It turns out we didn't have to do that.
I left Martha on Lauren's lap while I went upstairs to get ready. No sooner had I started a quick note here than Lauren called me down. Martha had stopped breathing. I sat down, cradled her head in my hand, put my other hand on her side, and cried.
Martha died after a final night at home, with those who loved her. She died on a lap, where she liked to perch. She died in the sun, where it was warm. She died as she was being petted. She knew it was time and that this was right and safe and comfortable, and she let go.
Neil and Beckie showed up and sat with us. I had Martha on my lap then and was stroking her side, telling the story of her life. You have to honor the life. You have to honor it even as it's just left. I explained how the first time I met Martha, she was six weeks old and hiding under a dresser. A little tiny kitten, the runt of the litter, in a household with small children. I told of how we adopted her and how she first learned to run on hardwood floors and skidded into the wall over and over again. I told of how she lived in cupboards, tromped on top of air ducts to make big booming sounds, and how she developed an affinity for french fries. I described how she came out of her shell as she grew up and how she adopted me as her guy. Laps were fair game, headbutts given without fair warning. I listed nicknames, I described Cana holding the kitten in her sweatshirt up to the window to watch the traffic go by. I told of how Martha would jump up on the bed to watch me read at night -- nothing intrusive, she just watched me -- and then, when I put the book down and turned out the light, she'd watch over me for a while, then hop off the bed and find something else to do. She helped keep me sane during some very insane periods.
We transferred Martha, whose bladder at this point had given way, to the cat carrier and laid her on the same maroon towel we'd used since she was a kitten. Jo came by, having heard from Beckie and Neil, and brought in the ice cream. Three pints of Ben & Jerry's. We brought out bowls and spoons and the five of us had a wake for the cat. ("No whisky," Jo said, "Cause it'll make us maudlin.") Abbie stopped by briefly, first intrigued by the dairy product, but when he stood up on his hind legs to see what was in the cat carrier, he dropped back down and quickly ran out of the room. Then he walked slowly from the dining room to the kitchen and slumped on the ground. It was heartbreaking. He knows. (Later, he'd walk back up to the carrier, peer in again, and hiss. WAKE UP, YOU. THIS ISN'T FUNNY.)
Dad is letting me bury Martha in Hatfield on Monday. We'll dig a hole under the banana bean tree and say a few words. Many of the beloved pets who have gone before will share that backyard with her: Maggie the dear, sweet golden retriever, Buffy Ste. Marie the tiny ancient yellow cat with a loud, imperious mouth, Bruiser the good-natured husky who loved to sing, and Blackie, the Upstairs Cat who was often heard in the living room but never seen. She'll rest well in the beautiful Connecticut River valley of her birth.
You lived a good life, little pirate. I shall miss you terribly and think of you often and wonder through tears why your time came so soon. Rest well. You are now one of the Cats Who Have Gone Before (not being a household who believes in the whole Rainbow Bridge thing) and we shall sing your song.
October 30, 2004
I Was not able to sleep lastnight
I kept waking up and I Had to move
running jumping standing still
I had to jump on the dresser and then jump on the door
I took the curtain off the door iwndow because that's what I had to do
I was cranky because all I really waanted to do was sleep
the othercat said it is because of the cats gone before us
thoste cats are always around you know
they just don't bring much atention to themselves
they're allways sleeping in the sunlight
or inthe shadows if that's what they like
sometimes I can seethem out of the corner of my eye
if you listen carefully sometimes you can hear them
i guess last night they all decided it was time to play
because they sure dont want to sleep
they were ond ifferent time zones or something I guess
so the other cat said she would sing a song to them
and she sat next to me and closed her eyes and purred and sang a song
she sang a lullaby to me and the cats
she sang to each of them in turn
she sang to the tortoiseshell and the yellow tabby and the White one with different coloredeyes
and the gray and white who was friendly and the thin black cat who trusted no one
and the blue gray and the blind hunter who had his own song of fighting a porcupine
(we all had to sing the porcupine song when it came around becaus thatis what you do and besides the chorus is fun)
and as she sang they all stoped to listen and sat down and curled up besideus
it was good they donot take up too much space on the bed because we would have been REally crowded
and I lisntend and I closed my eyes and I hummed along
she sang goodnight to us all
goodnight you cats she sang
Now is the time for all good cats to go to sleep
there are things to do tomorrow
And you can do them then
but now its time to sleep
and you can dream
thats what i remember of it anyway
I'm never too good on remembering words
and we all went to sleep
of course I had it easy caus my eyes were already closed
Good night, little cat.