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

  • Cathie Mortensen Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Tears . . . . tears of sorrow and tears of joy for the little boy who touched so many lives. Precious Homer, rest now knowing how much you have meant to so many people. If you see my Emma Jean and Annabell - please tell them I love them.

  • Merry O' -Merrill Cooper Sunday, 25 August 2013

    My heart weeps for your loss Gwen..

    ....your personal loss of your boy Homer being there with you in person, I am so so sorry Gwen. Your last post of the early video, I feared the time had come and what that would mean for you. My heart goes out from the west coast to join hands with the world who came to love Homer through your gift to us. We surround you in love and protection. I was comforted to read Cathie's post and delight in knowing my beloved Ana and Henry and Zenith can run and play with Homer now with the Angels keeping watch.

    ...Grieve not,
    nor speak of me with tears,
    but laugh and talk of me
    as if I were beside you...
    I loved you so-
    'twas Heaven here with you.

    Isla Paschal Richardson

  • Susan Monday, 26 August 2013

    and your verse made me cry, Merry - so perfect.

    I once saw a photo of an animal grave marker that said "To one so little who loved so much." Don't they, though.

  • Janet Thursday, 29 August 2013

    I am very touched by both Merry's quote and Susan's

  • Susan Monday, 26 August 2013

    And my Maya & Sarah.

  • Sara Costanzo Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Homer

    I am pained as if one had died in the family. Reading his book his cat made ​​a big vita.Mi seems that I miss a part of me, I guess then her pain.

  • Randi Anconina Sunday, 25 August 2013

    So sorry for your loss.

  • Farah Sunday, 25 August 2013

    My heart weeps with yours Gwen. Thank you for sharing your Homer with me and the rest of the world. He was most definitely a very special cat who taught us all a thing or two about unconditional love. Sleep peaceful little Homer.

  • Jan Marshall Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Fly free sweet beautiful Homer ~ you will never be forgotten.

    Thank you for loving Homer so much and or giving him the life he truly deserved. I can guess how much you must be hurting because the more we love, the more we hurt when we lose a being we love. Sending you gentle thoughts and hoping the wonderful life you enabled Homer to have is of comfort to you in your loss. Take care dear Gwen. The pain never goes but we learn to live with it (I still grieve the loss of my heart cat Henry 1985 ~ 2004).
    Sending gentle purrs from Milo and Alfie. xx

  • JOHN Z Monday, 26 August 2013

    which hurts worse,the love or the loss

    never met homer,read your book,and your blogs, your loss must be very painful,losing all 3 of your sweet chiidren,now there alltogether, HOMER WAS A GREAT CAT!!! LIFE GOES ON!!!

  • Rachel Kubicki Sunday, 25 August 2013

    RIP sweet Homer, I shall miss you so very much despite never having met you.

    To Gwen, I know it may seem as though the world will never be quite right again, right now, but I lost my best friend two years ago now, it does get better, in time.

  • Rebecca Asberry Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Sweet Gwen. No words can express my feelings of love for you and that sweet baby of yours. His book has passed through so many hands of my friends and we are all grieving with you.
    REST in PEACE Sweet Homer!

  • Cathy Spangler Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Homer is now with my Tyler

    Oh my, My deepest condolences to you. I share your pain and my thoughts and prayers are with you. I loved your story of how he came to you. He is at rainbow bridge now with my Tyler, and I'm sure he is showing him around. Tyler was always like that, such a welcoming boy

  • sara costanzo Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Homer

    I am pained as if one had died in the family. Reading his book his cat made ​​a big vita.Mi seems that I miss a part of me, I guess then her pain.

  • Julia Maxwell Sunday, 25 August 2013

    so sorry

    No words, just tears. My thoughts and prayers are with you .

  • Pat Zumbrun Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Came to Love Homer too

    Dearest Gwen, I am reading your first book currently about Homer and I too knew the day was coming when I would read of his passing from this life. But I believe God has a place in eternity for our dear pets. Why would a good God create so much love in the creatures we love only to have them be gone once and for all? No, I believe we shall see them again in the better life. I hope you can believe that. Homer was truly a wonder, a gift from God to teach you and many others about how to love unconditionally. Thank you for your example of love for Homer. I too have mourned my cats all over again reading about Homer's passing. Love to you and that wonderful Homer now and always. Pat in MD

  • Ann McNamara Sunday, 25 August 2013

    With my deepest sympathy

    To you, Gwen and Lawrence, I am so sorry for your loss. I wish you the strength to get through these upcoming days, find the things that motivate you to put one foot in front of the other until things get easier, however long that may be. My heart is heavy with sadness for Homer who I never met but only through a book however I checked on his blog every day to enjoy updates about his happy and whimsical spirit finding joy in everyday. You were a complete blessing for him as he was for you. I will continue to hold you close, both of you, in thought. I lost my beloved Logan and a dear friend gave me a card and a very true and gentle message………No matter how or when we lose our best friend, their love lasts our lifetime.
    Blessings to you and peace in your heart.

  • Bobbi Hahn Sunday, 25 August 2013

    HOMER

    Oh, Gwen, what a beautiful, heartwarming, gut-wrenching, emotional tribute to your little guy. I was going to write that he was lucky to have you in his life for so many years, but the reverse is also true. What lovely memories you made together and I hope those memories will now comfort you. I weep with you . . .

  • Felice Clyne-Davis Sunday, 25 August 2013

    With deepest gratitude

    With deepest gratitude…Thank you, Gwen for this beautiful post and for sharing the gift of Homer. His special tale changed my life and was so moving. I had cats my entire life but your book helped inspire me to get more involved with animal rescue. Homer teaches us all about friendship, kindness and acceptance of those who are different. I think it should be mandatory reading not just for animal lovers-rescuers but also for students. I share Homer’s journey in school. It’s such a powerful message about love, commitment, passion and perseverance. We all know that “rescued pets” often save us and make us better people. It’s amazing how one small act of kindness can make a difference. You and Homer made such a positive impact, touched so many lives and will surely continue to do so. So thank you, Gwen and Homer!

  • David Murphy Sunday, 25 August 2013

    We are all grieving with you - lots of purrs to you from the whole Shadow Cats gang.

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