September 5, 2011 |  Category:   family home life

I have so many more photos to post from our trip still, but we’re home now. It’s always disorienting to come home from a long trip. It’s like hitting the un-pause button and everything that was on hold rushes back to you. It’s also never easy saying goodbye to family and friends that you only see once or twice a year. So many goodbyes.

Mark told me something yesterday that really broke my heart. He went by my grandmother’s apartment to catch a ride with my uncle to my mom’s house to pick up our car which has been parked there during our trip. My oldest aunt, the only one who still lives in Korea out of my mom’s 4 siblings has been visiting our family in the states for 3 months. She leaves this Wednesday. Mark told me that grandma was sad when my uncle came by to pick her up. It then occurred to me that this is quite possibly their last goodbye. Both are too frail and old to make the long journey to either Seoul or NY. I can’t imagine saying goodbye to your mother or your own daughter with the knowledge that you will never see them again. It’s incomprehensible, really. It shatters my heart every time I think about it.

The girls have been saying that phrase often since we’ve been home. “We’re never going to see Tobi again”. Claudine had a hard time sleeping our first night home. If you know our kids, then you know how easy bedtime is for the girls, so it’s saying a lot that she kept getting up every hour from 8pm-midnight. She kept saying that something was bothering her, that she missed Tobi. They both woke up in the morning and wanted to draw pictures of him (C’s is on top, Mia’s on the bottom). This isn’t the first time I came home from a long trip to a cat-less house. Unbeknown to me at the time, I lost my first cat to feline leukemia while I was traveling during the summer of 1991. I was so excited to come back and see my cat, a kitten that I rescued in Minnesota just a year before. He traveled to the West Coast with me, perched on top of my backpack during long hikes through the Redwoods and the coastal drive to the Beaches in Oregon before heading back East. This was a time without cell phones so I had no idea what was going on, only that I came back to no cat in sight with his things stored neatly in the closet.

The girls keep saying that they hear him meowing and I do sometimes feel like at any time I’ll see him sitting at one of his favorite spots around the house. His absence is felt every time I do something that I wouldn’t have normally done because I had to make our place cat proof…leaving the toilet seat up, moving a plant to a windowsill or kitchen counter, making the bed and leaving the good sheets uncovered…

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  • Seema September 5, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    This post is very moving. I am deeply sorry for your loss, I just hope with time things get easier. It must hit even harder to come back from holiday and find the cats gone, rather than being there while it all happened. Kind wishes and warm thoughts to you and to your little girls. xx

  • Karen September 5, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    It’s so hard coming home to any empty house. When I read your post about Tobi, I got so upset that for days I started crying when I thought about it. My sweet Annie died last year just after I got back from my first vacation in 4 years and I was completely gutted, thinking that she waited for me to get home so we could say goodbye. And when I was in college, I came home one time and all my mother’s “good” pillows were on the couch and I knew immediately that our childhood dog SynDee had died. No one told us because they didn’t want to upset us (my sister, brother and I were all in college at the same time) but I knew those pillows wouldn’t be on the couch if SynDee was still there to sleep in her favorite spot in the sun.

  • Melissa@Julia's Bookbag September 5, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Someday your girls and you will treasure those pictures they made of their beloved pet 🙂 Best wishes to you all, Melissa

  • Jennifer Bohrer September 5, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    We had a cat that liked to run across my bed and jump on the window sill…at about 2AM. After she died for several nights I could still feel her walking across my legs, till I told her she could move on.
    Maybe you need to do some kind of ceremony to send Tobi’s spirit on his way…… sit together, light candles, talk about what a cute kitten, smart,loving and loved cat he was then tell him goodbye.

  • Heidi Benson September 5, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I am so, so sorry for your loss. I grew up with two cats that were as close to me as sisters. Loosing them was one of the hardest things I had to go through as a child. I still feel sad sometimes. I am not sure if you would like to do this but perhaps celebrating Tobi’s life in someway might help, like a ceremony or a party or maybe commemorating his life with some sort of dedication. I know that it sounds strange but it did help us to past some of the pain. Take care and hold on to each other.

  • Rachel September 5, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    I know this may sound like hogwash to you (maybe it doesn’t, I don’t presume to know you), but I truly believe in the hope of heaven…that heaven is real and that death doesn’t have the final say. God’s work on the cross allows us to have hope–real hope that this short life on earth isn’t the end. With Christ you can see your older, extended Korean family again in eternity. Peace be with you.

  • Susan September 5, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    The drawings are so sweet, and I am sending you all virtual hugs. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  • allison September 5, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    bless their hearts for wanting to make those drawings. tobi was so clearly loved, and all i can hope for all of you is that with time the pain of his loss fades and gives way to the happy memories of his life. i have a (13-year-old) orange tabby myself (they are the best, aren’t they? something about those orange ones..), and i can’t imagine the heartache you are all feeling.

    on a seperate but similar note, i completely agree with you about the harshness of reality flooding back around you after being away.

    wishing ALL of you peace as you transition back to ‘home’.

  • Chantale September 5, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    This is heart-wrenching. Both the part about your grandmother and her siblings and your 2 girls and Tobi. I wish there was a happier ending to your vacation trip.. perhaps the knowledge that your Tobi is no longer suffering, is probably in kitty ‘heaven’ and you are left with good memories of him.. I’m hoping once I’m extremely old.. I will be made of stronger stuff and the goodbyes might not be so bad. That and extreme forgetfulness would ease the pain of saying goodbye to loved ones..

