I have been contemplating life a lot this past week. Hardly surprising as that was her name.
Last Monday we had to ask the vet to put Zoë to sleep. We knew it was coming. She had recovered well from her operation but the cancer was malignant and aggressive and it would only be a matter of time. Our main concern in the past months had been whether we would know when it was time? The last thing we wanted was for our companion to suffer. When the time came, it was sudden and obvious. At five o’clock our pussycat was staring lovingly at me purring away, by supper time she was uncomfortable and lethargic and by seven she, Mr M and I were with the vet, who had very kindly extended her opening hours.
The evening passed in a fragile blur: a toast to our moggy and a meal that neither of us really tasted, Mr M slipping Rutter’s Requiem into the CD player and Dante looking even more confused than normal.
Zoë, and her son Dante, entered our lives over two years ago, six weeks after dad’s untimely death. Determined not to spend another week in Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, she persuaded us with tarty head rolls to take her and her ‘problem boy’ home. We called her Zoë, the Greek for life. A beautiful name for a gorgeous cat and a reminder that even in the darkest days life persists.
And persist it did. Zoë and Dante helped coax me back to life after losing dad. Her personality – part staid but eccentric dowager, part frolicsome kitten – nurtured a love of life in me that for too long had been stamped out by the demands of my job.
Death however is the flip side of life and its spectre appeared in March in the cruelest of manners. The nature and timing of Zoë’s illness could not have been more poignant and whilst she was in hospital, the memories of mum were swirling in my head. To our delight our cat survived the operation and returned home to await the results and recover in comfort. Then we learnt that she would only have two or three more months and once again the memories of my mother’s final years engulfed me.
Zoë, however, was a trooper. Our tijgerinnetje (aka little tiger, a cute Dutch word that Mr M adopted) made a spirited recovery from the surgery. Her appetite, and the tarty head rolls with which she begged for food, returned and before long she was scampering around chasing shadows again. Purrs, cuddles and straddling the armchair and sofa were her specialities. Just like my mum, our moggy was not waiting for death, she lived and enjoyed life to the end!
The (impending) loss of a loved one is a reminder of how precious life is. Zoë’s departure has reminded me once again that we all live with the certainty of death and that ultimately timelines and forewarning do not really matter. What does is how we live while we are here and the joy, kindness and support we bring. Focussing on that feels like a good way to pay homage to Zoë, as well as mum and dad.
As you mentioned, the Greek work Zoe means life. More specifically, it refers to the spiritual life as opposed to Bios, which is the biological life. The body, Bios, is temporary. But the spirit, Zoe, is infinite. Your memories contain the Zoe of your beloved mother and father, and now they are joined by the spirit of the being who tended you in your grief. They all will watch over you forever.