Loss and Travel

Loss and Travel

November 23, 2017

After we packed up our bags, sold our house, and gave it all up to travel the world, I swore that I would never have pets again. The pain in giving away our two cats was almost too much to bear and at times made me want to abandon our mad idea entirely.

We persevered (obviously). And in the nearly eight years that we lived without a home base, the devotion of little furry beings was one of the things we missed most. We placated it with plenty of house and petsitting experiences around the world (although had to endure a significant loss that way too), and we always loved up our family’s pets when visiting.

Our forced resettlement is still something that we are struggling with in some ways, but thoroughly relishing in others. And one reason for that has been having the consistent affection of cats once again. Beau and Teija aren’t technically ours (they belong to my mom), but because we’ve all been under the same roof for almost a year now, those two adopted us as their own. What pets wouldn’t want three devoted owners to love them and tend to their every need?

Especially when one of those owners (me), has spent more of that year in bed than out of it. Beau, the older of the two cats, clocking in at 86 years, became my steadfast companion. Our napping schedules melded together. He was by my side for nearly every bad episode of TV that I consumed and cuddled closer during my private episodes of sobbing.

Beau was, without doubt, the only living thing to actually be sad when my chemo treatments lessened and my energy increased. He followed me around the house, meowing and sometimes pawing at me. If I was anywhere near the bedroom he would come running, eager to see if I was crawling into bed so that he could join me.

But sadly, his running turned to slower walking, and finally, to fully limping. Arthritis began to overtake his little limbs, and in just a couple of short weeks, his pain became visible. He winced constantly, stopped covering up the litter when he used it, and in the last few days, required constant soothing just to get him to sleep. The painkillers seemed to help a bit, but at his old age, we all lived with the agonizing realization that he was never going to get better.

Keeping him alive for much longer would have been nothing more than selfishness on our part; it became clear to all of us that it was time. And so it was that my Mom made the final decision, and Beau was put to rest on Monday.

And despite the solace that he is no longer living in pain, our own is fresh and sharp from the loss. The small house feels large and empty without his gentle soul within it, and most especially when we watch Teija roam it in search of her brother, sometimes howling as if calling out to him.

In Beau’s final hours, Pete and I bought plane tickets. In just a couple of weeks we will fly into Costa Rica and bus north to spend two weeks roaming Nicaragua, which is an entirely new country for us.

Are these events related? Has such a bitter loss triggered my instinct to flee? These questions have been plaguing me.

I asked the same of myself after another loss almost five years ago, and until today, had forgotten what I wrote in response. But now upon rereading it, I believe it mostly still to be true.

Yes, maybe we are running away a little bit, removing ourselves from the surroundings that hold so many memories. With this life that we’ve built for ourselves, we’ve allowed ourselves the freedom to do that. If travel is what soothes us, then so be it. There are definitely worse vices.

This trip isn’t going to eradicate my grief – travel will never solve all possible problems – but for now it is giving me something to look forward to and when those days come, rejoice in. It will be a small slice of our former life that we love and miss, a shake-up of our current semi-stagnated state, and hopefully the house will feel a little less empty when we return.

RIP sweet, sweet Beau. I couldn’t have gotten through this last year without you.