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

  • Véronique Guillemin Colomb Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Sweet Homer

    Dear Gwen
    I'm so sad to hear about your poor Homer. I fell in love with him when I read his story. Lawrence and you have been good parents for little Homer. Much love to you and your fur kids.

  • Kathy Zavala Sunday, 25 August 2013

    So many tears

    There are so many tears falling now around the world, and here in my house. Homer was such an inspiration. To love a cat you've never met may seem strange, but I loved Homer. I can't imagine the pain you're going through. I've been through terrible pain when I lost my cat Rocky, and still miss him a year and a half later. He was my friend, my buds. But it does get easier. I wish I could say it gets better, but I don't think it gets totally better. I have Michu here, my other cat, but it's not the same. No two are ever the same. You love them the same, but different. Losing Homer is a terrible loss and I will pray that you find moments of inner peace each day, more and more until your heart feels total peace. Thank you for being such a loving and kind person.

  • Jane Burrell Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Beautiful Homer

    You will be missed by many. You were a special, beautiful, loving cat. May you rest in peace.

    Gwen, I am so very sorry for your loss. Homer was a lucky kitty to have you and Lawrence as his humans. I remember you talking about how he used to love to get turkey from the deli. I remember reading about Homer catching flies in mid-air, even doing a back-flip off of the back of a chair to catch one. From your wonderful book and your gift for writing, many, many people got to know Homer. Just know what a wonderful home and life you gave him and what a lucky cat he was. The vet that called you when he was a baby knew that you would give him everything he needs. It is so hard to have a cat put to sleep. I went through this with both my Patches and my Slinky, but when they get to that certain point, it is the kindest most humane thing you can do for them. Homer will always be remembered. Homer will always be in your heart. Because of him and your wonderful books and your work with shelters, you have made a difference. You take care.

  • Tim Gilmore Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Love to you all

    Oh, Gwen. I've stopped crying for the moment. The love for Homer hat always came through in your words and the generous sharing of Homer with the world made Homer seem as if he was a cat friend to us all. When I adopted my special blind friend, Clarence Carter, You and Homer were the inspiration. When I saw Calrence at a rescue adoption event, something tugged at me. I did't adopt him that day, but after a week went by, I had to find him.I am so lucky that I did. I worried at first that I was doing it for a selfish reason - See, I can adopt a blind cat, too! Clarence fit from the start. He is such a kind, curious, gentle loving soul. He loves me without question and I love him back. Each time I see him and watch his antics, I think to myself - there is MY Homer! Thank you for sharing Homer's wonderful life with all of us!

  • Leila Sunday, 25 August 2013

    So, so sorry for your loss, Gwen. All our love for Homer!
    Leila and my cats Bruno & Naomi

  • Karen Holub Sunday, 25 August 2013

    My condolences to you Gwen, Homer touched my heart so deeply. I first learned of Homer when I started pet sitting special needs cat's and one of my client's got me the book. I felt my heart sink when I saw your news.

  • Jean West Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Thank you so much for sharing yours and Homer journey throughout life with us - What you have written here is wonderful - It is truly amazing what Homer meant to you. He will be truly missed by all of his fans. My he watch over you each and every day. Homer may you find peace in your final resting place!

  • Debra Wiger Sunday, 25 August 2013

    ((hugs))

  • Jen Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Beautifully written, Gwen.

  • Jeanne Connery Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Your sweet Homer

    Gwen, I gasped and tears sprang to my eyes when I saw your post. For some inexplicable reason (Homer's spirit?), I was moved to pick up my copy of Homer's Odyssey just the other day for a "revisit." I've been following your blog off and on since your book tour adventures, and knew that Homer was ailing. I logged on today just to see how your sweet boy was doing. It just broke my heart for you. I'm so grateful that you were with him at the end. You and he did indeed have a precious relationship, and he is in your heart for keeps. Even though it's the right thing to do when the time comes, it is devastating and humbling to make that decision to end our furry ones' suffering. Thank you for sharing your story with us and for reminding us that the love of and for a pet invariably makes us more human! My condolences to you, Laurence, Fanny and Clayton. And prayers also that your dear mother continues on the mend.

