2/19/13 – Gratitude and Loss

Posted by Brad McMillan, CFA, CAIA, MAI

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This entry was posted on Feb 19, 2013 7:07:37 AM

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I wrote several months ago about good habits and my efforts to adopt several of them. The one I’d like to focus on today is writing down daily gratitudes, a practice that experts link to increased happiness and success.

This weekend, I found out that there are other benefits as well. At 6:30 on Sunday morning, I had to put my cat, Putter, to sleep. He had been with us for 14 years, after my wife adopted him as a feral cat. He’d been there through several homes, several jobs, our marriage, and our adoption of our son, Jackson. He was part of the family.

Not too many cats will follow you around, waiting to jump into your lap when you sit down. Not too many cats will come in at night and want to sleep under your arm. Not too many cats will sit for hours in a basket under your desk, providing an engaged but inarticulate audience as you try to write something. Putter did all of these—he was a cat, a family member, and a good friend.

Saturday night, when he jumped onto a coffee table, I noticed he was having problems with his hind legs, so I picked him up and put him in my chair as we went out to dinner. That night, when we returned, we heard a thump and found he had fallen on the stairs. My wife brought him to our bedroom, and we made a blanket nest for him on the floor.

That wasn’t what he wanted. Despite barely being able to walk, he managed to jump up on the bed with us, and he snuggled with me all night, purring, until five o’clock, when he started having seizures, losing all control of his body and waking everyone with his panicked yowling.

I wrapped him in his blanket and took him, through a snowstorm, to an emergency veterinary hospital. After tests and a conversation with the doctor, we determined there was no hope for a real recovery. I did the last kindness I could do for my friend and let him go. He went easy, with no pain, in my arms, being petted and told he was loved.

Looking back over my daily gratitudes for the past couple of months, I find that I had repeatedly mentioned Putter—snuggling with him, holding him on my lap, watching him play with Jackson. In reviewing them, I realized that another benefit of writing daily gratitudes is simply that it makes you consider, on a regular basis, things that make you happy and prompts you to pay more attention to them. Did I take Putter for granted? Probably, to some extent, but doing my daily gratitudes made me think about something I could easily have overlooked and value it more when I had it. Now that he’s gone, I’m comforted by the thought that, while he was here, Putter got the attention I would have wanted him to have.

You could say he was just a cat, and of course that’s right, but he was also a friend. And, if it’s comforting to know that you paid attention to and valued a pet, how much more important would that be in the case of a person—a wife, a child, a parent? Gratitudes offer daily benefits, but they also help you live your life in a more mindful way and to appreciate what you have before it’s too late.

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