Instead of mourning the anniversary of my cat’s first death day, I watched a rocket ship take off. We were at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and there happened to be a launch scheduled for that day. It was a resupply mission to the International Space Station and my inner child couldn’t believe her luck.
I had put on a brave face that day. Everyone I was with knew what that day meant to us but we didn’t want to ruin the day for everyone else. After all, she was just a cat. A cat that had raised me as much as I’d raised her. I’d met her when she was a kitten and she followed me everywhere. She watched as I got my heart broken over and over. Always ready for a reassuring boop of her head into the palm of my hand. She laid on my chest as I had my first panic attack while I laid on my couch in my first solo apartment. Seventeen years is a long time to build a bond with someone, even a cat.
Six kilometres from the launch site, I sat on the lawn behind one of the many buildings on that property. I’d just touched a moon rock with my bare hand. It was smooth and flat small triangle, with rounded edges. Putting my hand through the hole in the plexi glass made me think of what I felt when the vet announced “She’s gone”. It felt like a hole had been punched into my chest where my heart used to be.
After I finished the lunch we’d packed I laid my head in my partner’s lap. I took off my mirrored sunglasses and draped my arm over my eyes. It was bright out and there were a lot of people around. I felt overwhelmed and overstimulated on top of trying to “keep it all together”. I was so excited to watch the rocket take off. At the same time, all I could think about was her. All the while choking back my heartache.
My partner and I often talked about Storm’s gifts. The last years of her life weren’t easy on any of us, but especially her. We’d wanted to move to BC for a long time but caring for an aging pet is expensive. We were worried we’d never be able to afford the move. The day she died, while overwhelmed by my grief, I felt a sense of relief. She gave us two gifts that day. The first was a long life full of love. The second gift was being released from the financial burden that we’d never questioned for even a second. She gave us the gift of being able to move towards the dreams we’d been chasing for so long. Financially we were no longer tied to her so we could start to pour that love back into ourselves.
That day, the rocket ship taking off felt like another one of her gifts. Somehow, the stars had aligned that day. When I woke up that morning I thought that this would for sure be the worst day of the trip. I had, in fact, been dreading it for months leading up to our vacation. I knew it was going to be a hard day for me. To my surprise, it turned into my favourite memory from the entire trip. The sun was shining, and my face was pointed up towards the sky with hundreds of other curious humans. We were all sharing this experience together and it felt like magic.
Storm Sent us a Rocket Ship
The excitement from the crowd buzzed through the air. As we got closer to the time of the scheduled launch more people filed out of the building and started to mill about on the lawn. I sat back up and stretched forward before standing up, brushing the grass off my dress. At the launch site, billowy clouds of vapour had started to fill the air around the bottom of the rocket. I overheard another bystander telling his kid that they were getting ready to launch. I felt my heart flutter with excitement. Was I really going to get to see a rocket take off today?
Suddenly the crowd started counting down, “10… 9… 8…”
I turned to look over at my partner Shawn and caught his gaze, we were both grinning like excited children. I turned back to the launch site just in time for the crowd to count down “3… 2… 1…”
I watched in awe as the of vapour expanded in size, billowing out from the bottom of the rocket. The flames from the combustion in the engine burning so bright it hurt my eyes. The rocket ship started to move and the tower supporting it fell away. Suddenly there it was, taking off straight up into the air. The crowd gasped and cheered as it slowly climbed higher.
When it took off, the sound wave took what felt like half a minute to hit us. When it finally hit, I could feel it slam into me. It rattled the windows on the building behind us. It reminded me of how the waves of my grief felt when they hit. Sometimes delayed, always louder than I expected. Knocking me off my feet and rattling my very bones. Shaking me to the core.
I stared at the rocket as it got further and further away. I said a silent prayer to Storm as the rocket ship carried away a small part of my grief. Much like watching a rocket ship take off, my grief felt smaller the further away it got. The more time that passed, I learned to grow around it. If you squint, though, you’ll still be able to see it’s there. It will always be there. But you learn to find the magic in the moments in between. Like watching a rocket ship take off on your cat’s death day anniversary.
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