Homer

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If you’ve come here from Homer’s Facebook page, then you already know this is the blog post I’ve dreaded writing since I first started this blog four years ago. And yet, ultimately I’m here not to mourn a loss, but rather to celebrate a life lived in full—a life that was lived beyond what even I could ever have imagined for him.

He was the kitten nobody wanted. After years of love and ardent admiration from those who knew him best, after tens of thousands of fan letters and gifts from those who loved him through his book, and millions of readers in more than 22 languages and countries all over the world, it’s hard to believe that this was how he came to me—because dozens of other people who’d had the chance to adopt him turned him down. It was unquestionably my great good fortune that none of them thought it was even worth meeting him. Fate may have taken Homer’s eyes, but he had my heart from the moment I first held him as a tiny kitten in a box in my vet’s office, 16 years ago.

He was just one cat. One tiny, big-hearted, irrepressible, brave and loyal little cat. Who could possibly have foreseen that he would come to mean so much to so many? Those of us who work in animal rescue believe that every animal matters. We believe that every life—no matter how small, or how steep the odds are against it—can make a difference. Every animal who’s given the chance to love and be loved can make someone else’s life better, can fill up empty places in our hearts we didn’t even know were there until they were full. And, once in a great while, one tiny creature can have a spirit so big that it spills over and makes the whole world just a little bit better, and happier, and more inspired, than it was before. Even in the darkest places are small lights that can grow and grow until they warm us all.

If I’ve been speaking in generalities, it’s because my specific loss—the loss not just of “Homer the Blind Wonder Cat,” but of my Homer, my cat—is almost more than I can bear. I’ve lost two cats before I lost Homer, and both of those losses were among the most painful times in my life. But losing Homer has been something beyond pain, something I still can’t quite push into enough to work through it. I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself, some essential part of my body that I keep expecting to be there—and my mind simply won’t accept that it isn’t. Doctors talk about “phantom pain” when a person loses a limb, but their brain hasn’t understood that yet and keeps trying to send nerve impulses to the place where that arm or leg used to be. That’s how I feel now. How can I learn to walk again without a leg that my mind keeps insisting is still there? How can I grieve for a loss that I still haven’t come close to accepting is real and permanent?

The thought that keeps coming to me is that nobody will ever love me again like Homer did.  I know how self-pitying that sounds, and I should clarify that I don’t mean to say that nobody will ever love as much as Homer did. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have known a great deal of love—love that has gone on four legs and two—in my life. But Homer, even at his most rambunctious and curious and engaged with the world around him, lived to love me. He lived to love me. And even after all the writing about Homer, and worrying about him, and building the person I grew into around him, I still feel that it’s only now—now that the knowledge is sinking in that I’ll never, never see him again in this life—that I’m realizing fully how much of my own life was lived for the sake of loving him back.

As many of you know, I donate 10% of my royalties from Homer’s Odyssey to organizations that serve abused, abandoned, and disabled animals. To keep Homer’s memory alive—and to give chances to other animals like Homer, who are so frequently overlooked simply because they aren’t “perfect”—I’m creating the Homer’s Heroes Fund. Every year, I will make a donation in Homer’s name to a shelter or rescue group that does outstanding work with “special needs” animals.  My newest book, Love Saves the Day, will come out in paperback on October 22nd. For every copy of the paperback that is pre-ordered or bought in-store or online between now and Sunday, October 27th, I will donate 100% of my royalties to a shelter/rescue group through the Homer’s Heroes Fund. (I will be announcing which shelter that will be next week.) I always say that Love Saves the Day is narrated by a rescue cat, but ultimately it isn’t a novel about cat rescue. Still, love did save the day when I got a call from my vet about an abandoned blind kitten, and the two of us—this little scrap of a kitten and I—decided to rescue each other.

Homer was the world’s cat. I know how many others will mourn his loss with me, and the knowledge that he was so loved by so many is a greater balm to my spirit right now than I can fully express. As is the knowledge that Homer will live on in the memories of so many that a piece of him will always be here. A spirit as big as his can never die entirely.

