I sang “You Can Close Your Eyes” by James Taylor to Warner as Doctor Wonderful put him to sleep on February 4, 2015. We were lying on the floor, on a blanket the nurse had laid down to make him more comfortable and I kept whispering “you can close your eyes, it’s alright”. When it was all over I remember looking up at Tessa and asking “what am I supposed to do now?” It felt like a cruel joke: to fight for so long, for his little body to be so resilient for so long and then, in one short week, for the world to come crashing down and the fight to end so abruptly. And here we were: lying on that floor, our battle over, and I was the only one who was going to walk out of that vet’s office alive.
As I sat there in silence, crying into his fur, I could feel my heart shattering. Though I knew this day would come nothing prepared me for the moment when he closed his eyes for the last time. As he took his last breath, I kept telling him how much I loved him over and over until he was gone. I was the last voice he heard and the last face he saw, and that's the way I wanted it.
When the time came to leave I couldn’t find the strength to stand up: Tessa had to practically carry me out of the office; my jacket hood over my head and my vision blurry from the tears.
The whole way home that James Taylor song kept playing on repeat in my mind: the song that summed up my grief and his suffering:
So close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone
Tomorrow it will be one year since he passed away and I still can’t listen to that song without sobbing.
There were nights in the weeks following his death that I woke up anxious, reaching out in the dark to find him, only to burst into tears when I realized he wasn’t there, and would never be there again. The house felt big and empty, yet the walls felt like they were closing in on me. I found myself taking the long way home and volunteering to stay late at work to avoid the emptiness of home, only to cry when I opened the door and he wasn’t there to greet me and I realized he would never be there again. I felt like I was drifting, purposeless, through my days: no medication to administer or pick up from the pharmacy, no regular visits to Doctor Wonderful, no tests, and no special diet to regulate. And most importantly? No silly little Warner face greeting me every morning, snuggling at my side. For the first time in four and a half years I was without him and I felt empty, hollow, that brave woman replaced by a withered and grieving shell.
The outpouring of love I received following his death was nothing short of amazing. People came out of the woodwork to love me: Doctor Wonderful and his entire staff sent me a card filled with their favorite memories of him, people sent cards, text messages, cupcakes, and a friend even made me a 2015 Warner calendar. I was reminded how good and kind people are; how even while I grieved and couldn't express what I needed, people showed up for me in big, big ways. You really learn a lot about people when the chips are down and you’re completely vulnerable and broken.
There are moments when grief still catches me and I feel like I can't breathe. The truth is: I haven’t been the same since Warner died. In some ways, my heart is still broken and I am still grieving. There are times I find myself closing off and turning cold when things get hard, where I would have jumped in and embraced the hardship before. There are days I want to be home with Gatsby more because I feel like I missed so much time with Warner due to work and travel. Things are just....different now.
I’ve been thinking about tomorrow a lot: how I will feel, how I won’t feel, what I should feel. I don't know what I'll want, what I'll need or how I'll express any of these things to anyone....I will just be taking it moment by moment and remembering how he smiled up until the very end.
In Warner’s memory I have decided to donate to The Pet Fund every February 4th. The Pet Fund is a 501(c)3 that raises funds to help pay for veterinary care for those who can’t afford it. They help pet owners keep fighting, keep hoping and keep believing that there are good people in the world when they need it the most. Warner and I received so much support during our battle with his disease that this is the best way I know how to keep his memory alive.
This is how I will always remember him: silly and sweet. He never met a stranger and he had this amazing ability to bring people joy, even if they'd never met him.
He was gone far too soon, but he is never far from my heart or my thoughts.