and joking more than I’m crying. Gosh, don’t make fun of me, Xiao Quan. I bet you’re looking down at me, thinking that I’m overreacting. I can imagine you cheering me up by sneakily attacking me with your paws and teeth.
All this is to say…thank you, XQ. You’ve taught me so much and have brought us so, so much joy and beautiful memories. Please do come back to us in another life. You will always be the king, I promise.