What She Left Behind

By Madi Rapella
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I have always been somewhat aware of the constant presence of death in my life, but the day it struck my beloved friend, I was no longer partially aware of it. I was intoxicated by it. It rattled through my bones, paralyzing my body until I had no other choice but to surrender myself to the ground for support. Physical pain seized my heart when I found my childhood best friend, Gigi the cat, curled into a lifeless ball. She was not just a cat. She was my companion through the worst and best times of life. I had forgotten what the world was like before Gigi came into it.

When Gigi first passed away, it was intolerable, as I was in denial. Then it became awkward. It was as if I was walking around trying to function in the world with only half a heart. Sometimes I had to force a grin and put on a face, but in reality I felt like death itself. I know full well that we are all mortals. And I know that death will carry us all away someday, but I never knew it would make me feel like that person had never existed at all. It was as if the memories of the deceased had all been one giant, lovely dream and I had simply imagined it all. I believe that is what makes death excruciatingly painful. The complete and utter finality of it.

Gigi simply vanished, her soul and all, leaving me with this empty body that once held so much love. Her death was so sudden it did not even feel real until the pain set in. That was as real as ever. One moment Gigi was a healthy, happy kitty and then in a blink of an eye her shoulder started to harvest this monstrous lump. It grew like a weed, consuming her left shoulder until she was forced to limp. It fractured the bones in her shoulder, but she never complained despite all the pain she must have been going through. Gigi just went along with her day and did the best she could for herself in the moment. She continued to love us even though each day was a struggle and the simple act of breathing consumed all of her energy. As we neared closer to her death, she grew drastically weaker and aloof. We knew Gigi’s time would soon come. However, nothing and I mean absolutely nothing in the whole wide world could have ever prepared me for what was about to come. All I could do was lay down next to her weak body and try to make her as comfortable as possible. It pained me to see her in this constant state of agony, but we had tried everything we could to demolish the tumor. We took her to Colorado for radiation therapy, confident that it could save our sweet Gigi. When she arrived back home her tumor began to shrink, but then days later it started to grow again. This time it grew at an alarming rate. I remember the moment I realized that there was nothing else we could do for her but to just love Gigi till the end. And that is exactly what we did.

I will never forget the last time I kissed Gigi on her cute forehead. She looked at me with her big, golden eyes as I descended down the stairs to go off to work. If I had known that was her last day, I would never have gone to work. I try not to hold that regret with me, but sometimes the frustration and anger are too overwhelming. Then when I was at work, painting a pottery display piece, my mom walks into the shop. My heart immediately dropped from my chest because I already knew what happened. She takes off her sunglasses and reveals her eyes brimmed with tears. No words were necessary in that moment. It suddenly felt like the world was collapsing down on me. When I stepped outside to go back home, the sunny, blue sky seemed like it was mocking me. The rest of the world was simply carrying on with itself as I was internally crumbling.  I remember thinking in my head, so this is what the world feels like without my best friend in it.

Gigi, with her silky black fur, came into our lives ill and an abnormally small. Yet, it did not affect her ability to trust and love us. Since day one, she has brightened up the world around her and has brought never-ending joy to my family. And for that, we are eternally grateful. Gigi lived a wonderful, pleasant life. She had this remarkable ability to tolerate my utter nonsense whenever I would dress her in a pink tutu and stroll her around the park in a dog stroller. It was obvious she did not particularly enjoy these experiences as much as I did. Gigi went on many adventures, most of them against her will; nonetheless they were very fond memories. Yet, she still loved me unconditionally with all of her little kitty heart. My mom said she has known many cats in her life, but she has never known such a docile, loving cat as Gigi. She was everything a child could ask for in a companion: sweet, loving, and understanding. Whenever I was solemn, or stressed Gigi would curl up into my lap and comfort me. I would only have to hug her and all my anxieties and worries would dissolve. There is not a day that goes by that I do not achingly miss Gigi. I will always cherish the wonderful memories I have had with her and I will always keep her soul and spirit with me forever. She was one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. Her legacy will continue within the lives that she has touched, for her love could never die.

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