As all forever families know, there comes a time when your pet is suffering and because you love them, the hardest of decisions is made. Three years ago, my beloved kitties crossed over the rainbow bridge. First, Angel, then a few months later Camille. I still remembering loading the empty pet carriers, leaning against the car door and sobbing. Losing one was hard enough, but two felt unbearable.
L-R: Camille and Angel taking in the warm sun.
My sweet Angel's ashes arrived in a beautiful wooden box which I lovingly placed on my mantel. Camille was lost with out her big sister and was openly grieving with her calls and disinterest. She and I were two kindred spirits trying to console each other. Several months later, we had to make yet another hard decision with the help of our compassionate vet. Soon, Camille's ashes joined her sisters on the fireplace mantel.
It's hard to explain...I can only say I just wasn't ready to bury them. Their passing had happened all too fast. There was some comfort in still having them near me, in a strange sort of way, Most days, I forgot the boxes where there at all, till my dusting brought me to the living room mantle once again. Day by day life happened and I never got around to laying them to rest. Each spring I promised myself I would go out to where our first cat, Beardsley had been laid 17 years before, and say my final good byes when the ground thawed. Then spring became summer, summer fall, then winter. Year after year passed, and still they sat.
My #50preciouswords entry
Each time I saw the boxes, they reminded me of Angel and Camille's rescue story, and being a writer, I started playing with some words. I entered Vivian KIrkfield's #50preciouswords contest with a 50-word entry, entitled, "Two Plus Two. I knew right away that these 50 words could be expanded to a full manuscript and began channeling my emotions into what would later become my debut picture book, "Forever Home."
Working on the book made me feel closer to my sweet kittens, reminding me of their funny little quirks; Camille crawling up under my sweatshirt when I held the bottom out and getting stuck in the arm of my sleeve, and how Angel loved to squeeze into the cat bed made for one, just to be as close to Camille as she could.
Working closely with an illustrator like Erica Leigh, who actually knew and loved these kittens as I did, added so much to the art. Whenever a text appeared from her, saying she was emailing me some sketches, I'd leap to my computer, and open the file as fast as I could. Seeing the kitten's images for the first time was very emotional. As the illustration process continued, each page's arrival brought a smile and a tear wishing Camille, my writing buddy was still curled up on my lap purring and I could share this moment with her.
Character sketch of our kittens
In August the first batch of books was published. Erica Leigh and I felt satisfied that we had honored our sweet kitties with the best book we could make. In the fall, we attended a fundraiser for Baypath Humane Society who rescued them, and raised $200 which was spent on donations of food, litter and toys for their new batch of kittens.
When my second order of books arrived this week, I flipped through the pages of their story, and felt like life had come full circle. Their story was written, money raised and plans were being made for reaching out to class rooms to discuss adoption and community helpers. Angel and Camille's story was touching hearts and making a difference.
Decker and Maddyn enjoying their new copy of "Forever Home."
This week, on an extraordinarily warm November day, I sat in the back yard enjoying the breeze and glanced at the corner where Beardsley was buried. "It's time," I said out loud to my husband, "time to lay them to rest." I headed in to the living room and gently picked up their boxes and carried them out side to where Scott was preparing the ground.
Scott laying Angel and Camille to rest.
After I said my good byes and thanked them for their love, I read a book called " When You Love a Cat" by M.H.Clark. What a beautiful poetic understanding this book has of what it means to love a cat. I was grateful that M.H. Clark's book gave me the words I needed at that moment.
"When You Love a Cat," by M.H.Clark.
I am so grateful for Angel and Camille who lit up our lives with laughter and love for seventeen years. As hard as the good bye was, we are better for having been their "Forever Home." This Christmas, many little children will wake up to my book and share some time curled up on a lap of someone they love. Imagining this warms my heart.
Sample pages from "When You Love a Cat."
If you would like to share Angel and Camilles Story with your little loved one, please visit: www.cathystenquist.com. Happy Holidays!