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Saying Goodbye

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That's where I'll always love you. That's where I'll be waiting.

~ Peter Pan

Oh my sweet Tigerlily. I said goodbye to you today and your absence is already felt. For eighteen years you’ve been by my side. You’ve endured one insane dog, moving to five different places, a broken foot, the disappearance of your sister, whatever happened to you during that one week you went missing, three ferrets, living with other cats, and a couple of long road trips.

You were found by a couple of young girls whose mom said they couldn’t keep you. These girls wandered around the neighborhood looking for someone who could take the two of you. It wasn’t my neighborhood. We were visiting some family friends and happened to be out front when these girls walked by. Of course I wanted you both. You were a little orange fuzz ball with a swirl of white on your side that faded as you got older. It took some begging on my part, but you and your sister were the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.

I brought you home and you were nearly mauled by Timber, the insane dog. You can thank him for your deep dislike of dogs. Your sister, Sassy, literally had the crap scared out of her and you became her protector.

I named you Tiger because of your white and orange stripes, but also because I thought you were a boy. (sorry!) The vet set us straight when we took you and Sassy to get fixed and I decided to name you Tigerlily after the little Indian girl in Peter Pan because by then I’d discovered this stubborn look you’d get on your face when you were upset or determined to get your way.

Mostly you and your sister stayed in the basement where my room was, but you liked going outside. In fact, you were kind of the bully of the neighborhood. You would often come strolling down the sidewalk with an air of pride and I’d discover fresh scratches on your body. I swear you wore them like badges. But you didn’t seem to mind when I fussed over you either.

I’ll never forget the times I saw you sitting in the middle of the street staring down cars. Twice, I had to run out and grab you because the cars would stop and wait for you to move and you would just sit there with that stubborn, proud look on your face. It was like defeating the other cats in the neighborhood was too easy for you, so you had to find a bigger challenge. It’s truly a miracle you lived until eighteen.

Then there was the time my dad decided you and Timber should be friends. I cried watching you freak out, but when it was all over, and he finally let you go, I was secretly proud of you for the damage you’d done to his hands.

You and your sister moved to three different apartments with me. You were there as I worked my way through college and kept me company on those long nights of studying and writing papers. You were there as I worked through depression too.

We were in our second apartment when you disappeared for a week. Our place was on the third floor, so you didn’t get a lot of outdoor time there, but you loved to scare me to death by sitting on the ledge of the patio. You decided to go for a stroll when the door was accidentally left open one day. I don’t know where you went, or what happened, but I know that a week later, as I brought groceries up the stairs, I heard your meow and I dropped everything as I called your name and then sat hugging you for ten minutes as you meowed on and on. I imagine you were telling me all about your adventure and I wish I could have understood you because I’d still like to know what happened.

You also broke your foot in that apartment. I’d gotten you a floor to ceiling scratching post that you loved. It stayed secure for quite some time, but eventually came loose. So when you climbed up it one day, it came crashing down and happened to catch your paw.

The vet wanted to put pins in your paw, but I couldn’t afford it. Instead, he set the bones and wrapped it and for several months, you limped around with the cast. I felt so horrible during that time. Especially since the vet didn’t seem too pleased with my choice. I tossed the cat tree and babied you more than ever during that time.

Once your foot was healed you discovered you could get sympathy and cat treats out of me simply by lifting your foot, although after a couple years of that, you seemed to have forgotten which foot had been broken because sometimes you would switch it up. Then you gave it up for several years and only started doing it again when arthritis got to it. At that point you would lift it whenever it touched ground that was cold.

In our third apartment your sister disappeared. I wasn’t home when it happened and it is another one of those mysteries that I still sometimes wonder about. It was a week before I was supposed to leave for Ohio. I spent that whole week putting up flyers and checking the shelters to no avail. A lot happened during that time. While I was in Ohio my step-dad died and when I got back, I signed the paper on my first house.

When we moved into that house it was just you and me. I’d always wanted a ferret and knew once I had the house, I would get one. That’s when Trigger came into our lives. By this time you were eleven years old and your stubborn look turned into an annoyed one. Trigger had a lot more energy than you were used to being around. Mostly, you ignored him. You still went outside, but you didn’t go very far. You were no longer the bully of the neighborhood, but you defended our backyard when needed and sometimes explored the yards around ours.

The house was big for just one person and felt empty. Not long after we moved in and Trigger came to join us, I added Dodger and Sawyer to the mix. Sawyer was so timid and became your little shadow. Dodger was independent and jealous of you and remains that way even now. Sawyer never stopped being your shadow, even when he grew to be twice your size.

After a while I decided Trigger was probably lonely as the only ferret in the house, so I brought home Meeko Daisy and you were not very happy with me for it. She loved to sneak up behind you, jump on your back and bite the skin on your neck. You would run off meowing and she got a short ride which she apparently loved.

That house got broken into twice while we lived there and both times my first concern was you and the other animals. I’m sure the police thought I was crying as I spoke to them because of the break in, but in fact, it was because I was so relieved you were all ok.

You know, I thought you were old then. You were less adventurous, the younger animal’s antics did not impress you, and you slept more. But when you were twelve or thirteen you were out in the backyard with me. I was pulling weeds or something and you’d convinced the local bird population that you weren’t interested in them, so they were swooping over your head, quite low. Apparently you had enough of their mocking and jumped three feet in the air and caught one in mid-flight. It’s the only time I’ve been impressed with your hunting skills and the only time I didn’t try to rescue the bird from your clutches. I was too shocked. Not only had you convinced the birds, you’d convinced me that bird hunting was too difficult for you at your age. You showed us!

Then I met and married Craig, and for the first time since you were a kitten you were around kids again. You did great with Izzy. You let him hold you without complaint and even slept on him a few times. As you got frailer in the last year or so, I started getting anxious about Izzy holding you because he didn’t understand how frail you were and I was worried he might accidentally hurt you.

Through everything, you slept with me nearly every single night. Even though I’ve never been someone who sleeps in one position all through the night, you insisted on having your place on my arm, or curled up by my neck. I’ve gotten so used to you being with me at night that I never woke when I needed to move. You would either climb over me to get back into position, or I would take you with me. You never seemed to mind and always resettled yourself.

The last few weeks, I’ve tried so hard not to disturb you at night. I know I didn’t always succeed, but still you didn’t seem to mind. Even though it took you much longer to get comfortable, you still had to be touching my arm. I don’t know how I’m going to sleep without you there, but maybe Dodger will fill the void as he’s been trying to push you out of your spot for years. Still, it won't be the same.

It’s well known that cats will often hide or run away when they are in pain or at the end of their lives. I’m so blessed and honored that instead of hiding from me, all you wanted was to be on my lap or shoulder.

I will cherish our last day together. I believe we gave each other equal comfort as we said goodbye. I spent the whole day holding you, giving you water to drink, and as many treats as you could handle. Thank you for choosing to spend your life with me. God created you just to be a blessing to me and that’s exactly what you’ve been. I am going to miss you so much, but I’m glad you got to live your life fully. I’m glad you got to live to a ripe old age. I’m glad you don’t have to deal with a failing body anymore. And I am so happy to know that you’ll be waiting for me.

I love you sweet baby girl. Enjoy the warm light and soft grass of heaven.

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