For those of you who read my blog regularly, you have heard me speak a lot about my geriatric cat, Bigfoot, who I had to have euthanized 8 months ago.
I’ve also written that Bigfoot’s death hit me every bit as hard, if not harder, than the death of my childhood friend who died in a tragic car accident two months before he died. I felt a lot of guilt over that. But I’m willing to bet that most pet loss grief counselors will agree that the loss of a beloved companion animal can be every bit as difficult as the loss a family member.
A few weeks ago, I started realizing that I’m forgetting things about Bigfoot and that made me feel sad. I don’t want to forget ANYTHING about him…. how he felt when I held him close to my neck, how he felt curled up next to me in the bed at night, the sound of his meow and purring, and how his beautiful emerald-green eyes and slow love blink could melt my heart.
I had not dreamed about Bigfoot since his death. Not one dream in 8 months. I longed to have a dream about him because I felt so desperate to just see him again. I was missing him so much. For the past 8 months, I’ve felt such an emptiness in my heart and in my home. Then about three weeks ago I laid down early one evening for a nap. I fell asleep quickly and I finally had that dream– a very vivid dream about Bigfoot. In the dream, I was in bed asleep. When Bigfoot was living and he wanted me awake, he had rather amusing ways to rouse me. He would often walk around on my pillow. Or sometimes he would sit bedside my pillow and gently lay his giant polydactyl paw on my face or nose. In this dream, I felt Bigfoot walking on my pillow. I sat up, turned around and there he was. I can’t begin to describe the joy I experienced in this dream at seeing him. I smiled big and scooped him up into my arms. The first thing I noticed was that he was heavier and healthier than he was at the time of his death. I held him close and brought him to my neck to cuddle him. I kept telling him how much I had missed him and how much I loved him. And while I was telling him all this, I remember feeling like there was this pure, white, and warm love radiating from my heart. I remember his fur was so shiny and healthy looking. At his death at 19 1/2, he had that old cat look– the dull hair coat–and he had lost a lot of muscle mass. I told myself in the dream, “Well of course he’s healthier, he has a new heavenly body!” I held him out and looked at him and in the dream his face had a vague brindle coloration to it (in real life, he had a gray and white face with no brindle). So he looked like Bigfoot, but with some definite physical changes. And though this is odd, in the dream I remember recalling how Jesus’ disciples had a difficult time recognizing Jesus after His resurrection. At seeing the brindle color, I remember feeling a little perplexed, and I remember asking, “Bigfoot, is this really you?” Then I looked down at his feet and saw those indistinguishable and unmistakable white polydactyl paws of his (he had an extra toe on each paw). And I knew it was him. I kissed him over and over and kept telling him how I had missed him and how I loved him so. At that point in the dream, my youngest son walked into the bedroom. He didn’t seem surprised in the least to see Bigfoot. I remember him commenting that Bigfoot looked a lot healthier. I explained to my son that yes, he had received a new body in heaven. He’s no longer that sick, thin, 19-year-old cat with a dull hair coat. He’s “fat” and sleek again. My son asked me if he was purring (Bigfoot rarely if ever stopped purring in his 19 1/2 years of living with us). I held his chest up to my ear and I heard his ole familiar purr. And oh how that made me smile. I had missed that sound so much. For several minutes I kept holding him, kissing him, and telling him I loved him and how much I had missed him. I told him I was so happy that he had come back. At the same time, I knew he was not back to stay. I knew his visit with me would be brief.
Then in the dream, my son asked me to come to the kitchen to check on something he had put on the stove. I remember laying Bigfoot down on the bed, on the soft navy fleece blanket where he slept for almost 20 years. He curled up in his old familiar sleeping position I had witnessed so many times. I remember being a little hesitant to leave the room because I knew when I returned, he wouldn’t be there. I knew in my heart that he would return to heaven once I left that room. But I left anyway with my son. After a few minutes, I returned and my prediction had come true. There was no cat on my bed. I wasn’t particularly distraught over this…. I had expected it. In Bigfoot’s final weeks, he often sought solitude under my bed. I remember in the dream, getting down on hands and knees to look under the bed, just to check, but knowing fully well that he wouldn’t be there. He wasn’t. I knew he had gone back to heaven and I was fine with that. I felt warm and happy and grateful for his visit, as brief as it was.
It was at that point I woke up from that very vivid dream. I felt so comforted and peaceful. I lay in bed a long time and thought about that dream. It was perhaps one of the most vivid dreams I had ever experienced. So vivid that for an hour after the dream, I had the sensation of having cat hair in my mouth from smothering him in my kisses.
Last week, I read a book by Liz Eastwood called Soul Comfort for Cat Lovers: Coping wisdom for heart and soul after the loss of a beloved feline. It’s a short book and an easy read. I devoured it in two sittings and I LOVED it. It spoke directly to my heart. I cried throughout reading it. In the book, the author described the loss of her own cat Bastet. Bastet was barely 12 years old when a veterinary visit revealed a high-grade intestinal lymphoma that carried a very grave prognosis. Liz Eastwood describes being brought to her knees by the death of her beloved cat companion (I identified well). She described all she went through in her grieving process and felt as if “the sunlight had been packed up and removed from the world.” Why couldn’t other people realize the sun had disappeared? I SO got that!
I related to so much in this book. Towards the end of the book she talked about “dream visits” from our feline friends. She said dreams are a way we may experience a sense of spiritual connection with a much-loved animal who has died. And when these “dream visits” happen, to be open to a loving message within it. I absolutely got cold chills when I read that part, because there was such a loving message in the dream that I had just had.
Since my dream, I have felt my grief ease a little. I’ve felt gratefulness and happy when I think of Bigfoot. I’ve remembered many happy times with Bigfoot since my dream. And I think that’s what he would want… for me to remember the good times with him instead of being so sad over his death.