The McMaster Files

What Parts Remain?

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  • This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #101. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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    A repository for games and ennui.

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    I received the call while I was at work – my cat Murray was really sick. My wife found him yowling at the top of his lungs in our living room. She took him to the vet and they said one his organs were failing, that he wasn’t going to make it. I rushed to the vet and held him as they administered the drugs to stop his heart. It is very hard to type this, because that statement still hurts. I’ll never lose the feeling of having betrayed him, but that’s another subject.

    I took him home and let the other cats see him. I always hated the idea that they wouldn’t know what happened. It wouldn’t be fair if one of our friends got sick and then we just never saw them again, and it’s not fair with the cats. I dug Murray a little grave below my office window, so I could open it and the other cats could sit on the sill and be near him. And me. I wanted to be near him too. Then I laid his little body to rest.

    Murray passed almost two months ago, but he’s still here. He haunts me. On the way to work some days, I’ll remember and start crying. I can’t help it. I know everyone says eventually only the good memories will remain, but they’re the ones that make me miss him the most. For now, though, I remember sitting with him two days earlier, commenting on how time flies and how he’d grown up without my notice. I petted him and promised him I’d spend more time with him. I kept my promise, I go sit by his grave and cry.

    I don’t have a great memory. I know a lot of people who can remember their childhood, but I can’t, just bare glimpses that don’t make a lot of sense to me, and all without context. Running through my grandparents’ house. Playing with some kids in pre-school. Little snatches of history. One of the things I don’t remember is my childhood therapy visits. Speaking with my mom years later, she told me she knew something wasn’t “right” with me. The therapist said I was completely normal. Haha, they sure missed the mark on that one!

    One of the few memories I have is of accidentally washing a bug down the drain when taking a bath. My mom had to promise me that he’d be OK. I was inconsolable. Though I’m an adult and can control my outward appearance, this still happens today. I can’t even kill a spider, and I hate spiders. I’m just incapable of it now.

    As a younger man, I had the idea that I needed to “toughen up” or the world would roll over me. For a long while, I’d seek out horrible videos and stories and force myself to see them – to realize the sickness of which people were capable. I thought that maybe I would be better suited to handle bad situations if I could keep my emotions and thoughts in check. Instead, I found things that make me sick to think about. Things that come to me as I try to fall asleep.

    There’s this part of me that wonders at my reaction. My Dad died a few years ago and, while devastating, it didn’t have as profound of an effect. Part of me thinks it is because I had made my peace with Dad, but Murray was completely unexpected. Dad had cancer and we had known it was coming. I don’t think that’s why, though.

    I think Murray was worse because he couldn’t tell me he was sick. Different people feel different ways about pets. For me, if I take you, you are mine forever. You are my responsibility. My cats are always there for me when I feel bad. People might not believe this, but when I was inconsolable, my cats were there for me. Murray would come and push his way into my lap and purr at me until I felt at least a little better. He knew I was sad and he did what he could to help me. I feel that in his greatest time of need, I let a stranger kill him. I understand the concept of euthanasia and that he was suffering, but I can’t seem to let this go. I would have done anything in the world to make him better, but I could only hold him as he faded out, my little star.

    As much as I want to memorialize Murray, as he was a great cat who loved people (and touched a lot of hearts), instead I’ll leave you with this: it seems desirable to make life easier by killing the parts that cause you pain, but it’s a big mistake. Without the bitter loss, there’s no room for joy and love. Those are where my Murray lives, and the more love and hope I have, the bigger a place he has to roam. They all live there. Life really sucks and hurts most of the time, but if we cut out and manage all the bits that make us feel, what parts remain?

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    Jason McMaster is a writer and editor with a lifelong passion for games. When he isn’t working on Unwinnable, he’s either on his PC or playing a board game. Follow him on Twitter @mcmaster

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