I celebrate Homer and the life that he lived, the love that he gave, the odds he overcame to grow into a housecat with a lion’s heart who touched so many people and saved the lives of so many other cats like him.

And I grieve for the loss of my boy, my little, little boy, the heart of my heart and the very best part of the person I always wanted to be. I do try to take comfort in the knowledge that Homer is whole now, and at peace—and that he will always, always be loved.

Vaya con dios, my love. My great love,  You were the one who taught me that love truly isn’t something you see with your eyes. Eras much gato.

Comments

  • Flippy Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Oh my goodness, Gwen, I am in tears. Reading your words made me feel the love you had for him, and the love I had for my own departed kitties. Yes, the pain is unbearable. I mourn with you, as will thousands of people worldwide.
    "Rest In Peace, sweet Homer."
    Love & purrs,
    Flippy from Melbourne, Australia

  • Jenny Cooper Tuesday, 27 August 2013

    Bella & Lilly

    I too am devistated. And, yes you have lost a part of yourself. I too lost a very special gatto to cancer a few years back and i still miss her. I can only believe that they are all sitting on my moms lap in heaven.

  • catherie G Monday, 26 August 2013

    Tears

    Gwen,
    First I want to thank you for sharing your wonderful story about HOMER. I fell in love with him to. You gave him a good life and for that I am greatful. I now feel your pain with the loss of your sweet angel. Know that many of us are grieving with you.... time will heal and I am sure there will be another Homer out there for you to love in the name of HOMER. I am so sorry

  • Katy Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Why am I crying when I'd never met your Homer? I've had to do this with several of my own cats, and each time it's like a piece of my heart's been ripped out. A friend gave me this poem long ago, after I'd had my first cat, my beloved Falstaff, put to sleep. It helped a bit. I hope it helps you too: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171425. Goodnight, sweet Homer.

  • joann Tuesday, 15 October 2013

    can't find poem

    Hi, I went to this site and was not able to find the poem....could you post the site again or better yet, cut and paste the poem here, where all can see it?
    Thanks

  • Christine Deliz Tuesday, 07 January 2014

    But since you wanted it pasted here so no one has to go looking for it: (hopefully this is ok)


    The Heaven of Animals
    By James L. Dickey
    Here they are. The soft eyes open.
    If they have lived in a wood
    It is a wood.
    If they have lived on plains
    It is grass rolling
    Under their feet forever.

    Having no souls, they have come,
    Anyway, beyond their knowing.
    Their instincts wholly bloom
    And they rise.
    The soft eyes open.

    To match them, the landscape flowers,
    Outdoing, desperately
    Outdoing what is required:
    The richest wood,
    The deepest field.

    For some of these,
    It could not be the place
    It is, without blood.
    These hunt, as they have done,
    But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

    More deadly than they can believe.
    They stalk more silently,
    And crouch on the limbs of trees,
    And their descent
    Upon the bright backs of their prey

    May take years
    In a sovereign floating of joy.
    And those that are hunted
    Know this as their life,
    Their reward: to walk

    Under such trees in full knowledge
    Of what is in glory above them,
    And to feel no fear,
    But acceptance, compliance.
    Fulfilling themselves without pain

    At the cycle’s center,
    They tremble, they walk
    Under the tree,
    They fall, they are torn,
    They rise, they walk again.

    James Dickey, “The Heaven of Animals” from The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992. Copyright © 1992 by James Dickey. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press, www.wesleyan.edu/wespress.

    Source: James Dickey: The Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1998)

  • Christine Deliz Tuesday, 07 January 2014

    Poem

    The period at the end accidentally got included in her link. If you take the period off the end, you'll find it. Try it this way: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171425
    I never saw any further response about it, and I happened to notice that in the link. It often happens.

