The grief after Monty went missing

From: FOUR CEMETERIES by Graham Bathgate

Sat. eve. Feb. 15, 2014

Saturday, Feb. 15 Searching, searching, searching; Monty can’t be far away.

If grief is feeling sorry for myself in the loss, get thee behind me! If the grief is from thinking of the creature and what might have happened, that’s a bugger!

Feb. 16 There’s a great thing about being human and surviving. The mind helps you to move on from awfulness, a wondrous transition from deep grief to acceptance. Survival, life must go on.

Feb. 16 The depth of loss is measured by how important the object of loss is to you, how connected, how close, how the circumstances were before … and how you are constituted to deal with the loss.

Feb. 18 Monty left a light presence … hardly anything of him here, just a feeding bowl and a small plastic container of pills, now a small “shrine” beside the fridge.

Feb.20 Grief managing: a part of finding relief I feel is “diminishing the loss” – in the scheme of things it’s not really huge … it’s just that the memories are raw and the loss feels terribly magnified.

Feb.23 The Distractive Power in Healing

As time passes, it’s not just the longevity, it’s the events in that time; each loss or tragedy in time reduces the memory of awfulness. More positively perhaps, joyful events as time passes are a salve.

From the emotions of yesterday, a calmness and acceptance today, almost as if anything else is insupportable; there’s a blurring of memory, as if Monz has faded, no less memorable but less sharp and clear in the departure and loss.

The coping mechanisms are interesting; you don’t realise the strength you have until it’s called upon; the power in accepting reality.

There are times of almost zero feeling, as if the mind is saving you from the horror of what could have happened to Monz.

When time heals, when the mind says “enough”, it’s not so easy or even desirable to recall – we let go wisely. As if we diminish the object of loss to continue life.

Monz lived not seeing, knew us only by feeling and purring loudly his reactions; in a way he departed not seeing, leaving the vaguely known, unable to return; there was nothing we could have done about that.

Feb. 25 A memory of Monz suddenly tonight; a few days before he left, I watched him get up into a chair in the living room, fluidly and easily. I thought how fit he still was, able to do that.

Wed. Feb. 26 Strange how a phone call of a sighting, albeit a week ago, can lift the heaviness. I feel normal again, although I well know that anything could have happened in a week but for sure because of the call, hope springs, rather sprang!

Feb. 26 A phone call tonight at 8.30, a woman said she saw a blind cat (“he wasn’t focusing on me”) last week in the park just down from Brazier Grove. And she said there’s a black cat there now. I raced out and found 2 black cats both fully sighted. Have we been remiss? We should have checked that area sooner. We were distracted by the emotion of loss, by wild imaginings (I was convinced for a couple of days that he’d been “abducted”) … we should have thought through the search better.

Feb. 28 When you’re young and bad things happen causing grief you have time and energy. Above all you have time maybe to deal with it, but when grief comes at an older age you have less time, less energy … that’s odd because when I was young I always thought things were easier for the adults around me, therefore I’d find things thus when I was older.

How do we feel loss so much more acutely than presence? Is it something to do with accustomisation, we get used to the person or creature being there, existing. We are not at all prepared for the absence. There again a big part of co-existing is allowing others to be alone. You can still think of them existing though near you. Terrible thinking of Monz being elsewhere, not knowing how he is. It’s a grief of double intensity: Monz is gone but we don’t know what has happened. Grief can be salved with knowledge.


Dealing with grief mentally there’s the possibility of regarding it as inconsequential in the greater scheme of things, almost as if it doesn’t matter, just let it go, there are living things here and now to attend to, to be caring of, to give to, and they should occupy full attention. There’s another way less tangible: to be one with it; bad things happen, good things too, be with them, stay with the good if you can.

Grief 2

One of the problems in grief is feeling OK; the grief is a secondary hurt, the true injury is to the person you are grieving for but here you are really quite hale and hearty still able to enjoy life, yet you’re not feeling so good in the grief … strange irony.

Grief 3

There’s a strong element of “O me miserum” as if that would help or more kindly, as if one could feel otherwise. When you pull out of that allowing it to happen of its own accord without feeling “Oh, I shouldn’t “ then the good stuff of life reasserts itself as indeed it should for you to be of great use again.

Feb. 28 I’m going to feel this way, believe this way: Monty has a new home, no matter what, no matter anything else … he has a new home, he is all right.

Feb. 29 A little bit of the loss is the sadness for myself; I’ll no longer hear his great purr or feel his movements asking for food, twisting and turning, purring and purring … but the biggest feeling in the loss is hoping he’s all right no matter where or how, believing he’s just fine.

Mar. 1 Is the intensity of grief a testament to love or to loss. Is it a reflection of our love for the creature gone or is it a sadness for ourselves in the change of circumstance?

There’s the object starkly just bone, skin, fur … then there are our connections and memories … if the former only in mind, just the body, our grief can be short; if the latter it could go on for ever.

Mar. 2 Not knowing where or how Monty is … hellish!. Our being OK but Monz out there suffering … terrible.

Mar.3 Not a good day, a bit glum, thinking of Monz. Delivered some fliers, went to the park over by Alison’s new place, very cold and blustery wind. Found a black and white collie running loose. Thought as I walked in the wind and sun showers how essential it is to move on and try to be of some good in this short life; it’s not for moping in!

Mar.4  A better day, very cold though. The bamboo have suffered.

I did special colour photo posters for Monz and pinned 6 of them in plastic sleeves around the park area. Always feel better after doing something like that. The dwelling on the asfulness of loss is lifting but still wish I’d done more. I just keep feeling he’s OK somewhere.

