Welcome to Grady's Rainbow Bridge Memorial Residency
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Memories of Grady
Please - it means a lot to me when people sign Grady's guestbook. I miss him so, and am so heartbroken.

The Story of Grady

I can't really tell Grady's story without giving a little insight into my own. My history - particularly in growing up - is deeply intertwined with why Grady and I were so tightly bonded - we simply had a special relationship.

I'm currently 41. I am an only child, born to excellent parents who did very well professionally. This made me pretty precocious. I grew up mixing more with the friends of my parents than I did with other people my own age. It gave me a language and a willingness to put my opinion right out there that didn't necessarily mix well with my own peers. Add to that the fact that I was an awkward child and teenager and a VERY late bloomer (like 25), and you get a picture of a kid who not only didn't fit in, but was actively ostracized in very cruel and emotionally painful ways by kids my own age.

It's the profile of a loner, frankly. Very few friends and a general feeling of separation from other people. It was very, very lonely. Depressingly so. And so I turned to the only friend I had - and that was my childhood tabby Pancake, who we found when I was 7 years old (about 1974) and had with us until my senior year of college (March 1, 1990). I felt like I lost a part of me when he crossed over - lost an anchor of connection.

In mid-April 1990, I was coming home from work late one night. I was finishing my undergraduate degree and had applied for a scholarship to graduate school to pursue an MBA. It was weird weather that April - unseasonably cold with a cold, persistent rain on the night I came home. I rented a basement in a townhouse at the time - truly a college student's abode. As I was approaching the house, I heard a crying in the shrubbery out in front of another house. It was like 3am - I peered in and saw this black and white ball of fur, soaking wet, crying out. I picked him up - he was so small. I put him in my coat and took him into the house. I wasn't allowed to have pets in the house - my landlandy, who lived on the other two floors of the house, already had a cat of her own. But I took him in anyway, filched a can of the other cat's food, picked up the mail and headed downstairs.

I opened that can of food and put it down and that little dripping, shivering ball went right at it. He was so very hungry. I took a towel and rubbed him as dry as I could - I didn't want to turn on my blow dryer and either scare the bejesus out of that kitten or wake my landlady. I crawled onto the bed with the kitten and turned on the TV. In seconds, he walked up to my pillow, curled up, and laid down so that his little body was pressed against my neck - right next to my warmth and my heartbeat. I knew then that I was never going to give him up.

The next morning, I opened the mail and found my acceptance - with a scholarship - to graduate school. I looked at that sweet kitten - already so mine - and decided that his name would be "Grady" because it had "grad" in it. I took him that day to my parents' house and told them I needed them to keep him until I could find a place that accepted cats. I put my notice in with my landlady, found an apartment in Virginia with a friend that allowed each us to bring our respective cats, and the rest is history.

At his first vet visit, we were checking him out, taking blood and giving vaccines. The vet estimated Grady's date of birth to be right about March 1st of 1990. The significance didn't escape me. I was already in love with that little cat - he had chosen me, and somehow knew that I would protect him. But the fact that he was born right when Pancake passed was not lost on me. I believed then as I do now that Grady was literally sent to me - for me - to love and to help me heal.

From that very first, rainy night, Grady has been a stellar friend and feline companion. He was always soooo laid back. I spent quite a few years doing feral kitten socialization and fostering for the Humane Society. Many kitties simply don't acclimate to other cats - a seeming neverending stream of cats - coming through the door and invading their space. But Grady was always accepting of these interlopers (smile). I think on some level Grady knew that the same heart that compelled me to take him in out of the cold rain was the heart that knew these kittens needed help to find a permanent home. Never once - not once - did Grady have ANY bad behavior as a result of all of this feline disruption. Grady was always first in my heart - and without needing to tell him so, he always knew that.

