For the love of Sam.


Two Sundays ago (March 5, 2017) we lost our beloved little Sam. He was just barely six months old. He rapidly developed an unexplained, and terribly high fever. He had not been sick, nor did he display any other signs or symptoms. We took him to the University of Illinois Small Animal Clinic knowing what was happening was serious and could not wait. Little did we know we would not be bringing him back home.

With Sam we simply do not know and will never know what happened. It was so swift. 24 hours from normal to death. No symptoms, no signs, other than terribly high fever. No vomiting. No diarrhea. No gagging. No discharge from eyes or nose. No abdominal rigidity. No cough. No sneezing. No chest congestion. No swelling. No bites or marks. Lymph nodes normal. Teeth and gums normal. Even in that state his vitals were normal (until his fever began to burn him up and his breathing was fast). His blood work only indicated presence of infection (white cell count), all other values normal. He went unresponsive. They told us he’s going into septic shock. My husband cradled him in his hands and held him and kissed him on his head and sobbed. We let him go. This was a good bye we were not prepared for at all.

I had blogged about Sam and his siblings back in January, and wrote about their ongoing care and shared photos. You can read about it here if you want. The hard work nursing them, raising them, catching and saving their mother…..the joy of watching them thrive and grow…..the best veterinary care (treated for fleas/worms, check-ups, vaccinations, spays, neuters)…..the constant monitoring…..daily weigh ins…….I cannot even begin to tell you the happiness they brought me….the sense of purpose that I had been gifted with. How these three tiny beings drew me out of a horrible depression and helped me feel like I was contributing to something important again. I don’t speak much of my illness and how it has limited my life these past two years. I don’t get out much anymore. I haven’t been able to work. I spend long lonely hours at home alone without complaint, because my husband is out busting his chops working multiple jobs to keep us afloat. He does what he does without complaint too.

Sam, Dean and Flower brought joy back to my life. They loved each other dearly too, and had an unusually strong and close relationship with their mother (Mama Ninja) after they were weaned. Minus nursing, she stayed close with them….playing, grooming, eating with them, watching over them….it was sweet. Out of the three, Sam was the one who craved attention and affection from us the most. He loved to be held. He loved kisses. If I kissed him on his head when I was holding him, he’d keep pressing his head upward with his eyes shut, prodding me to keep kissing him. He was the leader of the siblings. He was so funny and smart. We frequently shared Sam and his litter-mates on social media because they made us so happy and they were so beautiful.

The day after we lost Sam, we took Flower and Dean to our own veterinarian for check-ups even though, they too, seemed to be doing OK. They were put on a course of antibiotics as a precaution because we don’t know why Sam got a fever. Our veterinarian could not explain it. The veterinarian at the University of Illinois could not explain it. We have no answers. We don’t know. We did everything right. We were told we did everything right. How could everything go so horribly wrong when we did everything right? So we’re left with those horrible questions. What happened? What did we miss? What did we do wrong? Could we have done more? Was this our fault? The guilt…..the grief….the second-guessing……the wondering…..these things have dominated my thoughts in the days since.

With the guidance and supervision of our own veterinarian, we will endeavor to take care of Sam’s litter-mates, Flower and Dean, and his mother, Ninja (and our other cats) the best we can. We have responsibilities. Sam would expect us to do what needs to be done every day, because we did it every day with him while he was alive. We took care of him and all his needs. We can do no less with our other beloved cats. We owe it to him to stay the course and keep doing the best we can, even if we hurt right now. 

I’ve never been able to process the whole “there is no answer” thing very well. My mind does not work well in that vacuum. We’re 9 days out from Sam’s death this morning, and we are starting to accept the fact that there is no answer. I don’t like it. It’s still hard. But, there simply just is no answer.

We also know some things with certainty. Sam loved us. We loved Sam. He was happy. He loved life. He knew security, affection, and joy. Oh, he was a joyful creature. He made us feel happiness and joy too. He was part of our family for just a short time, and his impact on our hearts was profound. He gave us Forever Love in his numbered days. For the love of Sam…..we have learned that love is powerful, and that though he was here for an all too brief moment…..he changed us. He made us better people. While I would rather have Sam back in my arms again more than anything, I would not trade the pain I feel right now for anything either. I recognize that the deep hurt means I’m alive. It means I loved him. It means he mattered to me. It means I recognized his love and trust as a gift. It means that I am not taking his short life for granted. It means that the lessons Sam taught us are sinking in and taking hold.

I want to live each day like Sam did. With joy. In the now. Enjoying what is. With acceptance. With love. Unencumbered by the silly dramas we humans seem to mire ourselves down into. No fear. No worry. Happy. And I know I have written about our pain, and I certainly do not intend this to be an “all about me, woe is me” kind of blog. I want it really to be about sweet Sam, lovable joyful Sam, and what he taught us. Through my pain, please see his gifts and his lessons. That’s what I really want. For people to see how one tiny kitten showed us how to live. 

I have included a large amount of photos, chronicling Sam’s life, and I do realize this may make this blog difficult to load for some folks. I’m sorry about that. I wanted to share his life and his joy. It is my sincere hope that Sam brings you the same joy he brought us. My wish for you is that today will be the best day ever, for the love of Sam.


30 thoughts on “For the love of Sam.

  1. Sam brought me so much joy through his photos and the stories of his antics, i loved him best of the three for reasons I can’t explain. I love your tribute, Mama Maria even though I’m sobbing again that we no longer have sweet Sammy.

  2. This is a beautiful heartfelt essay Maria. The sentiments resonate with anyone who has lost a cat and we can all empathise with you. But to lose a kitten in such circumstances is so hard to contemplate and your tribute honours Sam so well. Building memories from those we love and have loved is the perfect way to remember them. All the photographs portray his life and illustrate his character. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Thank you for this incredibly beautifully written tribute to sweet Sam. Loved seeing all of the pictures of him. I am so very sorry that he is physically gone, but I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that he will be forever in your, and Don’s, hearts, and that he taught you the lessons of seizing the day and loving life. What an amazing gift he was, and he continues to gift you with his life lessons every day. You have the soul of a poet, Maria, and you write incredibly well. Thank you so very, very much for sharing Sam — and Dean and Flower and Mama Ninja — with us every day. Love you bunches ❤

  4. Your care of Mama Ninja and her babies is inspirational. I can relate to the deep loss of kitties, and they each affect us differently . I too am a person who finds it extremely difficult to accept not knowing exactly what happened when these things occur. Please know how much you and Don are appreciated for the great job you have done for your babies. And may God bless you with peace that passeth understanding..

  5. You needed him and his siblings just as much as he needed you. There’s a reason for everything. Sam and the kits gave you a new outlook on life and Sam left our world knowing love.

  6. What a beautiful tribute to Sam. It’s funny how much a little kitten can teach us in such a short time, but God gives them to us for just that reason. Thank you for Loving him. ❤

  7. Ohhhh noooo!!!!! I’m so sorry Maria! What a beautiful tribute. You my dear are wise beyond your years.
    The not knowing is truly hard. Been there and still deal with it in my mind. God gave them to you for a reason. And you both went beyond what most would do.
    Prayers for both of you as you heal your broken hearts. And prayers for all your other little ones that whatever it is that took Sam stays away from them. 💞

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