This morning, well yesterday now, our eldest cat, friend, companion, Catalina passed away. We were weepy all day about our loss but not at all regretful about her time coming. She was a long-lived girl. Born June of 1989 and passing in this June of 2007, making her a nice, round, symmetrical, 18 years old. That's a full life, and boy! did she ever live one!
This cat has been on two islands, ridden on a boat, flown on a plane, driven in a truck across the USA. She'd seen a horse a few inches from her face, she's romped in snow that was taller than her in New York, she'd gotten her head stuck in a glass globe like an astronaut, on and on. Oh. boy, this cat's had some real adventures!
Everyday for the last few I'd been amazed to see her alive, how could she be when she was only living on a thimbleful of food, if that? Even so, when Paul saw her this morning laying neatly on a supple, soft, misty blue blanket near our bed, he knew it was finally over. We stared at her a long while, trying to grasp the entire little notion... of death. There it was in front of us for our first time.
Those who have lost pets, or more importantly loved ones (God forfend), already know what it's like, but we hadn't any experience with it before really. It took a while to have it sink in. We wrapped her in a beautiful, regal, black silk shroud, lay her in a comfortable box. Paul wrote her name on it while I pasted her photo on. Paul took her to a place that will manage the rest. If we had a yard of some kind in a safe area, we would have buried her ourselves. It was odd to all of a sudden understand more about funerals and loss in a primal, hard-wired way for the first time vs. a more cultural, sociological way as when friends have passed.
A reflection of candlelight on the surface of a recent photo on her little tabletop memorial today.
I got her on Catalina Island in the summer of 1989. She was an irresistible give-away kitten, so little and cute. Don't you agree?
On the left, Catalina, happy as an "only cat" on Long Island in 1993. When we got three other cats over the years she was not pleased about it at all. If a cat can be depressed, I'd say she was, often. Although, this year we saw her allowing a sort of napping friendship with the peacemaker, Jeremiah Noble -Kaye.
She had a playful nature and was often silly when happy. On the right you see her about to pounce on that wild mouse--I mean piece of wire.
When I married Paul, I officially gave Catalina to him, (there was no use keeping those two lovers apart) This is his favorite photo of her.
While cleaning up today, I realized something wonderful. When we moved in to this loft four years ago and painted the floors, Catalina decided she would walk across it before the paint was dry. So, while she is truly gone from our home today, her little paw prints remain like a trace of her presence here. How lovely a comfort it is.
The last several weeks, perhaps into months, I've been able to spend a lot of time with Catalina. She'd transformed into a much more loving, sweet, and affectionate cat in her last few weeks. I was able to spend many hours, several minutes at a time, cuddling, kissing, and reminiscing with her about her wild adventures, coaxing her to eat a little something and to purr.
Paul and I were allowed a great deal of time to prepare ourselves for our friend and housemate to leave this life. She'd stopped eating much for weeks, then nothing at all. Finally, in the last couple days she could no longer manage to drink, even though we could tell that she wished to. Her body, after a full long life for any cat, was giving way.
We'd never experienced this before, this watching someone, albeit not a human, pass away essentially from old age, regardless of whatever else she had going on. We watched her body shutting itself down very gently and slowly, having to see her so slight and light that picking her up felt more like we were holding a dried baby bird rather than a robust cat.
If cat's can have personalities, then Catalina's was all about her dignity (that's why she liked Paul better than me). We hoped to be able to give her a painless, comforting, loving transition from her life by keeping her here with us without medical care. We questioned whether she was suffering frequently but saw no such indication of discomfort or stress aside from her having to experience the decline of the natural dying process overall.
I can say that she died with great dignity, nobility, and strength to her last moment. It was an enlightening and graceful experience for us to witness, one that we'll always be grateful to her for giving us, at her end.