I do believe that Grady spent every day of his 19 years, three weeks and two days on this earth looking forward to me coming home and spending time with him. He was funny, really - to anyone who was NOT me, he was simply indifferent. Never aggressive - just disdainful of anyone or anything that might be co-opting my attention. If friends came over and sat down next to or near me on the couch, Grady came and sat between them and me. In the case where I was dating or had a boyfriend over, Grady would sit and stare at that person until they acknowledged their rightful place in my life - which was ALWAYS after Grady. He came first. My husband to this day laughs about the disdain Grady had for him. He would be talking to Grady - something along the lines of "I'm married to her. You can..." and mid-sentence, Grady would look at him, turn around, and walk away from him. It was such a willful, open act of ownership of me. But Grady only did that because he knew that he did own me without question. He knew that nothing else in my life came before him.

For many, many years Grady would entertain me by getting the "bed crazies". God I miss seeing that. When I would go to make the bed, wrinkles in the sheets and comforter would invariably appear and then smooth out. It looked, to him, like something underneath the covers that he simply had to chase. He was SO fast - he would watch the wrinkles and leap from across the bed, sliding with his front paws splayed to catch that phantom critter under the covers. He'd catch nothing, of course. But the slide itself would create new wrinkles that he would slide at and pounce on, quickly pulling his head to and fro to catch sight of the next "critter". It was hilarious. He also loved his toys - and specific toys were the object of his desire. One day I brought home one of the YEOWWW! brand catnip bananas. Grady was a catnip lover. He wouldn't roll around in it the way some cats do - he would endeavor to simply eat it like a kitty salad. I gave him this banana and he commenced to lick and lick and drool all over it. When I picked it up, it was sopping wet. He would curl up around that thing and hold it with his front paws and strike at it with his back legs and then just wind up rubbing it against himself and drooling. I always kept a fresh catnip banana on hand for his enjoyment.

He had an interesting relationship with Baby Girl, one of the feral kittens for whom I never found a permanent home. They were never sleeping buddies - more like the Walter Mathau/Jack Lemmon relationship, frankly. But every now and again, Grady and Baby Girl would stand together and Grady would commence licking her head. He'd lick and lick and then suddenly place one of his big paws on the top of her head and bite her ear. She would always bear down and take it - she was eternally patient when it came to revenge - she'd pull back and just when you knew she was going to give it to Grady, he would run off and away from her. Grady would have to spend the next hour or so looking for Baby Girl to shoot out from under something or on top of something and give him a swat and a tackle.

Grady was also my constant companion at bathtime. He would come in and sit on the toilet while I took a bath (I'm a bather, not a showerer). I had this 4-cup plastic measuring cup that I would use (this is about ten years ago) to rinse my hair of shampoo and conditioner. I'd fill it from the bathtub tap and pour it over my head. One day I noticed that he was acutely interested in this cup of water. He would do what I came to know as the "water dance" - where he would shift his weight back and forth in an antsy fashion. One day I filled that cup with warm, clear bathtub-tap water and set it down for him. That became his water dish - that old plastic measuring cup. And woe be it to me if I didn't fill it for him within a timeframe that he found appropriate.

Grady was always an indoor kitty - but at a very young age, I leash trained him. I wanted him to be able to go outside but not independently. I bought this small dog harnass and hooked a retractable leash to it and took him outside. He would eat grass. LOTS of grass (love it - like I took him to a salad bar or something), and then get on the sidewalk and roll around until he had dirt and sand and grunge all over himself. He'd pick his head up after and fix me with a very self-satisfied look. One of the greatest gifts God ever gave me was warm weather this past Sunday. As Grady got older and I decided against vaccinating, I didn't take him out. After he cancer diagnosis on Feb. 17, I prayed for some warm days so that he could be outside again. The day before we helped him pass, it was beautiful and warm and sunny. I took Grady outside with me and he ate some grass and slowly made his way around. He sat down at one point and just lifted his face to the sun and smelled the outside air. It was a beautiful gift given to one of God's truly beautiful creatures - Grady.

But the best thing about Grady was how deeply and completely he loved me. To everyone else - either looking at him or looking at pictures of him, they would say he looked "aloof". But without fail - daily and nightly - when Grady and I were alone he would turn his beauty to and on me. He would rub his face against mine and butt my head, giving me Grady kisses. He would claim my chest or my lap as I read or watched TV and just look at me. He would rub his whisker ridges against my hands or face and let me know how much he loved me. He would stomp all over me in bed - walk across my chest, my neck, my face. He'd butt my head awake in the morning and then settle down, just looking at me. He did this consistently and unfailing throughout his life. He daily affirmed his love and affection for me and I tried to always give it back to him in spades. It was such a tender, personal relationship between he and I. He didn't have that with anyone else - just me.

