HOPE

by Jamie Gandy

August 28, 2019

So I heard today is 'Rainbow Bridge Remembrance day'. I didn't know that was such a thing, but you know what? I will always take the chance to share about my handsome Peace.

Before I get to Peace though, I will also remember the ones that came before him.

When I was five years old is when Peace's grandmother came into my life. She was a beautiful brown tabby girl with a true heart of gold. That day I was outside when I heard our dog, and our neighbor's dog, barking up a tree. I went to where Shadow (our dog) was and that's when I saw the pretty tabby for the first time. She was terrified and hurt, so I ran back to the house to get my dad. He quickly followed me outside and we saved the kitty. The skin along her front paw was completely torn off. It was a gross mess that my dad patched up.

I named her Faith and she became my kitty, of her free will. From that day Shadow realized she was now family.

Not long later Faith and I were outside when a handsome white and gray tom-cat came trotting down our street and walked straight into our driveway and right up to us. It was love at first sight. He quickly became my Angel. (To note, for those that might think, those could have been someone else's cats that got lost. At the time, because my parents had a big family and we lived in a small place, the cats were outside only. We did have a garage that they could freely go in and out, but the only time a cat was allowed inside the house was if pregnant/had kittens. So if they belonged to anyone else they chose not to go back, or whatever. Anywho)

Faith and Angel became an adorable pair. When most females go into heat they go super crazy and want all the toms in the town, but Faith wasn't like that. She and Angel were surprisingly loyal to each other. And if any unwanted suitors came around Angel protected his girl and kept them away from our home. Their relationship was truly precious.

Faith gave birth to many kittens (me now, of course, would have scolded my parents, but they were doing the best they could to just feed their family, having the money to spay Faith was not possible. And of course, times were different back then, spaying wasn't as common a thing as it is now.) Though I loved every one of her precious babies, there was one that stood high above them all. One that became my best friend. His name was Hope, and he was a stunning gray and white tom who was smarter than anyone (including all species, he could easily outsmart any breed of dog and most people, lol.)

Fast forward a couple years, when we were living in an apartment with our dog, Hope and only one new stray named Sweety. (A lot of things happened that I was too young to understand it all and that I had no say in. But Hope was my one constant friend during the transitions of life)

Sweety only lived up to her name to Hope and me. She was the only cat I ever had that didn't like my dad. All my other cats loved him as much as they loved me. Hope loved Sweety. When she gave birth to their orange and white tabby son, he was right there the whole time, grooming her, loving her, comforting her.
On August 25th, 2001 Peace Daniel Gandy was born. (though for the first week of his life I was dumb and called him 'Wanderer.'

For that first week, Sweety kept moving him into my parents closest, which had a bunch of boxes in it. Every day when I saw he wasn't where he should be I would call his name. I know it is said kittens can't hear when they are newborns. That they can only smell. If that is really true explain to me how a newborn kitten would always respond to my voice? He could be in the very back of the closest behind or even on top of boxes, and he would crawl out of the spot his mama put him. Every time.

This is where I learned the importance of the meaning of names. The last time I had to find Peace in the closet my dad suggested that I give him a different name. That Wanderer probably wasn't a good choice. He was right. That's when we came up with the name Peace. We used to go to the Chuch of one of the Singers from 'Phillips, Craig & Deans' P-C-D- PeaCe Daniel- Gandy (I used Danny as a nickname for him, he was my Danny Boy, and I would sing him that song.

Fast forward a couple months, I was hanging out on the steps outside our apartment with Hope, Sweety and kitten Peace. All of a sudden a lady with her MASSIVE German Shepherd came walking towards us. Hope saw the dog heading towards us and my brave boy jumped into action. He leaped onto the path of the Shepherd and gave him one firm warning hiss. He let them both know that he wouldn't let them pass, but he wouldn't attack unless they forced him. Both the lady and Shepherd knew how serious he was and they turned around to go the other way around the building. Once they were gone Hope returned to us with his head held high.

One time I was awfully sick with a kidney infection, I had a high temperature and was bedridden for over a week. Hope was constantly at my side. I remember my dad saying that the only time he left my side was to use the litterbox and to eat a little before he was beside me once again. Sometimes he didn't even choose to do either.

Hope can't be compared to any other living creature. He was one of a kind. His love for me went beyond understanding. And his love for his family sent him to an early goodbye.

There was a sick cat that started coming around our apartment and Hope took it upon himself to keep the threat away from his home. That's how my incredible, strong, brave, loving, dedicated boy taught us that cats can get feline AIDs. That he had caught from that sick cat he was dedicated to keeping away from us.

Bit by bit he started to lose weight and his body started to fail him. Looking back, even with all I know now, I don't think I could have put him down early to end his physical pain. Because his emotional strength had no limits. He got to help teach his little son, Peace, how to love me. Even when he could barely stand he would still play with Peace and teach him. His love for me and Peace was boundless.

