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

  • Elizabeth van der Weide Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Tears and hope for peace

    I know my 17 year old Nessie is tired...she is my "Homer" and I never understood that until I read your beautiful post. Thank you for your words, your caring, and your sharing your grief. May you find peace and healing...and may we all strive to be better from the lessons Homer taught us.

  • http://Melissa Dallago Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Thank You - We love you!

    Dearest Gwen, I am so very sorry for your loss. My heart is breaking for you and your family as I sit here reading your beautiful words and tribute to such a wondrous, glorious shining creature like Homer. I read your story two years ago when I was going through an extremely hard time in my own life, and your words, Homer's strength and both of your enduring courage gave me the hope and faith to face life once again. Homer's whiskers brushed my face as I cried silent tears as I mourned my father's passing, and your lessons and discoveries in sharing such an endless, boundless love with Homer gave me the hugs and love that I needed to move on and re-engage in my life, and try to fill in the void that became me after I lost my dad. You and Homer helped spark me back to life! I fell in love with Homer and felt like an extremely small part of his beauty and rambunctiousness was mine as well. I want to thank you from the very bottom of my heart for sharing your story. I know words cannot even convey what you are feeling right now, but please know that not only was Homer loved and shared with the world, but so are you! We all love you Gwen, and we all surround you and support you in your time of need. I have no other advice to offer, no words to help ease the pain, other than we are here, we love you and while it may never be easy the pain will lesson in time. Homer is with you, he will always be with you, and you are not alone. Thank you for saving such a glorious creature, and thank you for sharing his and your story with the world. You are an amazing, shining example of what the love of an animal can do for us all. You both make the world a hell of a lot brighter and more hopeful and for that I am in your debt. Rest easy Homer, you will be forever missed, and forever loved and cherished. You are in my thought Gwen, and always will be!

  • Rhonda Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Miss

    I am so very sorry for your loss. My tears are falling for you. Having lost a beloved pet in December, I still remember the pain well. Thank you for sharing Homer with us and for taking such great care of him. I know it will be a joyous reunion when you meet again.

  • Matt Richardson Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I broke down sobbing as soon as I read this. I don't know how to explain it - I'm not even normally a crying person - but Homer's story touched me deeply. A friend bought me the book because I adopted a one-eyed black cat named Alli.
    They never met, but Homer was her brother in spirit.
    I'm sorry for your loss, but know that you and Homer brought a lot of joy to many people and animals. And that's a hell of a legacy for anyone.

  • Miranda Wierzbowski Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Sweet memories

    I tried so hard to not cry, to not let my heart break for a cat whom I never personally met. But in so many ways, I feel as if I did know Homer--through his novel, through his Facebook page. I know the special bond cats can have with their people; the way they can make you a better person in ways you didn't know was possible. The tears I cry for Homer show me he was a special special feline. He was a fighter, a daredevil, an icon. He gave you 16 years of unconditional love and gave me many smiles with the stories of him you shared. I will forever keep him in my heart, not just because he was a gorgeous black beauty (I have 7 cats, three of them black), but because he was an inspiration. He loved you with such ardor; he was your protector and your shoulder to lean on. My heart hurts, my eyes are puffy, but I know he's up there in kitty heaven playing and being his typical Homer self. I hope his spirit remains with you forever and that he never fully leaves your side.

  • Lynne Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Gwen

    My sympathies for your loss. I lost my older cat three years ago, and I know this is one of the greatest losses in my life. I have learned to live with it, but I still expect to see my little girl waiting for me to wake up and feed her each morning. Know that Homer loves you and will always love you.

  • Sherri Fisher Staples Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Vaya con Dios Homer!

    As an animal lover and someone who has been loved by many cats, I grieve for you and for all those who loved Homer. Certainly, I did. And when I finished reading your book, I passed it on to my 18 year old daughter, who wants to be a writer and entered college to study writing just last week. She passed it on to her creative writing teacher in high school, who passed it on. Homer's love and your love for him is eternal. It will never die. The extraordinary thing is that Homer is loved by millions and his story and your book will never die. Maybe more importantly, Homer and you have made a difference by calling attention to shelter animals in need, and those who are "less than perfect", which is ridiculous because Homer WAS PERFECT! But he was your cat, your personal family member, the love of your life, and for that I will pray for comfort and solace for you in your time of grieving. God blessed you Gwen and Homer as well. Miraculously we were all blessed by you both. Vaya Con Dios Homer! Go with God over the Rainbow Bridge.

