After almost 19 years prowling this house, Milo has died.
It was a slow going, and he needed a little help in the end to make it out of his failed body. I carried him in to the vet’s wrapped in a towel. Carried him out in a bag which I covered with the towel to shield all the happy people in the waiting room with their healthy dogs all sniffing and yapping at each other.
It was after dark when we made it home. I laid Milo in the garage where it was cool and safe. Then, to tell the truth, I went inside and made a cocktail since this felt like a wake and I was sure Milo was Irish. I figured there had to be a drink named “The Cat’s Meow,” so I Googled it and found a recipe for two fingers of bourbon and a scoop of ice cream. I made a negroni. We sat and wished we still had this annoying creature who would jump from lap to lap, occasionally tip over a glass with the swish of his tail, and eat the smoked salmon right off the appetizer plate. It was quiet.
Early in the morning I carried Milo to the back of the garden where I had buried his sister a few years ago and tried to dig. All was frozen. I got the heavy iron pry bar I use to lever rocks and boulders, and gashed a small hole in the ground. Slowly a grave appeared. I nestled Milo’s still soft body in the earth, then stood to honor him for a brief time.
It was a confusing moment. I felt a deep sadness that encompassed more than the grief I felt for a cat, but I couldn’t be sure what else lay in that grave. Yet I also felt electrically alive in the bracing cold, the winter sun burning frigid white on the horizon. A fleeting sense of aliveness. What gives? Someone could stay here and probe for the moment’s meaning, but not I. My watch blinked seven-thirty. Time to get to work. I gathered rocks in the woods, covered the shallow grave with a crown of stone and hurried inside.
All the important moments in our lives, we are busy. Crazy stretched thin when the baby is born while we’re renovating the kitchen. Cannot even remember what we did on our tenth anniversary. Busy when mother dies and there are arrangements to make and bags to pack.
And cats die in the middle of other pressing demands. No way to change that. But writing this is my way of stopping now to acknowledge it all. Not to understand it all, but to stop, to say, This happened. This bears further reflection whenever I see that hill of stone.