Peace was probably only four or five months old when it happened. We had recently moved to a new house. I remember seeing Hope lying on a blanket in the laundry room and I went in there and laid on the floor with him and held him in my arms until he took his very last breath. It was the first time I ever had to experience the raw, terrifying pain of seeing someone I loved with all my heart die. It's been nearly eighteen years (Peace would have turned eighteen last Sunday) since that day, and I still cry like a baby typing out stories about his amazing life. He was only roughly three years old when he died, but in those three years, he changed my life forever.

Hope did teach Peace everything he knew about loving me. Because where Hope left off, Peace picked up. Peace was my Guardian angel, he became my new best friend in this life. He saw me through the good times, the bad times and the times where everything in life was nothing but pain and heartache. When life wanted to crush me into the dirt. God had given me Peace to give me life, to give me love when I couldn't breathe.

Peace and I were always together, aside from when he was being a tom-cat (note, at this stage in life my cats were outside/inside cats, they were allowed to go out only when they wanted. My apartment life was the same. )

I remember one time when a neighbor came over to tell us he thought that our cat had been hit by a car. My dad wouldn't let me see the body because it was really bad and bloody. He was pretty sure it was Peace but it was too bad to tell for sure. I begged him to show me it, that I would be the one to know if it was my Peace. But he refused. Instead, he took a shoebox and put the body inside and started to dig a hole right in front of the backyard.

As he was digging I was in the backyard crying and begging God to bring my Peace back. I couldn't lose him. I still needed him in my life. I cried and begged until I looked up to the very back of our yard (it was pretty big) and there was my boy jumping over the fence without a care in the world. My Peace was alive. We ran to each other and I took him into my arms and I thanked God that he was alive! I ran to my dad and showed him Peace.

It turns out, the cat that died belonged to another neighbor of ours, and my dad had offered to still bury him in the hole he had already dug, but they decided to do it themselves.

Fast forward to April 13th of 2017. I was getting ready for work when all of a sudden Peace lost movement in his back legs and he started gasping. I rushed him to the vet and it turned out that he had a blood clot in his back legs. They put him in an ICU cage with oxygen to hopefully help calm his breathing. They only gave him less than a 30% chance of making it.

And he did make it.
The vets at the Elgin Family Vet Center were amazing. They gave me the honest truth of his chances, but they also believed in both of us enough to help me do everything I possibly could to help Peace get better. They could see his fighting spirit and as long as we were willing to fight the vets were going to fight with us.

Peace ended up losing all movement in his back legs, they became purple and cold but he would pull himself around to eat or use the litterbox (mostly made up of puppy pads with a tiny amount of litter).

I told him that whenever he was too tired to keep fighting all he had to do was let me know and I would make that impossible decision to end his pain. But for however long he wanted to fight to live I would do whatever it took to help him. From medicine to injections (which I was so bad at giving back then, fostering has actually helped me a lot with becoming comfortable with giving injections.) I still sometimes think if I had done better, maybe things would have ended differently.

I had three more precious weeks with my Danny Boy before that day came. May 6th, 2017. I had just gotten home from work and I walked into his room and the moment our eyes locked and I heard the struggle of his meow, I knew the day had come. I didn't even have to take him to the vet.

We had planned to take my nieces and nephew out but the moment I got home I obviously stayed behind. And for over two hours I held my precious boy. I cried, I thanked God for him, and I begged God to take all Peace's pain and suffering away. I held him until I could feel his heart seize a few couples until he finally took his last breath.

At that time I had a beautiful image painted in my head. Of my dad up in heaven, with Faith, Angel, Hope and in the center was Jesus with my Peace happily in His arms, smiling at me. I knew he was happy, safe, and in no more pain. That he was finally able to see our fathers again. (please keep negative comments to yourself)

When I could finally open my eyes and lean back enough to look into the now lifeless face of my Prince, the smile was undeniable. It seriously went from one ear to the other. And I thanked God over and over again for allowing me to come home to be there with him those last couple hours. I thanked Him that Peace was able to be held by me and comforted by my unending love. That peaceful, love-filled look on his face was a clear sign of his happiness of having me with him. That being in my arms, his favorite spot since he was a newborn kitten, was the one placed he longed to be one last time on this earth. I will forever be thankful for those two hours.
And I will forever be blessed to have spent nearly sixteen wonderful years with the most amazing orange and white tabby tom.

A tom whose memory I pray continues to live on through every cat (or dog) that comes into my home, be they my animal or a foster. I pray that every foster by being a part of my family (for however long) gets to experience the love that Peace lavished on me. So that his shared love will help the future kitten generate love their forever families in ways he loved me.

On this Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day, I remember Faith, Angel, Hope, Sweety and Peace, Sandman, (foster kitten) Bjoin Ironside,(foster kitten) Beryl Gray,(foster kitten) Blazing Dancer,(foster kitten) Sandman (foster kitten) and Quiche (foster kitten). Along with other precious animals that have crossed that colorful bridge while in my life.

If you read all this, you are amazing! Thank you!