  • Nita Dewey Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I am so sorry for your loss. I loved your book so much telling about this special little cat. He will be missed even though I never got to meet him. RIP Homer. Hugs

  • Ellen Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Thank you for loving him. He will be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge.

  • Sophie Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I am so so sorry to hear of your loss. I hope one day soon your memories will bring you more smiles than tears. Love and hugs.

  • Mig Crowe Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Still crying

    Since I saw the FB entry, I have been crying. My own cats are near, concerned, trying to comfort me with their love. You spoke of losing a limb, but it is a piece of your heart that you have lost. I know, we have taken in many rescues over the years, and I have lost many pieces of my heart. It's so very hard to deal with, but in time, you do. You find the love and the courage in your memories and go on, honoring those precious memories with your actions. You will save another kitten someday. When you're ready. And the cycle will start again. I wouldn't trade a minute of it, of any of it from over the years, ever. And I suspect you won't either. Bless you for your love, your caring, and your sharing of Homer with us. He is at peace, racing across green meadows and through crystal clear streams. May you find a kind of peace in that knowledge.

  • Linda Gross Sunday, 25 August 2013

    He's in Catnip Heaven

    Gwen, My heart breaks with your sad news. Tears will not stop falling. I try to remember something funny about Homer and visualize him jumping to catch a fly. Or the air plane ride from Florida to New York when he would not stop howling. Time to read the book again and time to make your brownies which I will always call Homer's Brownies because of all the chocolate. So sorry for your Loss.

  • Julia Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. I have my own Homer - and I make him promise me that he will live forever (or at least a very long life). I can't imagine life without my Parker and imagine that's what you are going through. Homer was as lucky to have you as you were to have him. I hope you find some peace in the memories and the knowledge that you gave him the best life he could have hoped for. Rest in peace, Homer.

  • Tracey Brabant Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Gwen -- I wish I had the words to say to ease your pain. Homer was truly a special little boy. You were blessed to have found each other. What a perfect match! While all of our babies touch our hearts and are special to us, sometimes one of them has a bond with us unlike any other. I met you at Good Mews Animal Foundation in Marietta, Ga while you were on your book tour. Your whole face lit up when you talked about Homer. I pray that you find comfort in knowing that you have your own little guardian angel. He was an angel on Earth as well.

  • AZDeb Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Ciao Homer

    Hearing that Homer had crossed over made my heart stop for a moment, I knew he was tired from your writings and now he will be whole again. Rest in peace handsome Homer and watch over your heart Gwen. If you see a contrary black kitty, it may be my Haje who crossed in June at 15 yrs of age, he and his sister will guide you to all the cool sunbeams and butterflies to chase :) Gentle hugs for you Gwen and the family, from me and the Orange Crew (Red, Kitty and Lil Girl) here in Tucson, AZ.

  • Leslie Leavitt Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I'm so sorry

    Dear Gwen: I'm so sorry for your loss. As we all know Homer was a brave and wonderful cat. I can relate to your pain as I lost my Arrabella last February and I still feel that half of me is gone. I would say just stay with your grief, cry, get angry, etc. as long as you need to. There is no pushing through. Time will help as your brain adjusts to the loss. Right now nothing anyone says or does is going to help. Just know that all Homer's fans are grieving with you.

  • Geoff Sunday, 25 August 2013

    He had 15 wonderful (and 1 declining) years with you that he probably would not have had otherwise. I've lost old cats and young cats; I can't tell you which hurts worse. I had moved out of the house when Sandy died at 20 years old; Butler did not make it to 15 months.

    The University of Illinois Veterinary school has a pet loss hotline; information can be found at http://vetmed.illinois.edu/CARE/ . That helped after Butler died last June.

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