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

  • Danielle Orth Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Gwen, I am so sorry to hear of your loss.I never met Homer but feel as though he was mine. Know that you,Homer, and your family are in my heart & prayers.

  • Catherine Aragon Munden Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Sweet little boy

    Gwen, my heart goes out to you. Homer's Odyssey was given to me by a very good friend. After reading it, I passed it on to my husband and then it became my choice for book club. He was truly an inspiration. Such strength in such a little kitty, a special little boy. He could not have asked for a better mom and a better life then you were able to give him.

  • Norma Stevlingson Sunday, 25 August 2013

    RIP dear Homer

    I grieve for and with you, Gwen. I read Homer's Odyssey when it first came out and have been following his blog since you began. I understand as much as possible your grief as I lost my "heart cat" 2 years ago and still mourn her. I have adopted or rescued all my cats, and since reading Homer, I have adopted disabled kitties who make my life even more joyful. Thank you and thank Homer.

  • Reneda Cooper Baer Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I can't express the words to tell you how sorry I am for your loss Gwen. Losing a baby so close to our hearts is like losing a part of your own soul. Thank you for sharing him with us, allowing us to love him as well. You, and Homer have touched so many lives. RIP sweet little Homer boy. Much love to you. And much love to you, Gwen as well. I hope you are able to find peace in your heart in spite of the pain. My heart goes out to you.

  • Dr. Jane Dusek Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Sweet Homer

    There are no words. Only tears, and beloved memories.
    We will always love you, Homer. You live on in our hearts.
    Always.

    Rest in Peace, Sweet Homer.

  • andrea Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Remembering Homer

    Gwen, I will forever remember your Homer, the sweet boy you gave such an incredible life and such love too. My sweet Buddy cat passed on exactly one year ago today, the 25th. I don't cry often, but anniversary dates are hard, and today I am grieving my Buddy and also your sweet Homer. Bless you for giving him such a wonderful and long life! My Buddy was one month shy of 19 when I lost him. RIP Buddy boy and sweet Homer!!!!!!

  • Peggy Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Rest in Peace, little Homer. Gwen, may you also have peace in your loss. Your story has touched me deeply.

  • Patricia Wanzenried Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Goodbye little Homer

    I am so sad to hear of Homer's passing. I can only begin to imagine how deep the pain is to you Gwen who loved him most deeply of all. In each of our lives, our animal-loving lives, there comes one special animal who teaches us what love really is. Homer has been that teacher for you. I know you will always cherish your memories and the love you shared. Fly free, little Homer, you are so very very loved.

  • Letha Hunnicutt Sunday, 25 August 2013

    To the cats that have loved us.

    Tear streaming down my face as I'm petting my 22 year old cat that is being put to sleep this week. The loss hurts so much it is truly pain in every imaginable form. I wish you sweet memories of having such a beautiful cat.

  • Erin Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Sharing your sorrow

    OH...I hurt with you! We had a stray who adopted us 6 years ago and we recently put him to sleep when his back legs stopped working right. Our pets leave such a hole and it is hard for our hearts to believe they are really gone. My arms ache to hold our Grouchy one more time as I know yours do for Homer. Prayers for your comfort and thanks for the huge influence you and Homer have had on the world and all the rescued pets!

  • Amy Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Gwen,

    I can relate with what you're going through, word-for-word. My kitty girl died of FIP last April. This post brought all of the pain and memories of her back. It was bittersweet.

    Thank you for being such a good human to Homer. I wish all animals in the world could have a human who would treat them like you do.

  • Pam Sunday, 25 August 2013

    His love and memories will give you peace and strength. Gods love to you all.

  • Janiss Garza Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Gwen, I am so sorry for your loss. There are some cats who are special, and Homer was light years beyond special. He was such an amazing little being and I'm so glad you were able to share him with so many others through your book... although it makes your loss our own, too. Sparkle sends purrs to you.

  • Angie MarinaTosca Clark Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Homer

    Gwen, I'm so sorry for your loss. Homer was a wonderful cat. Thank you for sharing him with us. I remember when I put my cat, Velvet, to sleep. I couldn't believe the world continued on without noticing. How could they not see what a tragedy it was that she was gone? Like you, I felt like a part of me had died. I was given two important gifts the weekend Velvet was put to sleep. First, the night before, my aunt, a social worker for a hospice gave me the gift of informed choice. She asked me, if I let Velvet live would I be prolonging her life or prolonging her death? Second, the day I put her to sleep, I had the gift of peace knowing I was making the right decision to put her to sleep and knowing the day I chose was the right day. That doesn't mean I was free of grief. I was so sad for so long. But I had peace. I wish for you peace. These days I'm ok in that I only cry about Velvet when I read about other's loss and share my loss. I remember the happy times more than the loss. I hope you can be that kind of ok soon.

  • Lynne Fichter Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Homer, you are the best....

    and you always will be.....

  • Bev Redmond Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Rest in peace, precious Homer...

    My TC crossed the Rainbow Bridge two years ago next month, and the grief was and is still, profound. I've had so many cats and dogs in my 73 years, have loved each one and mourned his or her passing. Never, though, has there been one who became as much a part of my heart as TC. I hope he and Homer will be friends on the other side.

  • Shari Ann Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Gwen, Homer helped you find both your ability to love unreservedly, and your true voice when you wrote about him in Homer's Odyssey, throughout the years on your blog, and now again in telling us of your loss. Indeed he was "mucho gato." And all of us are the richer for having known him through your eyes. Thank you for sharing him, and your own heart, with us.

  • Jeannette Simpson Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I mourn with you Gwen, I loved Homer through you and your books. God bless you both.

  • Jamie Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I am so sorry to hear of Homer's passing. Thank you for sharing him and his life with us. What a beautiful legacy and tribute you have made for Homer. One lonely, blind, abandoned kitten who grew up to be a mega star. He will always be remembered and loved by many. What a wonderful life you have given him. My heart goes out to you, and I am so very sorry for your loss.

  • Nancy Walsh Sunday, 25 August 2013

    We mourn and hurt with you

    Saying I'm so sorry for your loss of Homer just doesn't feel like saying enough to express my sadness! I was given your book about Homer from my son on Christmas. My husband and I are individual rescuers and we take the abused and unwanted cats and work with them so they are "adoptable", which to us they were already. Homer's story hit home for me. He has made such an impact on so many people! Thank you for sharing him with the world.

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