I have an unusual taste in music that spans multiple genres. Recently I have been liking one particular song. It just seems so “hipster” and who doesn’t like songs about incense and cats? The song is like a poem really. It is called The year of the Cat by Al Stewart. I don’t know why this song has captured my attention. Maybe it has something to do with incense and patchouli or wearing a silk dress in a watercolor rain. It has a nice little piano intro that immediately puts me in a moment of melancholy.
I’d like to dedicate this song to my Cat Tom who died on Saturday. This song came to me as I have seen my cat’s condition worsen over the last few weeks. If I could place an epitaph on my cat’s grave it would be. “Tom, he was a hungry cat.” He was also a cuddly cat. He’d scratch my legs, trip me over, and meow continuously if he was out of food for an instant. He was an overweight cat. He always wanted the juice from canned tuna or chicken. He was right there anytime I opened one. He liked pieces of cheese and butter. He’d sit by my husband in the early mornings while he ate cereal in hopes that my husband would share his milk with him. Which he always obliged.
He’d hang with me in the evening outside or watch me weed or rake leaves. I’d always say, “Thanks for all your help Tom.” This was a nightly event with all the pets. This is the last moment we were all together enjoying a summer evening.
Tom lost a lot of weight in recent weeks. I noticed he had not become the hunter he used to be. I was never a fan of his “presents.” The other day he tried to give me his obnoxious “feed me now” meow and I could tell his voice was slipping. Friday night I found him in the corner of the living room pulling in his chest and breathing hard. He could scarcely move and one eye would not open.
I had worked with hospice patients enough to know that this was not good. Soon he would tire out from working so hard to breathe and he would go downhill from there. He was also making raspy breathing sounds. I knew the Vet was not going to give the Cat oxygen or put him on a CPAP. I tried calling three veterinarians in my area in hopes that I could find a better way for him to die so he would not suffer.
None of them returned my calls. It was a Saturday. I found him in the shade of the grass. I was able to syringe feed him a little bit of water. A few hours later, he did not want any of it. My girls brought him into the living room because they were worried about bugs crawling on him. At one point he tried to walk. He took two steps, and laid back down.
I did what I always do when I’m sad, and don’t know what to do. I baked some peanut butter fingers. My children went to a neighborhood block party. There was food trucks. loud music, and a mechanical bull. I must have put the peanut butter fingers in the oven, and went to check on the cat. He was not there. I found him lying underneath my step-daughters truck. He was gone.
Of course the family pet would die while my husband was out of town. I had to dig his grave before it got dark and the children came home. I buried him by the rose bushes and when I turned around my other cat was watching me.
My daughter was preparing for this, she had placed yellow rose petals in a glass dish. I placed the last yellow rose of the summer on his grave and sprinkled on the rose petals. Yellow roses have deep significance for me because they were my sister-in-law’s favorite and they are what we had placed on her casket after she died.
When the children came home I took them to the cat’s graveside. They had glow stick bracelets and they placed them on his grave next to the rose petals. The crickets were in full chorus and it seemed very peaceful to hear them and to have the illuminating light from the glow-sticks. It was a beautiful tribute for a well loved cat.
My daughter’s friends brought her a coke bottle filled with Juju fruit. (That will never come out of the bottle) She also received some Lillies in a vase with some polished turquoise stones. I found them on Tom’s grave yesterday sparkling in the sunshine in an intricate pattern next to the Lillies. Tom was a very loved Cat.
The children are handling the grief in their own way. They are working on a grave marker, making wreaths and a Thomas the Cat slide show.
Last night, our other Cat Princess, who was Tom’s sister, needed some love. She came to me in the middle of the night and laid down by my head on my pillow. She has never done this before. She is also losing weight and getting older. So, my friends…this is it for me. This is the year of the Cat. It’s been poetic, melancholy and beautiful.