My cat Lucy left me last night.
Lucy’s health had been failing for several months. She got much better for a few days and then she got a lot worse. Then she rallied one final time when I thought she was gone for good.
I came home from school to find that she had emptied her bowl. I don’t actually know how much she ate. Her balance was still off but her determination was obvious. Her food (canned food mixed with dry food to make it more tempting) had been thrown in all directions. There was food on the floor, food halfway across the room, food sticking to the walls. I imagine she got some of it in her mouth. She had food on her whiskers and her head was tilted oddly off to one side, the after-effect of the strokes she had suffered. I looked at the empty food bowl and then back at this unbearably tenacious cat.
“I’m hungry!” she said.
But that was the last time she ate. After that, she got busy dying and she did that— like everything else she put her paw to— with grace.
I adopted Lucy after she had spent almost a full year at the Humane Society. No one wanted to adopt a deaf cat with a perpetual sinus drip. The volunteers had made every effort to get her a home. There was a calendar made while Lucy was in residence and she was Miss April. But no one wanted to adopt Miss April until I met her.
As her health failed, I hoped she would make it home with me. I had wanted to bury her with my other pets under the willow tree. But I saw yesterday that she was not going to make it to the farmhouse. Stretched out on her fleece bed, she lay motionless as her limbs became stiff and her head grew heavier until, at last, it was too heavy for her to lift. I spent a lot of time, those last couple days, petting her and she would still purr when I touched her. Finally, last night, her breathing grew labored and I knew we were close.
“You do what you need to do, Lucy,” I told her.
April was drawing to a close and Miss April was preparing to make her exit before the month was out, a final flourish from the cat who always had a dramatic streak. I was working at my desk and it grew quiet. I checked and she was breathing very softly. I checked again and she had stopped.
“If you don’t want the ashes, you could do a combined cremation,” the veterinarian told me. “There is a volunteer group that takes the ashes to the top of Sandia Mountain and scatters them in the forest on the mountain top.”
I thought about the Sandia mountains, turning brilliant pink in the sunset. I thought of the winds blowing in every direction and about how Lucy always loved to travel. I remembered all the airplanes she had flown in across the ocean with me and the cross-country drives in Africa. I thought about Lucy eating guacamole in the travelers’ lounge in Amsterdam. I remembered how, every time she saw me packing my suitcase, she would hop into her carrier and look out expectantly.
“Where are we going next?” she’d ask me.
“Yes,” I said. “I think bringing her ashes to the top of the mountain would be fine. Lucy would want one last adventure.”
Till next time,