  • Theresa Zerkle Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Mrs.

    OMG Gwen, I saw the post, but didn't put two and two together until I read the blog and then realized this is Homer, I just finished reading your book about him. One of the best books I have ever read! My heart is breaking with you! You gave him such an awesome life and for that, I thank you! RIP Homer, I am so glad I got the chance to know you!

  • Lucia Sunday, 25 August 2013

    So sorry for your loss

    Homer was such a lucky cat to have you enter into his life. I lost my best little boy, Kramer, 3 years ago. The hole in my heart seemed over sized. Than after a couple of months I met a little girl cat who had been through way to much and was starving for attention. I do believe that Kramer sent her to me. Homer will always be in your heart and in a lot of other peoples hearts too. Thank you for sharing his story with us. It made us all better people for knowing about him and you. Sending warm thoughts.
    Lucia, Archie and Lucy

  • Jennifer Belfiore Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Forever in our hearts!

    So sorry for your loss Homer was amazing and you have so many great memories and now you can celebrate his life! I look up to you Gwen you do so much for your cats and others thank you for letting us be apart of your family!

  • Leslie Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Gwen, I'm so, so, so sorry. This is a beautiful tribute to Homer.
    Love and hugs from a fan

  • Mari Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Mourning with you

    Gwen - to you and your family, but especially to you, sweet lady, who has come to know the power of such a great love in giving, and who shared that love and that wonder cat with all the world, I mourn your loss of Homer with you. Everyone should read this book, his story, your story - the world would be a kinder and safer place. Thank you for taking us along. I hug you in my heart and tears.

  • Gisele Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Adventure and Homecoming

    Dear Gwen,

    Homer was so fortunate in being found by people who took him to that wonderful vet whose instincts proved correct when you came to look at him, he dug his wee paws in the cables of your sweater, and you were imprinted, both of you, bonded for life. And what a life he had. You were both fortunate. You are all of you, feline and human, in the Cooper-Lerman household, fortunate, and you've given back in your tireless promotion of animal welfare.

    In my Amazon review of Homer's Odyssey I said one thing that drew me to the book (among the many things) was that Homer was named for the blind poet of the great classical epic of adventure and homecoming, and Homer lived up to his given name, and to Daredevil and "mucho gato". He taught, and you enabled him to teach, so many people to look beyond limitations (and he more than compensated for his). He could not have had a better life, and you did not shirk at making sure he had a good end, too.

    But your grief must be indescribable, to paraphrase another great poem (Malory's Morte d'Arthur), more than any heart can think of, greater than any tongue can tell. My heart goes out to you.

    It's not quite one year since my mother died and my universe ripped irreparably; my grief was too fresh to allow me to post an Amazon review of Love Saves the Day, but I will, and even though I do own an ebook copy, I will buy at least three paperbacks (gifts; one for you to sign for me when we do eventually meet) in Homer's honour, so that many more animals can live their lives in comfort, dignity, and love, as he did.

    Much love.

  • Connie Sunday, 25 August 2013

    You post so moved me, not only because of the obvious love you shared with Homer, but because I see so much of Odilia in this as well. Not even remotely the same as I only fostered her knowing I would send her on to her new home all too soon, but similar enough to touch something dear. Odilia was also the kitten no one wanted for her lack of eyes..

    Each love bond is different, so we can never say we know the pain you are feeling, we can grieve with you for your loss.

    May the pain of his absence be dulled with the joy of his life sooner.

