Freedom in 50s

Saying Goodbye to the Cat who Melted my Heart

November 18, 2018
Saying Goodbye to the Cat who Melted my Heart

This morning I write while trying to hold back the tears. I cried plenty last night as I cradled dear old Smoke on my lap. But I know the hardest step is still in front of me. My beautiful Smoke is rapidly deteriorating and it’s time to say “goodbye.”

Me Before Smoke

Before Smoke came along, I kept a wall around my heart. I hadn’t done so consciously, but several years of poverty, despair and hopelessness had taken a toll on me. Over a four-year span, I lived in five states, seeking career opportunities, and ultimately, just surviving. Somewhere during those awful years, I learned how to disconnect from people. It was a protective device – I couldn’t take one more hurt, and the way to avoid hurt is to avoid people. Sure, it wasn’t a healthy way to adapt, but it was my unconscious defense mechanism.

In October 2001, I made a career move that brought me to Williamsburg, Virginia. Here I finally found some stability and a place to call home. In March 2003, I visited the local animal shelter – it was time to find a cat companion. And that’s where I found Smoke, a big cat with a healthy appetite who had been languishing there for the better part of a year. I was smitten. Only then did I realize the extent to which I had built a wall around my heart.

Adopting Smoke…and More!

Smoke and I quickly bonded, but if you’re a cat lover, you know what comes next…MORE CATS! I was traveling frequently for work and figured Smoke needed a friend, so I went back to the shelter to find the obnoxious orange Mr. Brett (formerly “Bartholomeow”). Smoke was NOT happy. But over time, we opened the house to the wild Gracie kitten, stray Dolly (she arrived with a Dolly Parton personality) and the latest addition, Angel. But Smoke was the QUEEN. She let every cat know that she was #1. And she let people know she was the central attraction – she’d plop herself down in the middle of a room full of people, making sure everyone had to walk around her.

Mr. Brett and Smoke

The thing is, opening my heart to Smoke gave me a glimpse into the possibilities. Could I open my heart to a child? So a year later, I found myself at an orphanage in Ukraine, looking into the eyes of a little girl who would become my daughter. Yes, I could love again, even if it hurt.

Irina at Orphanage, 2004

And so I say Goodbye

As I look at old Smoke sleeping by the fireplace, I know this is likely my last day with her. I’ll miss her terribly. But I am so thankful she walked into my life. I don’t know that I’d be the same person if I hadn’t found that beautiful face looking out at me from her cage. So thank you, Smoke for 15+ years of wonderful companionship. See you on the other side!



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  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach November 18, 2018 at 9:47 am

    Awe I’m so sorry!!! But it sounds like she brought so much to your life, so you will always have those memories. I have an 18 year old cat who I know I don’t have a lot of time left with on this earth, so I try to appreciate him as much as I can.

    • Brenda November 18, 2018 at 9:53 am

      Those darn cats wiggle their way into our lives and it’s hard to say goodbye.

  • Karen/Wildflower Adventures November 18, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Smoke is beautiful. Thanks for sharing her story. You gave her a good life.

    • Brenda November 18, 2018 at 7:12 pm

      Thank you, Karen.

  • Shirley uekert November 18, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    I feel bad about Smoke too. My visits will never feel the same anymore with him missing. I felt so empty inside when Sigmund left us.

    • Brenda November 18, 2018 at 7:13 pm

      Thanks mom, it’s always tough to say goodbye to our companions. The last time I cried this much was when dad died. I love this cat!