The small kid is asleep in my arms, our cat curled up next to him. This scene has played out hundreds of times over the last few years. Tonight may be the last.

When I brought Mina home, I was fresh off the sudden loss of a kitten I had had barely a year. I had recently moved away from CU, following a relationship that I believed would bring me more joy than staying for a beloved job in a place that was home. I was unhappy in my new job, questioning my choices, and unmoored by grief when my then partner and I stopped by the shelter “just to look”.

Mina came home with me on my 28th birthday. By my math, we’ve been together fourteen years and nine months, two marriages, one divorce, two relationships, ten apartments in four cities in three states, two pregnancies (and newborns, babies, and toddlers), one roommate, four cat companions, and one visit from tiny dogs that she reacted to as if they were space invaders.

She caught two mice, knocked a bottle of balsamic vinegar out of a kitchen cabinet, stole cookies off a cooling rack, and once broke into a neighbor’s apt via their sixth floor patio. She has been a constant and devoted companion to N, and a hovering mother hen to the small kid. She used to do this thing we called “noodle dancing” where she would flop back and forth showing everyone her excessively soft belly.

I don’t know how to make sense of this. I don’t know how to make the decisions I know I have to make. I feel like I’m drowning in grief – while at the same time feeling very calm, in part because I know all of these feelings are rooted in my love for her and in an awareness of and gratitude for the honor and responsibility of sharing a life right up until the end.

I hope I’m wrong and that we have more nights of her warm body curled by our feet. And if we don’t, I hope she knows how tremendously loved she is.