Grief is a sad way of expressing love. It’s an expression of it but too late. Love in life gives life. Love in death is wishing it were otherwise. “Truly though our element is time, / We are not suited to the long perspectives / Open at each instant of our lives.”

“Have you seen our cat, Monty?”

Mar. 5 Monz didn’t deserve disappearing like that; he had lived a calm life for 11 years with us. He deserved to die in that calmness with due burial, not anonymously vanishing, attended by wild horrors. Actually, I don’t believe that’s the case but …

Grief is like a healing wound, a covering, a carapace, something pupates … we must carry on.

Monz gave us great pleasure and we admired your fortitude with your handicap, but where the hell are you?

I see him, he’s still with me … his movements, his ways, his eating habits as if his life depended on them forcing his way to the food as it’s being served. Awful to feel he may never be seen again. That’s real loss!

We lost our loving cat – going near to him, he would purr, sensing your presence; picking him up resulted in his total relaxation; stroking him was his chance to elongate luxuriously. He must have felt so much more in his blindness.

Grief is hedged about with complications and questions about unknowns: did we do enough? Why not more? If only I had done such and such, it could have been different.

Mar.6: Went for walk along stream in the park, just down from Hookway. I could see Monz very clearly around there and I could imagine that he could easily get there. It’s a lovely area full of trees and birdsong and water for him to drink. But in seeing him so clearly, it’s also very sad, such a vanishing; I kept asking out loud, “Where are you? Where did you go? I hope you’re all right.”

Mar.10 Some time has passed, almost a month, the grief has lifted. When I recall Monty now it is with some equanimity. Strange how the intensity of loss can pass. It has to have something to do with both the passing of time and with unconscious self-protection – we cannot continue in grief, it’s not a good way to live. I still feel a pang when I roll down the garage doors because the last time I saw Monz was as they closed, at the corner, sitting peacefully in the sun, head up looking into the air.

Still wonder where he went. What fear was it? What feeling of being lost? Why not just stay still until rescue came? We looked everywhere for a long time. I hope you’re safe and purring somewhere.

March 15th I’ll never forget the phone call in the afternoon. A man and his young son had been out walking their little dog. The boy had noticed the photo of Monty on a garden fence and read about Monty, then a few minutes later when their dog was barking at something hidden among bushes by the river, it was easy to recognise it was Monty. It took only three minutes to drive to a nearby street by the river where Monty was wrapped in a blanket, all muddy but happy to be brought home again.

Lost, Feb. 15, and Found, March 15, 2013: His weight was down to 2.9kgs, a loss of 2.4 kgs, his spine like something through paper, his haunches sticking out bonily, his eyes sunken … but he was purring! And so were we! By Mar. 17th the 2nd vet’s visit, he had put on over half a kilo; she said his weight was about right now at 3.6k and his heart was lovely and slow; he was in great condition. We imagine that he must have gone into hibernation, a “holiday” in the wild!

Monty home again! The day of his return.


One day after                                            Two days later


Monty’s Final Farewell

From: FOUR CEMETERIES by Graham Bathgate

Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, about 6.00 pm

You were the most loving, most purring, most responsive of cats, perhaps because of your blindness. But I never tired of seeing you “see” when I picked you up and cradled you, and as I walked you would put your head back and seem to follow along, all the while purring loudly. I think that you could see distant shapes all right because you would react to a tree branch movement or a bird flying.

I know that from the time Beth rescued you about the age of three from a nearby cattery, your 12 years with us were wonderful, surely for you too. I would watch you going for long walks at our previous home at 242 Main Road South, Paraparaumu; you’d pick your way down the drive about 50 metres, stopping and sniffing the air to get directions, turning left at the cottage and coming back up on the lawn negotiating all kinds of obstacles such as tree trunks, bushes and steps.

You went walkabout soon after we moved to Panorama Drive. You were gone for a month, and certainly had no food and no thyroid pills; we kept up the search for you and were rewarded with a chance finding. You’d think perhaps the grief experienced then would have been good practice for this real thing; I have to admit it was a greater grief before, the not knowing where or how you were was hellish. You came back purring to us for almost three more years.
In the last week of your life, after about three months trying to fix your congested snuffles, you were not well, unable to eat or drink for about four days; I think that we did everything possible to help you, but the steroid medication didn’t do the trick, nor the paste nor other tablets, although you got some relief. I would also like to believe that the vet did her best, that she was well advised by her experience, and her decision to end your life was because you were in such pain. I must say though that if it had been me, just me, I would have persisted with trying to help you; but that’s selfish, probably not the best thing for you, locked up inside, feeling pain, walking round in circles, yowling almost uncontrollably, unable to see which must have made your suffering all the more intense. I like to think that if you could have spoken you would have asked for an end to the pain, an assisted death.

I am so glad that yesterday morning just a couple of hours before the anaesthesia you had time on the lawn in the sun, walking around, resting; it would have been nice if you could smell the grass and the mint there, which you so loved stretching out on so many times, but I doubt if it was possible, your sense of smell having deserted you for quite a few days.

Now you’re gone and we miss the searching for you, not the big month-long search but all the little searches for nearly three years after you were found – we were a bit paranoid that you’d go walkabout again. So now you really have gone, your last breath taken easily and simply, relaxing into the end of your life; no more not seeing, no more bumping into things, and you are now free of pain.

Stretching out on the grass a few hours before the end.


Monty’s blindness didn’t stop him going places.