The very first time he got sick - in October of 2007, right before he was diagnosed with CRF, he sought me out and meowed at me. I knew from his tone that it was a different kind of meow, that he needed me to help him and knew I would. We left for the ER minutes later - because I knew something was wrong and that he needed me to help him feel better. This one thing - his request for me to help him - grew out of our relationship. One where he knew I would be there for him and care for him and where he knew I would endeavor to make good decisions for him. He NEVER - not once - let me down. And I worked very hard to return that unique trust by being utterly trustworthy where he was concerned. I truly felt the fullness of our relationship in that dark time, and I'm eternally grateful for the 17 great months I had with him after that diagnosis.

On his last day, he was so serene. Yes, he was weak - it was his time. But he would still pick his head up and look at me and love me and let me brush him. When his soul slipped from his body - and he had such a big, beautiful soul that the only "right" thing was to set it free from the body that now limited him - is was so incredibly peaceful. I talked to him the whole way through and let him know that he wasn't letting me down by leaving - that after attending to me his entire life, it was now time for him to go from being a constant, warm, loving, cherished presence at my side to being my Angel. I know he hung on through a lot for my sake - because he knew how badly I would hurt when I couldn't hold or touch his physical being any longer. So I tried to ease that for him - to tell him what a singular, great love he had been to me and what a magnificent gift he was in my life. I hope that that is what he carried forward with him as he transitioned from this world to the next - it is such a small, ridiculously insignificant thing in light of everything he gave me. But it is and was the very, very least that he deserved.

Grady 3/1/1990 - 3/23/2009 - Irreplaceable. Painfully missed. Deeply loved.

Please read this poem that really captures my relationship with Grady:

http://www.crean.com/jimwillis/best.html

I miss you my sweet Grady. No one will ever take your place.

3/30/2009 - It's been a week my sweet Pooh Buddy. I can't believe you've been gone from me for a whole week. Your ashes came today. I am comforted that you are home where you belong. I think you sent me a song yesterday while I was getting lunch at the Whole Foods-you let me know you were there with me. It made me sad, but I also recognized you were trying to reach out to me. I miss you & love you so much. I always loved you the best, and still do.

6/23/2009

Dear Grady,

The 23rd of every month will always mark, for me, an anniversary of the day you crossed over. Today, on June 23 2009, is the three-month milestone of what has been, for me, a life-changing event.

I remember when I wrote my last "Dear Grady" letter. Things were still raw then. It was more with shock than anything else that I would remember that you weren't still just upstairs, waiting for me to come up and love on you and cuddle you and spend time with you. I still have to remind myself from time to time - I even caught myself, about two weeks ago, calling you when I called the other kitties to me. That was weird. Not because I called you and you weren't there - but because I hadn't called you like that in what seemed like such a long time that your name - spoken at that volume with that particular inflection - sounded so foreign. Yet for 19 years, that is what I did on a many-times-a-day basis and would always find you at the other end of that call, waiting for me. It hurt more than a little to call out to you like that and NOT have you come as a result. Sigh.

You know how things are with me because I talk to you every day. I know you know as well that I talk OF you all the time. In those first days and weeks after you crossed over, I couldn't talk of you - of your excellent life or anything related to you - without choking up. And I have to confess - there are times that the tears still come when I think of you and speak of/to you. But those tears are less frequent and the smiles more readily at hand. You know I belong to a group to help me with grief support now that the chapter of my life entitled "After Grady" is here, and more than a few members have asked, generally, if the tears ever stop. They do - they become supplanted with more of a legacy of an excellent life lived and love shared - but so far, they haven't subsided completely.

