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September 20, 2009


an empty space

by Andrea O'Connell
Lilly at age 15 or 16
Lilly at age 15 or 16

It’s been a very long week. 

Lilly, my 19-year-old cat, is out of pain now. 
I couldn’t do it.  My heart was already too pained; I couldn’t manage it.  My kind-hearted step-father, Bill, did it for me – took Lilly to be euthanized at the vet this past Thursday morning. 10:30 a.m was the appointment.  
I wanted to be the one to take her but knew I couldn’t. Even though I know the decision to put her to sleep was the most loving thing for her (her quality of life was negligent at this point), I was not, am not, strong enough to see it through.     
Bill said he cried during and after.  He knew Lilly for 19 years, too.  He loved her as I did. 
At 19 she was growing feeble; cried constantly from pain and yet, when I so much as looked at her – even for a moment – she purred her vigorous purr.  I’ve never known a cat with such a loud purr.  
That purr often was my alarm clock in the morning.  Even though her coarse and wet tongue licked my closed eyelids, it was the purr that would wake me.  She even purred in her sleep, and would wake her self up, too.  It was funny to see that.   Kind of like how some of us wake ourselves up snoring; well, she’d wake up with a start, dazed.  Then, she’d curl back up into a tighter ball and drift off quickly again right after. 
She looked equal parts salt and pepper with that gorgeous long coat that was so much work.  Her personality was equal parts sugar and spice.  Old age didn’t damper her sweetness, though at age 19, she grew more shrill.
It’s the empty space she left that is difficult to deal with.  I remind myself that she is happier, and at rest.  It’s just the empty space that breaks my broken heart now.
8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Debbie
    Sep 23 2009

    Hey there….So sorry for your loss…I too have had to put an animal to beloved first Basset Hound..Sugaree..(named for a Grateful Dead song) my husband is a dead head. I feel your pain and know how this stabs you quite deeply. Please know now though that Lilly is purring her precious purr next to my darling Sugaree!

  2. Andrea
    Sep 23 2009

    Hey Deb,

    Thank you so much for your comments.

    Sometimes I wonder if its worth it to fall so deeply in love with our pets since it’s terribly painful when they go. But, then I tell myself that the time we do have with them here in our midst is certainly worth that pain. And, when all is said and done, time is immortal, after all.

    Thank you my dear friend.

    Hugs….now and always….

  3. Oct 5 2009

    I’m very sorry for your loss, Andrea. We all have memories of lost pets and we never, ever forget them. I’m not trying to plug my blog or anything, but I wrote a post for my sister a couple of years ago and she told me it helped her a little. You are more than welcome to read it, too. Whether it helps or not, I don’t know, but I hope it does. I wish you the best.


    Obviously, I wrote it before George Carlin died.

    • Andrea
      Oct 5 2009

      Dear Dave,

      I have just read your lovely piece.

      It hit home, hard lump in my throat, but that’s okay – it’s a process, grieving. Painful, but a process.

      This is my second time at bat in this game. I have Beau (my black cat with white whiskers), and my dog, Jazz (my Avatar!), and cannot fathom having to do this again.

      At any rate, dear Dave, I thank you for your comments here, and for your lovely piece about Babette. I have a dear friend who recently tried desperately to save a kitten abandoned by its mother. I’ll forward your link to her, too.

      All the best,

  4. Oct 5 2009

    I know what you mean about how hard it is to be there for your baby as she is put to sleep. My childhood cat had feline leukemia and got so bad she had to be put to rest. I was 22yrs old and thought I could handle staying with my childhood buddy through the process, after all, she was there for me! But I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to see her lifeless as a last memory. I left the vet’s after a long purr session with her. I’m 49 now and have many great memories of that cat. She was the “doll” I’d dress up, the poor thing was so patient with me.
    Our baby, Callie, passed this last summer and she is memorialized as my gravitar. She had a stroke and wasn’t able to purr but we knew she wanted us near her as she struggled to live. We were. And it was tearfully hard.
    My condolences to you on your loss of a beautiful, purrful friend,your baby.
    ps-she looks prettier than the Fancy Feast cat in your pic of her!

    • Andrea
      Oct 6 2009

      Hi Shelly,

      Thank you for your lovely comments. We do share similar memories. I am so sorry to hear of your recent loss, too. I love that gravitar – what a face! She’s beautiful. I am sure your baby Callie is in that lovely place that all of our beloved 4-legged kids go. I bet they’re having a ball! Heck, maybe Lilly and Callie have met and are having a grand time together!

      My first cat, Tallulah, I got when I went away to grad school to Purdue (I am from Florida). I was soooo lonely there at first. So I went to the local Humane Society, there in West Lafayette Indiana, and found the love of my life. Tallulah was this little nine-week old pure white cat that grew into my pride and joy for over twenty years. She did tricks, she opened doors and cupboards, and “talked” a blue-streak! She made many trips across country with me, too. What a traveler!

      She was in her twenties when I had to let her go, and my heart still aches for her.

      And…hahhaah I agree! Lilly is just like the Fancy Feast cat – just like that cat!

      I love the picture of your Callie. And I love that you have come to visit me, too.

      All the best to you, as always.

      ps… Shelly are you aka Coreysmom? 🙂 so lovely to see you….!

  5. Melanie
    Oct 6 2009

    Hi Andrea. Nothing quite like falling in love with a kitten, is there? So sorry for your loss, I do know what it feels like 😦 I have a pregnant cat right now and I will name the kitten I keep Lilly in remembrance of your lovely Lilly and your love for her. Must be a wonderful place, kitty heaven:)

    • Andrea
      Oct 6 2009

      Hi Melanie,

      How dear of you to offer to name your kitten “Lilly”…. I can’t tell you how touched I am by your gesture.

      What fun you’ll have when your momma cat gives birth! I have been through that a couple of times, too. My 7 yer old cat, “Beau” (I tell him he’s my beau-friend!) came as a result of keeping one kitten from a litter, too. I have always been very lucky to find homes for them all, too.

      It’s been just a couple of weeks since Lilly left me, and there’s a vacuum left in the space where she was here in my home…. it’s very difficult, but also a comfort to know that she had no quality of life left at the end. I know in my head that it was the last thing I could do for her to express my love, but my heart had a hard time going there….

      Thank you again Melanie,

      I know you’ll have many days of joy with your new Lilly!



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