I scratch her behind her ears.
She gives a sweet little meow,
and puts her paw on top of my hand
one last time before she moves on…
My cat, Freckle Rose, passed on yesterday. She was almost 17. I guess we recognized she was dying for the last several weeks. There were decisions to make or not to make – should we take her to the vet and let him “put her to sleep” or should we let her die in her own home, in her own time, in her own way? She didn’t seem to be in pain (but who knows with cats, right?) and the last time I’d taken her to the vet she’d been really scared and unahppy – so I decided to keep her home and let her move on in her own way.
She stopped eating. Finally stopped drinking, too. I kept waking up every morning expecting to find she’d died in the night.
Yesterday morning when I went downstairs Scott said he’d found her lying on the floor next to a little stuffed animal that he thinks our dog maybe brought to her. Scott had put her on the couch. He told me he wasn’t sure if she was still with us. I went over to her. She didn’t seem to be moving. I started scratching behind her ears and she stretched – like cats do when they’re enjoying something. She meowed once – but not a grown-up cat meow – it was the same kind of meow she’d had when she was a little kitty – a sweet little meow. And she put her paw on my hand. I sang to her, and told her to look for my Aunt Junie – told her Junie would take care of her – and I told her to look for her mentor-cat, Paws. (She’d loved Paws. When she was still a youngster, she’d seen Paws get run over in front of our house, and had come running to the door to tell me – she’d led me to Paws in the same way that a dog would.)
After awhile I brought her outside into the sunshine – the birds were busy out there and the air was full of birdsong. Freckle meowed three times – really loud – kind of excited – and then her head dropped against my arm. I brought her back inside and laid her back on the couch. Her breaths became gasps with long spaces of nothing in between. I kept my hand on her body and could feel it still pulsing. And then I stopped feeling the life. Her eyes dilated. I think I knew when she was gone – but I’m not sure – it was a very gentle, gradual thing – no definite moment between life and death.
Scott had to go to work, but he said he’d help me bury her when he got home, if I wanted. But I wanted to bury Freckle while the sun was still out and the birds were still singing. So I went out to bury Freckle in my Secret Garden – I was going to do it by myself – I dug a hole and put her in it – but it wasn’t big enough and her little paws were sticking out of it. That was not going to work. So I found another place and started to dig, and then I turned around and my sons had come out to the garden to help me. They dug a nice deep hole for me, and we put Freckle in it and put a spring pansy in it on top of her, and covered her in the good earth.
I think of all Freckle Rose lived through with me. When I got her she was a feral little ball of fluff – only a month or two old. She’d shared most of her entire life with me, and a big chunk of my life: She’d been alive when my youngest had started kindergarten and been alive when he graduated high school; She’d been alive when we moved, and built our new house and moved again; She’d been alive on 9-11-2001; She’d been alive when I’d lived through my life-changing depression, when I’d published my first book, and my second and third and fourth books; She’d been alive as I’d worked my way through my Master’s program; When my Aunt Junie had passed, Freckle Rose had been here; And when we’d acquired our rambunctious Labradane pup five years ago, Freckle had been alive and might have wondered what in the hell we were thinking. Freckle Rose had lived through a lot.
It’s weird to live in a world with no Freckle Rose.