Today we had to put poor Sadie-cat down. (I ain't a-tryin' to bum you out, but writing is what I do, and it's how I cope. So I'm writing.)
Every other animal I have ever owned has just died in its own way -- I've never had to initiate the process as an act of mercy. But Sadie had grown so weak that she wasn't even able to leave the couch on her own. In fact, over the past few weeks she had become afflicted by symptoms of her underlying condition so wretched and humiliating that out of respect for her I refuse to describe them for you. The bottom line is that we knew the vet's recommendation (euthanasia) was the humane thing to do. Of course, you know the kicker: that knowledge didn't make the experience any easier.
We had originally been thinking that we'd get Sadie cremated, but when I arrived at the vet's office and the nurse asked me what sort of "after care" I wanted (interesting term, by the way: "after care"), I had sort of an epiphany. We left LA (four years ago) in part so we could afford to own a home and a yard. Homes and yards are meant to be lived in, and to bear the evidence of that living -- not just in the obvious, display-oriented ways (e.g., portraits hung on walls), but also in the sense of the residue of important moments becoming embedded in and absorbed by the space itself.
In short, I was overcome with the feeling that it was very important that Sadie be allowed to physically become a part of the environment she had brought such joy to. So I asked that they let us bury her at home.
And actually, it was Thandie who put this idea into my head. We had been very up front with her through every step of Sadie's demise, and I'm incredibly proud that my girl did not shy away from the evidence of death when it finally came. She wanted to see the hole, she wanted to see her dead cat, she wanted to help with the burial, and she wanted to decorate the grave with flowers and pine cones:
Those of you who live in Portland know that we've been experiencing a period of pretty intense weather, most of which has been expressed as precipitation of one sort or another. Today was no exception -- driving home from the vet, the rain was heavy and fierce. But when the moment came to finally lay our cat to rest, the rain stopped, and the sun came out.
In an Oliver Stone movie, that would have seemed like heavy-handed symbolism. But in real life, it did my heart good.