I have told you, since your passing, that I don't want to bind you with my sorrow. But at the same time, I have tried to explain to you that I couldn't have loved you as much as I did for as long as I did without that sorrow now being present at all times. In the immediate days and weeks since you crossed over, that sorrow was a screech - a whine - that never abated and was always there. Now, it's more of a hum. It's still always there, but it's just as likely to bring a big smile as it is tears. So I consider that progress. I have promised myself that I will willfully (when required) make myself remember something awesome about you and about our lives together when I feel sad or teary or blue. It's so easy to do, really - because there was SO much that was awesome to remember. Sometimes I remember a particular thing - like the one time that I actually lost you (man was I panicked when I realized you weren't in the apartment we lived in then). I went all over the apartment complex with my roommate looking for you, calling you. And I remember stopping and shushing my roommate because I thought I heard you meow. By itself, that was amazing because you were never an overtly talkative guy. But I stopped and listened and I DID hear you. You were clear across the apartment complex (and it was BIG) standing on the third floor balcony of someone else's apartment. How you got up there I'll never know - but I was so relieved to find you. I kept my eye on you while Dave (remember Dave, my roommate, and his kitty Huey?) went and knocked on the door of the apartment's residents. When he didn't get an answer, he knocked on a next-door neighbor's door, went into their apartment, went out on their balcony, and reached over and collected you. You were home again! What a predicament. :) Sometimes I just remember *you*. The way you would watch me at night when it was time for bed and you would wait and then drape yourself across me. I see you beautiful, living face in my mind and that DOES make me smile.

I'm glad that I'm able to smile more when I think of you, despite the sorrowful hum that, I am sure, will now be with me always. I know you're in a better place and back, physically, to a condition that allows you to freely do all the things you loved so dearly that diminished with age. It is, really, a reward for all of us - to move on to the next cycle of our existence and to be renewed. And being able to smile when I think of you unfetters you little by little. It frees you to enjoy the renewal you so richly deserve. I remember that when I'm feeling sorry for myself - that I don't want to bind you in a negative way. Because the bond that we DO have isn't diminished at all by my releasing some of that sorrow and letting some of the light in.

Thank you for letting me walk your life's journey with you. You taught me SO much. Ironically, a lot of what you taught me I am able to actually put to good use to help other people and their kitties to this day. With each person I help, I feel it is a tribute to your excellent life. It is the very, very least that you deserve - to be honored. I tried to do it while you were still with me and I'm doing it with even greater earnestness now that you've moved on.

I am grateful that you remain with me and I apologize that sometimes I'm too thick-headed to appreciate that and focus instead on what I have lost (you, in a physical sense). I know, though, that you're patient with me and forgive me.

I love you Grady - with all of my heart, more than anything else.

Rena

3/23/2010 - One year after you went to the Bridge

Dear Grady,

A few days ago, as I was looking out of my front windows, I noticed a difference. I had to focus and try to figure out what was so different. After such a long, cold and snowy winter, the cherry tree in the front yard was showing the first development of the buds that will become beautiful, pale pink (almost white) cherry blossoms. When they come into full bloom, it will be a riot of colors and blossoms signifying the impending spring. I stopped and I looked carefully at the buds, just starting to assert themselves - and I broke down and cried.

At this time a year ago, I knew that the day was approaching all too quickly where you would no longer be physically with me. It made me remember how I felt when I first discovered that you had CRF, all the way back in October of 2007. Prior to that, I had never even allowed my mind to contemplate a life that didn't have you in it. After your CRF diagnosis, I had to face it. During that time, though, my focus was all on how I would help you feel better, how I would and could fix you and keep you feeling really well and enjoying your life so that I could enjoy having you in mine. A few times I let my mind wander to consider what it would be like after you were gone. I couldn't even picture it, and I certainly couldn't picture or contemplate any idea of having to help you go. It was unthinkable.

It wasn't until February of 2009, when we discovered that you had a tumor in your kidney, that I knew that my most solemn duty to you, my ultimate expression of love for you, would be helping you cross over peacefully and free from pain when the time came. Oddly, the decision to help you go wasn't difficult at all. I was never going to be ready for you to leave - but you let me know that it was time. Even as you prepared to leave this world and move on to the Bridge, you eased the way for me in the way that only you could by being my guide, by giving me confidence that I was making the right choice, and by accepting your own transition with a grace that I know I'll never match.