  • Barbara L. Angulo Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Perfection

    I read your story a while ago in a magazine or pamphlet and used to tell it to many people . So touched I was with the courage of Homer and so much my admiration for him! He was and still is a perfect cat. Who needs eyes in this crumbling world? We touch people with our hearts, we save them with our hearts and good intentions, we love others with our hearts....and that's what he had. He was a Godsend creature that changed your life and gave it a new meaning and shape. Homer lives in you. You are Homer, Gwen, no need to look around for him. It's great to give back to others like you’re doing. That is being grateful for the gift you received unexpectedly the day you got him. You are blessed in having had such a special being with you for that time and you are privileged in being able to help others like him have a chance for showing what they have to offer and we don't see with our distorted human eyes.
    BRAVO HOMER!!!!!!! BRAVO GWEN!!!!!! You were soul mates and nobody is going to change that. I am an animal lover, mostly a cat lover and have lost rescued cats to illnesses, poisoning, ignorance, but even though the pain is still in me and their pictures exhibited in my office, they all taught me lessons of wisdom, trust, endurance, but most of all of love: BIG LOVE. My deepest sympathy, but also my greatest joy for you in having accomplished so much with your soul mate. You both ARE one.
    Un abrazo grande Gwen

  • Laura Pervier Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I know what you mean about how Homer loved you. I've had several cats like that and it took a very long time to get over the grief of their loss. You miss them with every fiber of your being and you know you won't find love quite like that again. Take care.

  • Homer's friend from Finland Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Lovely Homer may you have peace and joyful times, wherever you are now.

    I am so sorry for your loss, Gwen.
    I cried when I read your news, even though I never met Homer in person. Our 18 year old dear cat lady died on last November. It was devastating. Luckily I still have our other kitty to cheer me up.

    Anyway, I am sure you'll meet again someday, somewhere.

    I always find this comforting:
    "Do not stand at my grave and weep,
    I am not there; I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow,
    I am the diamond glints on snow,
    I am the sun on ripened grain,
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning’s hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circling flight.
    I am the soft star-shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry,
    I am not there; I did not die."

    -Mary Frye, 1932-

  • Kassie Riel Sunday, 25 August 2013

    "The thought that keeps coming to me is that nobody will ever love me again like Homer did."
    You said this and I know exactly what you mean. Over my life I have been loved by many four legged 'people' both cats and dogs. And as is expected, I have lost many as well. Some I mourned because I loved them but some I mourned because it went beyond that, they loved me. They loved and accepted and even seemed to revel in that which is me. It has been over 15 years and I still miss and dream about my dog Bimbo who died too soon. And even longer than that since I had to put my beloved cat Trep (short for Intrepid) to sleep to stop his suffering. Too recently I lost 7 dogs to a variation of Parvo (yes they were vaccinated) within 2 days. I didn't think I would survive that! I could go on but you get the idea, which is that I know where you are coming from and really feel for you and your loss. Homer is in a much better place and his spirit is with you and waiting for you. When it is our turn to cross the bridge, ALL our loved ones will be there to greet us! This I firmly believe. Bless you for your generosity and love.

  • Rebecca Orr Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Homer...you were a Gift from Above

    Your little boy - precious Homer Bear - has returned to our Heavenly Father that created him. The same God who knew that you, Gwen, would be the one upon which He would bestow the gift of Homer. We all grieve with you - for loss is gut-wrenchingly painful. It’s the hardest part of our journey here on earth...saying goodbye to those we love the most - and those from which that love has been returned without measure. Gwen, I understand how part of you died on Wednesday right along with Homer...but oh the gifts Homer left behind. All of us were so blessed to know Homer, because you brought us into your lives and your heart when you wrote Homer’s Odyssey. May your heart be comforted by the gift of truly unconditional love Home had for you Gwen. Very few in this lifetime are as blessed.

  • Alira S Rosi Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I Thank You, Homer, for the Many Lessons You Taught Me.

    To Homer: Though I've never met you, I consider you a little friend in spirit. Your courageous acts have strongly influenced how I view my own furry family. When the day comes that I return to the other side, I hope to meet you and give you "Scritchies" and a kiss. To Gwen: I am sending healing, loving energies your way to help carry you and yours through this painful time. I understand your pain, as I said goodbye to my 11 y/o Scottish Terrier a month ago. It the hardest thing we are asked to do as pet family members, yet it is worth it in exchange for the years of love and friendship we receive. I deeply admire your compassionate advocacy for animals and your sharing of Homer's story has influenced me in how I view living with animals with disabilities. I am not afraid of caring for one as I once was and that is empowering. I see now that it isn't necessarily about the animal's adjustment, but about my changing my own attitude. I have begun searching animal rescues for a special needs puppy to bring into my family. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I consider you a friend and I mourn with you. Loving thoughts, ~Alira S. Rosi

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