  • Caitlin September 5, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    How heartbreaking. This week my first and only cat of my own starting having seizures at only 3 years old. From Wednesday through Saturday we thought we had lost him, but after some research and a new medication we were able to diagnose the problem and are in recovery mode. We don’t know yet if he will live, but it has been a heartbreaking and exhausting experience, never knowing if he will still be there as we mounted the stairs.
    I thought of you often, though I don’t know you and have never posted before, because I am an avid reader of your blog and I am trying to imagine what it is like to have kids. What it would be like to explain to them what was happening. My parents did a very splendid job of sparing me the details when we lost my mom’s first cat. All I kept hearing from friends and family when we were losing our little buddy was how good it was that we surrounded him with love, and I am sure you did the same.
    My thoughts are with you.

  • Amina September 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    So sorry to hear about your loss. Poor Tobi. I am glad that he had a great life surrounded by the people who loved him so much. I can only imagine how hard it is for the girls. Never had a cat, but I still remember how hard I cried when my parents put my dog to sleep. Thank you for keeping writing at the time of such hardship, and being so strong and open. I love your pictures and writing, definitely my favorite blog.
    Thank you!

  • Ashlae September 6, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved cat. When I first moved away from home, I got a call a week later that my childhood cat was diagnosed with leukemia – a few days after that my parents decided to put him to sleep. I was distraught for several months – going back home was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. To my surprise, shortly after he passed, a kitten who looked identical to him showed up at my parents’ front door. Now that the kitten is grown, he has the same mannerisms as my Pud. Kind of funny how life happens 🙂

    I’ve always admired your blog from afar, but wanted to let you know that you have an absolutely beautiful family.

  • OneRedOneWhite September 6, 2011 at 2:08 am

    Both your girls are so artistically inclined! Particularly love Claudine’s rendition of clouds, and Mia’s sketch of Tobi peeking out between your legs.

    Wonderful photos as always. Stay strong.

  • Julia September 6, 2011 at 3:03 am

    Goodbyes are complicated things. I couldn’t imagine handling a departure that significant. If they could handle shorter flights, perhaps they could meet at a midpoint? I would spend an eternity trying to solving that. I think the grace and posture as to how someone comes to terms with farewells comes with age.

    I think a lot of people adopt new pets so soon because it helps alleviate the tinges of sadness created by the pet-proofing habits, news tips, and so on and so forth of the reminders that create those tinges of loss. Tobi lives on.

    Best of health and mind to your family!

  • linn September 6, 2011 at 4:35 am

    my thoughts to all of you.

  • Stéphanie September 6, 2011 at 4:57 am

    Just feeling the same way. Zoé isn’t there anymore for one long week and our appartment seems without soul…

  • Sebbie September 6, 2011 at 11:09 am

    That is so sad and sweet. Again, I’m sorry about Tobi.
    Side note: Claudine is a really good drawer!

  • Renita September 6, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I completely understand … the present is like living in the ‘in between’ of life and death … there is a sharpness to things when you’ve just experienced a death and then with the sad realization of your grandmother. Lliving and mourning at the same time is hard … time will help

  • mickie September 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    awe… really beautiful. sigh.

  • shisomama September 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Whenever we go back to Asia, I always wonder if it’ll be the last chance for me and my children to see my grandparents, and I know they think about it the same way. Last summer’s trip to Asia did actually turn out to be our last chance to see my grandfather, and I’m so glad to got to see him alive and happy one last time and say goodbye. With any luck, we’ll continue this tradition and drag on this long goodbye to my remaining grandmothers.

    My best to you.

  • alexis September 7, 2011 at 7:48 am

    the loss you are going through from Tobi’s passing is heartbreaking, my thoughts are with your family.
    the days and weeks after my beloved jack russell terrier passed away suddenly, I could swear that I was seeing her around the house, doing the normal things she always did. I once even swear that I felt her climbing over my legs one morning when I was in bed, it was something that she did every morning. It really caught me off guard because I knew she was not with us anymore. But maybe she was just there, in a different way.

  • zoe Yohn September 9, 2011 at 1:14 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve grown up with cats and I remember when our first family cat died while we were on vacation. Despite the ice cream my father bought be to ease the pain of hearing the news, I spent the rest of that day sobbing. Luckily, MY cat (a boy who I’ve owned since I was four) was still around to take my mind off of losing Felix. Beautiful post and please give the girls lots of hugs from your loving readers.

  • Marina Esmeraldo September 9, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Dear Jenna,

    I was so moved by this post. I’ve subscribed to your blog ever since I stumbled upon the Breadwinner post (which at the time felt like breaking the surface of the water and taking a big hulking breath of fresh air; I could honestly say it helped save my relationship from a downward spiral of negative thoughts and attitude…) and it’s amazing to constantly come back and relate and understand and feel.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost a dog a few years back. He was very sick and frail and ultimately died of kidney failure at the vet’s. It was a very messy and suffering affair. He died alone, without any of us, because it was so unexpected. I’ll never forget that. I cried when I knew he had died and I cried again a week later, great big wracking sobs. We kept thinking we’d seen his little white form around the house or honestly expected to hear his familiar sounds.

    Ultimately, I believe it’s good for the girls to express their mourning and pay their own homages to Tobi by way of drawings and remembering their good times together. It’s what we do, to this day. 🙂