My muse died on Friday. Her name was Freya.
We hadn’t intended to adopt, but the sneaky volunteers at the shelter asked if we wanted to meet some cats. They were, of course, all adorable…but one little ball of grey and white fluff made the decision for us. A tiny thing, the runt of her litter…she climbed up my chest with her sharp little claws and perched. When my husband came by to pet her and offer praise for her mighty accomplishment, she stretched so that she could stand with her hind paws upon my shoulder and her front on his. She nosed curiously at both of our faces and we took her home that day.
She was our first pet, our princess. We doted on her and called her our furry, purry daughter. Freya was an incredibly loving creature who followed us everywhere; if she wanted to explore a new place (as she often did, the curious little beastie), she would stand still and meow at us until we accompanied her on her journey.
For thirteen years, I fell asleep with her next to me every night and woke up with her curled up in the crook of my arm every morning. When I lay down on my belly to read, she always rushed over to lay down under my chin. I just made a rough estimate: more than three hundred books were read with the feel of warm fur and purrs against my throat.
When I went back to college, I studied by reading my textbooks out loud to her. When I started writing, she was at my side; literally every word I've written--four partially-completed projects and one self-published novel--was typed with her within arm’s reach (usually demanding pettings). If I stood up from my chair she would steal it, curling up in the warmth I’d left behind; I kept a stool nearby so that I could keep working after I gently rolled Freya and my comfortable office chair aside.
I joked that she was my harshest critic because I’d recited my work aloud to lots of people, but she was the only reviewer who’d ever bitten me.
Freya was loud, and demanding, and bitey, and perfect. Even the vet techs always stopped to tell us how beautiful she was, and how soft was her lovely fur. And how well behaved she was for everyone but me.
I was the only person she ever bit. It was never in anger, never out of pain; it was play and communication. I suffered from peripheral neuropathy and so barely noticed my growing collection of scars. She loved me so much. Loved us all.
Her entire life was affection and purrs.
Four weeks ago, she got sick. Three weeks ago, she was diagnosed with small-cell lymphoma. Treatable, if only we could get her to eat…and we tried everything. The veterinarians tried everything, but Freya kept getting weaker and each nausea reducing (or appetite inducing) medication functioned less with every dose. Tomorrow morning, we were scheduled to bring her to the vet to have an esophagostomy tube installed. With that, we could pump food, water and medication directly into her tiny, wasted little body. All of us were hopeful that this, finally, would help her turn the corner.
But my poor baby was tired, she was weak. She hated going to the vet, she hated fighting us when we administered her medication. She was done.
This evening, we were on our way home from the drug store to pick up some more medication, and my pretty girl stole my comfortable office chair one final time. My housemate went in to check on her, to pet her and let her know that she was loved, and then went out to get himself dinner.
As soon as she knew she was alone, Freya stopped fighting. We were only minutes away but she was gone when we got home.
I have so many extraordinary memories. Everywhere I look, I see her influence! Every room where we regularly relaxed has a cat-tree so that she could perch and look down upon us (even though she’d eventually climb down to cuddle). The couch--bought only two years ago--battlescarred by her claws. Her toys. When we bought this house, we organized every space so that it was convenient for her to spend time with us. She was an integral part of our household.
There is a soft, grey-furred and purring hole torn from my heart. And even now, as I sit at the keyboard to type, I keep reflexively turning to pet the cat who should be curled up behind me. Finishing my next novel is going to be heartbreaking.
Who’s going to bite me when I get a word wrong?