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Coping With Losses
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It has not been a good week in my household.

First, there was the loss on Wednesday, April 1 of my longtime companion, my cat. I know it may seem silly to some to lament over the death of a pet but this cat, who came into my life at a very critical time for me, was unique. I got her when she was just old enough to be weaned from her mother. My landlord at the time ambushed me as I returned home from a work meeting in the early evening. It was the last cat in the litter from her sister's cat and her sister was not leaving with the kitten in hand. I arrived at the wrong - or right - time and my landlord set me up with a litter box, some kitty food and said it was just fine; I could have a kitten in my apartment.

Part Persian, part Siamese, the kitten was the runt of the litter and had an attitude from the start. She was a little round black fur ball with a tiny patch of white on her stomach. And she could hiss and spit with the best of them.

She looked just like an eight ball but that didn't seem like a good name so I settled on Ocho - the Spanish word for 'eight' - and it fit.

Ocho moved with me from rural, snowy upstate New York to hot, dry Central Valley, California without missing a beat. Later, she would have to adapt to the arrival of my husband and two inherited sons, followed shortly thereafter by a baby, my now 13-year-old daughter.

This was a cat that was one of a kind. She was just a little bit shy of her 18th birthday when she passed away and we all knew it was coming. That still didn't make it any easier. She had been gradually slowing down and then took a turn for the worse over the weekend.

She stopped eating, hung out mostly by her water dish with her head almost resting in it. I sincerely felt that when I left for work last Wednesday, she would not make it through the day. She did ... but just long enough for my daughter and I to arrive home. She was unsteady on her feet and laboring in her breathing. I was able to pet her, feel and hear her purr and quietly told her it was okay to let go, we knew she was tired and it was time for her to go.

Within minutes, she was gone.

My cat was with me longer than anyone ... so it will take some time to get over her loss.

Sunday, my mom called from New York to let me know that my paternal grandmother had passed away earlier that morning at the nursing home where she had been for the last several years. Again, not unexpected, but you still can never really be ready to hear the words.

My grandmother was a constant in my life in my early years and I have great memories of Christmases spent at her house, summer vacations where I got to be an 'only child' and spend quality time there, enjoying my freedom and the fact that I was the most important thing in the house.

She was a strong woman, no nonsense, a hard worker and one who loved to laugh. She had a sparkle in her eye and gratefully, the last trip we took back to New York included a birthday celebration for her where she had a bit of that sparkle, some snap and enjoyed the moment as people toasted her 90-plus years.

We had hoped to visit her at the nursing home this summer ... now we'll plan a trip to put some flowers on her grave.

Losses are going to happen, they are an inevitable part of life. It's those times when you need your family and friends around you to help you through. I am blessed to have support and know that the pain will eventually ease.

I'll also hold tight to my memories ... they help me smile through the tears.

Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.