It's been a weird year. In one moment, I feel as if it's been only days since I last hugged, held and kissed you. In another, it feels like an eternity since I've seen your sweet face. It's been a surreal time where there are moments I can't quite believe that you aren't just upstairs, waiting for me to come up and dote on you. It's an odd juxtaposition.

You came into my life on a cold, rainy April day in 1990. We had had an unseasonably late snowstorm some days earlier, and the snow had turned over to rain leaving a cold slush on every outdoor surface. I had come home late that one night - almost the middle of the night, really. I heard a plaintive meowing as I approached my front door which sent me in search of its source. I looked around the shrubs in front of the house and under one, I saw this tiny, wet ball of black and white with a cute face and bright, lively green eyes looking back at me.

I picked you up immediately and tucked you into my coat and snuck you into the house, where I wasn't allowed to have any pets. I sneaked a can of cat food off of my housemate (and homeowner) and ferreted you into the basement with me. I toweled you try carefully, taking measure of your small, weeks-old body and then gave you some food. You ate hungrily, keeping your eyes on me. You were immediately comfortable in the house, taking charge and looking around a bit as you finished your food. It was late, and I was tired - I got into bed and put you on the bed with me. You were mostly dry at that point, and you came all the way up to where my head was. You chose a spot on the pillow next to my head and on top of my shoulder, nestled in curve from my neck to my shoulder. You slept there next to me all night, and took over a place in my life and in my heart that would never be relinquished.

From that night forward, "Grady and Rena", "Rena and Grady" were inseparable. You seemed to love me instantly, and I loved you back with an equal intensity from the moment I laid eyes on you. You were ALWAYS first in my life. Boyfriends? Expendable. You lived through some good ones and some bad ones, always maintaining your loyalty to me and making it known to whomever was in attendance that YOU held first place and priority in my heart and in my life.

You were there for every bad breakup, every disappointment. When I would be crying, you would come and sit quietly next to me, supporting me by just being there. You were always so attuned to my moods and ALWAYS knew when I needed some extra love. I look back on every single day of the 19 years that you were in my life and I realize that you never let me down - you were alway on my side, there fore me when I needed you the most.

It was funny when I started dating Bobby. When he sat down next to me on the couch, you got right up there and sat in between us. I would laugh out loud when you would turn and look at him as if to say "you don't belong here". You were never snotty with him - that wasn't your style. Rather, your cool disdain communicated a confidence that I'm so grateful you possessed - you knew the place you held in my life so jealousy was never required and never overtly shown.

I love and loved everything about you and our life together. I have counseled many who are grief-stricken over the loss of their beloved feline furfamily members that the trick is to focus on the journey, and not its conclusion. I think back on yours - all 19 years of it - and I can't necessarily point to this one particular instance or another to signify the beauty that you brought to my life and the joy that you provided me. Rather, it's a continuum. It was hours stuck in traffic but knowing that when I got home, you would be the first thing I'd see. It was your presence and serenity during times when I was at my lowest. It was the innumerable nights where I'd sit on the couch, put your blanket on my lap, and have you there with me as I did something as mundane as watch TV. It was the countless times that I would be working on my laptop and look over to see you sitting right next to me, waiting patiently for me to stop focusing on something else and turn my attention to you. It was all those stolen daytime moments where I'd rest for half an hour with you as a soothing and cherished presence. It was all the precious nights that you slept right next to my head - right there - so that when I woke in the night and opened my eyes, you were what I would see. It was the thousands of mornings where I woke and the first thing I saw was you. It was the wonderful mornings, day after day, where you were my companion during my morning bath. To this day, I still have a picture of you in the bathroom. It's of you - in the bathroom. The way you were every morning as I got up and was preparing for the rest of my day. I look at that picture now and I smile, but it's tinged with your physical absence.

