Sunday Morning ~ Cycles of Life
Bango likauma, libwera linzace. ~ When one reed becomes dry, another one shoots out.
~ Chewa proverb
August 9, 2023
My cat died Saturday. I knew it was coming but I’m still sad. She was old and getting thinner, though, she maintained her appetite and vomited less and less frequently. Vomiting was her calling card from the day I’d gotten her eleven years ago. She was a feral cat, trapped after many years of reproducing at a local yacht club. I heard they were looking for a home for her and having been plagued by chipmunks and mice, I thought a feral cat would be perfect. I needed a huntress. Or at least a deterrent. She came named Bracy in honor of the cove whose shores she inhabited for several years. I kept her in the cage for a week feeding and talking to her. She took to those activities well, but when I tried to pet her, she’d have none of it. She’d made a living out of being elusive and clearly was setting her terms. She’d been neutered and vaccinated when she was caught, and her right ear was clipped to mark her as such if she refused to be domesticated and escaped back into the wild. After a week, though, when I left the cage door open to see what she would do, she stayed close by. She acclimated to domestic life rather well. In fact, she loved it. Room service was a delight to her after years of fending for herself and family. She vomited daily but it just became part of her routine. She required no instructions on the litter box. I found it amazing how she knew what to do. She rarely went outside, and then only if I did. Gradually she allowed me to pet her head, but did not like to be touched anywhere else. She did not allow anyone to pick her up. She never once bothered with a mouse or chipmunk. They’d walk right by her and she’d barely look up, showing neither contempt nor interest.
After we’d lived together for about a year I noticed she would come into whatever room I was in, find a spot to lie down and unobtrusively offer her companionship. A few years later she decided one of the chairs was her personal bed and claimed it for her own. A couple of years after that she changed chairs, never going back to her original. Two years ago I noticed she abandoned that one, too, and only slept on the floor. She stopped coming into my bedroom in the morning, refusing to climb the stairs. Instead, she’d give her single “meow” at the bottom of the stairs to tell me she was ready for breakfast. A year ago, she stopped doing that.
I knew she was old and wouldn’t be with me forever. I worried about what I’d do if she was still alive when I left for Malawi in December. But the sweet old girl spared me the tough choices. Early Friday morning she wanted to go outside, which I thought was odd, as it was raining. She never went out in the rain. I opened the door and watched as she walked out to the pond and lay down at the edge. It looked as if she were watching the frogs. I thought to myself she was dying. I checked her bowl and she hadn’t eaten any of her food from the day before. A few hours later I saw her sitting under a chair on the patio, out of the rain, but still odd she wanted to be outside. She never went outside without me. In the late afternoon I was going to a lecture and looked to see if she wanted to come in but couldn’t find her. I wondered if she’d gone off into the woods to die. It was useless to call her; she’d lost her hearing a while ago. I trusted she knew what she was doing.
When I got home later that evening she was back on the patio but lying out in the rain. She barely lifted her head when I approached her. I wrapped her in a towel and picked her up. She didn’t fight me. It was the first time in eleven years I’d held her. I brought her in and sat with her in my arms, stroking her head, talking to her, thanking her for the companionship, wishing her well on her journey. She felt so comfortable, breathing shallowly, peaceful. After a while I laid her in her usual spot, and said goodnight. In the morning she lifted her head when I spoke to her, but laid it down again, and a few hours later she was gone.
I’m grateful to her. I’m grateful she came back to me to die and didn’t leave me wondering what had happened. Sweet thing. During the pandemic it was just her and me. That meant a lot. She asked so little of me. She seemed grateful to have a place to be comfortable in her last years. She decided to go peacefully and naturally, something I wish for everyone.
Knowing how finite life is, what a gift to live it with kindness and without sacrificing one’s own terms.
Love to all,