He was from Jamestown…or Chautauqua…or maybe even Celoron like Lucille Ball. All I know is he’d been one kitten too many for his first human, and dropped off at the animal shelter on Strunk Road in Jamestown, New York. One kitten too many originally called Ronan. One kitten too many who sneezed a lot and loved to play with shoe strings. One kitten too many who was born five months after Lizzie, my five-year-old cat, died on a cold Christmas night.
One kitten, my kitten.
But “You’re not Lizzie,” I cried after I brought him home. He played, undisturbed, in my teenage bedroom. He wasn’t Lizzie, but he was the kitten I adopted and promised to care for; the little grey one who hadn’t quite grown into his ears yet, the one who stuck his arms out of his cage every time I walked by at the shelter.
Not a day goes by that I don’t believe it was him who chose me.
He was the one who loved milk jug rings, and could jump too high in the air. The one who would run up the door frame and could make it to the top. The one who would pull the string on the toy mouse to make it go, then chase it and use his teeth to do it again.
And he was the one who’d stare at his blue stocking the days leading to Christmas every year; waiting, knowing, a gift would soon be inside. Then Christmas morning would come and he’d get the treats out himself. Once even dragging them up the stairs to my bedroom. The package, that year, had been too difficult to open on his own.
He was the one, he was my Brady Grey. And I always believed he’d live longer than he did. I suppose I thought if I said it enough, it’d come true.
Brady lived fifteen years, one month, and one day; having passed on June 24, the day the Supreme Court not only overturned Roe V Wade, but also announced their intentions to re-exam marriage equality and same-sex relationships. It seems even he’d seen enough of this world; an often cruel and dark place where he was one of my brightest sources of light. My right and my light gone all in one day.
Brady had been, according to his vet, in remarkable health. Until suddenly he wasn’t, and he seemingly aged years in the matter of weeks. He met his elderly self and said no thank you, just like he would when his paws touched the snow in the wintertime.
Fifteen years later, I still think about how if Lizzie hadn’t passed so young, that one kitten too many would never have been in my life. He wouldn’t have lived with me in Asheville, North Carolina. We wouldn’t have played fetch with sticks in the yard. I wouldn’t have learned all that he came here to teach me.
I wouldn’t have chased him around the house, trying to bring him into my bedroom, then given up and closed the door without him. He wouldn’t have scratched at the door two minutes later, teaching me patience, boundaries, and detachment all at once. Like his passing, his life was always on his terms.
In 2013, the year Brady turned six, my family said goodbye to both our cat, Noel, aged sixteen; and our dog, Dustin, aged fourteen. Brady, my mom had said, was it; the last one. The grief of losing a pet was too much to bear.
But grief, of course, is the cost of love.
I reminded her of this when Brady fell ill in the springtime. Because what about Lily?, the stray kitten who came to the house in September 2015, and never left; the one who would cry every time Brady went outside without her, the one who now naps where he would, instead of where she did. Is Lily not worth it? Was fifteen years with Brady not worth this grief? Of course she is. Of course it was.
Brady wasn’t Lizzie, and he was never meant to be Lizzie. But the heart-wrenching fact that I had to say goodbye to her in order to have him doesn’t escape me. And my love for Brady has often felt deeper than my love for any other pet in my life. All I can surmise is that with each pet we love, our heart opens a little wider.
And above all, that’s what his presence provided. Love. Something I can hold with me forever. So if these bodies were not born to be immortal, what more could I ask for?
I have really missed the way you have with words. If only the beauty in your words hadn’t come from the hurt of another loss.
Love you Em