Everything during these past 365 days, Grady, is a moment of stark contrasts. In one breath, it's joy and wonder at the bond that we share an how that played into every moment of my daily life. In another, it's almost like a sense of confusion - a feeling of rootlessness, I guess - that I come home to a house that doesn't have you in it in the way that I'm used to. I can't adequately describe how it feels to think that you're not upstairs, that I can't simply walk up there and give you a hug and hang out with you. I know that you've left your sweet body behind and that your spirit is freed and still connected to me - but it's hard to admit that, still.

I do know that you are still with me. I've seen what you have done - subtle things - to let me know that you're still right there with me, but in a way that my flawed human existence can't fully grasp. I think it's natural - when life's experience is all about what we can see and touch and smell and feel - to have difficulty tuning in to the wavelength that is spiritual and not physical. But I know that you give me gifts here and there to let me know that you're present. It's almost like you take over one of the other cats for a moment or two to give me a glimpse and a feeling of unique Grady-ness. The fact that Bella is drawn to the areas that you inhabited for so long is one sign. She want to get in my lap when I'm on the couch. She wants to sleep either on your blanket or your pillow. And just the other night - she did something so out of character for her that was SO what you always did that I knew you were with me. She got up in the night and slept half on my hip and half on the pillow that I have at my side, the way you did for so many wonderful years. I remember waking just briefly - sleep addled, never fully reaching consciousness - and seeing her there and knowing somehow profoundly and absolutely that you were right there. I know that you are with me when Meatball gets the "bed crazies", an advent that gave me so many smiles and so much laughter for so many years with you. I know that you're with me when Feats goes to the litter box and does that uniquely Grady thing: He hangs his head out of the covered box and puts just one front foot out on the ground as you did for so long. It always made me smile, and it still does.

To say that I love you - always have and always will - seems so small and insubstantial for the way loving you makes me feel. There truly are cases where words just don't do the enormity of thing - like total love - justice. I know you know that, Grady. I have some regrets about my conduct in my life with you (for example, I wish I had just simply spent more time with you when you were younger, wish I had anticipated the absence you would leave when it was your time to go to the Bridge), but they are totally outweighed by the joy that you were and are. You always forgave me - instantly - for my failings and my imperfections. I guess that's the nature of real love, isn't it? That love transcends frustration and flaws and mistakes.

I can remember the days up to your passing in almost perfect detail. Truthfully, they haunt me a little bit. It's easy to say "focus on the journey" but very much more difficult to do. But I DO focus on the journey as well - perhaps the compromise is that you have to remember ALL of it - the good and the bad, the regrets and the joys - for it to truly have meaning in the context of a life. I know this: I know that I would not be the person I am today without your influence on my life. Truthfully, there were so many tumultuous times early on that I don't know that I would have *made* it without you, let alone have become the person that I am. Part of being a strong person, I guess, has been surviving life without you - an unthinkable, black void - and having you, in your new spirit existence, continue to guide my education and continue to love me and teach me.

What I'm left with - through the loss - is an overwhelming sense of gratitude, awe and privilege at sharing a your life and love. I am humbled that you gave it to me so openly and freely and remain so to this day to continue to receive it. I thank God for you - as well as all my other Angels and the kitties at home today - every night. But especially for you, Grady. My special boy. My heart kitty. The space you occupy in my heart always was and always will be yours alone, and will only be truly filled when we're together again.

With tears in my eyes, I send you a kiss. Last year, less than a week after your spirit had been freed, the cherry tree broke into a riot of blossoms. I knew instinctively that YOU were in them. They came uncommonly early, and I've not a doubt in my mind that they did so for me to be able to latch on to some tangible beauty that helped capture the beauty you brought to my life. Cherry blossoms will always be a bittersweet reminder of the arc of your exc excellent life, my privilege to share it, and your gift to me once you passed.

I love you Grady. More than anything else. Always have, always will. I'll see you again.

Rena

March 23, 2011

These anniversaries are hard - I'm not going to lie about that. It's hard to lose someone you love. No matter how long they were with you in this life, it's never long enough. The longing for more endures.

I'm writing this on the evening of March 22, 2011. I'll post it tomorrow, March 23, 2011. Two years ago this moment, I knew that Grady's time was approaching. He had (gratefully) lived and lived well through his 19th birthday three weeks prior. But the time grew nigh - and I knew that it was my last responsibility - borne of love - to let him go peacefully, in his own home, without fear or pain.