    I just discovered your page, your cat, and, devastatingly, that he died...all just tonight. I've been thru several pet losses also, and it never gets any easier. Thank you for doing what you do...and I'm glad I found out about Homer, and that you recorded all this so that I can experience his story as well!

  • jeanne cheslock Sunday, 25 August 2013

    It's so sad that we have to lose these loving animals, Homer will be missed, but I believe he's at the rainbow bridge seeing everything through eyes that are now perfect. Love You handsome Homer , enjoy your wings sweet boy

  • Claudia Fleith Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I cant' stop crying

    I know Homer will rest in peace, but there is no way not to feel sad about his going away. I loved him. I read your book in Portuguese and, since then, I fell in love with Homer. He was a great being. He made a great difference in our lives. Thank you for letting me know your beloved Homer. I can't stop crying. I'll miss him a lot.

  • Katherine "Kat" Hart Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Homer....

    We all love Homer. He will forever be in our hearts with the Love and Joy you gave him for 16yrs. He saw more than we do as humans. Thank you for sharing him with us. The love grows.

  • Peri Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Homer has touched the lives of many and I am so sorry for your loss but his legacy will live on. Run in fields of catnip dear friend, run free!

  • June Goodman Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I too mourn with you Gwen. I feel as though I've lost Homer as well. Condolences to you and your family. Blessings to you for being his hero mommy.

    Rest peacefully Homer.

  • June and Sienna Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I also am in tears. I suspected that it might be time when I saw that your latest postings
    were reminiscings of Homer's early days with you. What wonderful memories you will always have and thank you for sharing your wonderful little boy with the rest of us. All of our lives are better as a result of "knowing" Homer.

  • Charleen Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I mourn with you

    Homer wasn't my cat, but the grief I feel is the same as if he was. Thank you so much for sharing him. May G-d give you all the comfort you need as you mourn and remember him.

  • Debbie Stroud Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Gwenn, I'm so sorry. I am sitting here in tears - it's as if Homer were one of my own. I loved him too from the moment I read your book. I know the pain I felt when I lost my Maggie after 15 years, I can only try to begin to understand the pain you feel with Homer's loss. Many hugs to you. Rest in peace Little Homer. You had the world's love.

  • Sabine Leclercq-Schulte Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Teardrops

    Dear Gwen, I' ll pray for you. Everybody who has a blind cat that is rescued by himself, sheltered and dearly beloved, knows that each word you wrote is true. I can imagine it. Toulouse is my favourite, my beloved cat, becouse his is blind. We all know, that we have to say "goodby" "Adieu" "Servus" one day, when our cats are to old, to sick an suffring. It's a very private moment, an not everybody is able to hold his cat in his arms, when time is coming, to "go on the other side of the big rainbow" as we say in germany. Since I've read your book "Homer Odyssey", every day I send a little paw-greeting in my mind to New York. I'll continue with it. Greetings and prayers for You an to the other side of the rainbow, to Homer. I am sure, God has a special place for cats, because they are te most perfectly animals of the world. God bless you for all you are doing to rescue cats.

  • Billy Sargent Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Strength & Courage

    His life was a never ending journey of love. I wish I could give you guys a big hug. A tear for every happy thought instead.
    We mourn as much for the love we had yet to give, the happiness we were looking forward to sharing. We're kinda selfish that way, but isn't it wonderful that the more love there is, the greater the pain? Call it perverse but I'm a bit proud that I'm so sad right now.
    Of course no one can love you like Homer. Love is as unique as it is infinite & every love makes the next richer.

  • Carolyn Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I am so sorry. At such a time as this, words seem so inadequate. My wish for you is a quiet peace as you grieve. May you experience a touch of love today and a smile while remembering.

  • Andrea Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Adiós, gato entre gatos

    No words are good enough to express how sorry I am for your loss, Gwen. But at the same time, it was time for Homer to rest, and I hope he finds Scarlett and Vashti in Heaven.

  • Susan Monday, 26 August 2013

    Ah, he's playing with them at the Rainbow Bridge - & saying, "THAT'S what you look like?!"

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