Grady saw me through every major event of my adult life. As a kitten and adolescent, youthful and exuberant, he ushered me from college to graduate school. As a very young adult, he oversaw my move from graduate school to the working world. He stayed by my side through the highest of highs and lowest of lows. He bore witness and provided comfort and companionship through the greatest tragedies and euphoric triumphs of my young adult life. He stood by patiently as I cried, abject, over failed relationships. He waited patiently for me in our home while I worked, and greeted me selflessly at the end of each day to share the day's triumphs and failures. He possessed grace enough to share me when I fell in love, and withstood the turmoil that weddings invariably bring to a bride's home. He saw me through my wedding, greeted me after my honeymoon, mourned with me over the loss of another cherished feline family member, Krispy. He tolerated the interloper (aka my husband) with regal forbearance and adjusted seamlessly when the family went from one person to two, and then from two to three when my 11 year old stepson moved in with us. He stood stalwart through all the challenges and changes that I saw in the 19+ years of my life that he graciously shared with me. Through all the turmoil - the happiness, the tears, the arguments and the joy, the devastation and the ecstatic leaps forward.

Through it all, there was Grady. And though it hurts - these anniversaries hurt - there is also a profound sense of gratitude that he chose me, that he shared his life with me. Above all else, I was and am truly blessed in that.

Even though he's physically gone two years from me now, he presence and influence remains with me. I look at the four young cats I have now and I remember to stop and love them, to appreciate their individuality and unique personalities, and to feel lucky - because I am. In the devastating weeks that followed his passage, I felt an overwhelming conviction to get involved again with rescue. I can't escape the knowledge that he put that conviction in me - that despite my grief and loss, there was work yet to do to carry on a legacy of a life of love and smiles, purrs and head butts, snuggles and kitty-kisses. Every life that I've saved, every small difference I've made is in his honor and in honor of the other Angels that went before him.

I've never gotten over losing him - not really. But it's not as bad as it sounds. Because not getting over it includes a deep and abiding appreciation for the life that he shared with me and for all the gifts and treasure that it brought to mine. The road we traveled was rich and fulfilling - filled with beauty so intense and diverse that it's impossible to describe. The price of that great journey is its conclusion, of course. But it doesn't cheapen the journey. To the contrary - it deepens it, puts it in its proper awesome perspective and humbles me to this moment. I'm so lucky to have had him, and to have him still in this way that is different.

I still kiss his picture every day and sleep with it every night. I light virtual candles for him and others, and - more than anything - remember to be thankful for him. I wouldn't trade the grief or loss for the joy that having him in my life brought - not one second of it.

I love you Grady. You are always with me, in my heart, every moment of every day. I miss you.

Rena, in loving memory of Grady.

March 23, 2013

I can't believe I didn't post on the anniversary in 2012!! Well, it's not because i wasn't thinking of you, buddy. I think of you EVERY DAY. I have the brush that you loved and on some days, your smell is still in it. Every morning, I smell that little brush, hoping to get your scent and I'm so blessed when it's there.

The cherry blossoms will be out soon. I always think of them as Grady Blossoms - because just after losing you, I was so devastated. I was searching for a sign that you were still with me, that we were still connected. And the day that I was at my lowest, a few days after you left, the cherry blossoms came out in a riot. They are starting to bud right now on the cherry tree in the front yard. They'll soon be out in a riot, and I'll sit under that tree and look up and know that you are there, that you are ALWAYS here with me. I miss your physical presence, but I am truly comforted knowing that you are still with me, and I deeply appreciate the small signs you send to let me know that nothing, really, has changed.

I miss you buddy. I'm so thankful for you, and I'm thankful for the missing in a bittersweet way because I know it arises out of a lifetime of love that we shared. Until we are together again...

Rena, In loving memory of Grady.

March 23, 2017 - Impossible to wrap my head around the idea that you've been gone for 8 years now. I can say without hesitation that I miss you as much today as I did that first night after you had to go. I'm so grateful for and to you, but I'll never get over losing you.

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