I sing of sweet loss and the pangs of love. I sing of missing my closest friend. I sing the longing song of wishing he were well and alive again, with me like he used to, here beside me while I’m at the computer, at my pant leg, poking me with his claw to remind me to go to bed. I sing of Mr. Snuggles, the Midnight Angel, Witch’s Familiar Extraordinaire, my little lover, my baby, my one and only boy, aged only 7 years a lifetime — you should have met him.
There is no death. Only a change of worlds.
– Chief Seattle
Home is where my sweetheart once lay, no, now lies at this moment, his body wrapped tight in the softest blanket I gave him, my little funerary Egyptian feline mummy, preserved like ice cream in the freezer’s tummy. Even lifeless, his shell holds its beauty, the fur glossy-gleams, this house panther of my dreams… Oh, Mr. Snuggles, help bring me to sleep tonight like you always used to, crawl up to my pillow and breathe into my ear, sing me your heart song and I’ll answer yours with mine. Everything home I know here is all saturated with you. No corner, no piece of FURniture is not complete without some trace of your fur, or a torn claw, a displaced whisker, not even a pillow scarce be dented without some shape of your body. Everything ‘you’ is all over me, too, and, I don’t fear, shall always be. I carry you, my belly pregnant with you, my furry child, as you carry me, little in-love-with-me-ghost-who-walks-inside-me, and together now we travel as one, as fate has it now, no walking back, forward and around the world now, no need for cat carriers or tranquilizers… “I can go with you anywhere now, Mama” I almost hear him cheerfully chirp.
I break from my sobs to write the sad report of the death of my beloved cat, who less than 24 hours ago, died within my arms. It happened, as the deaths of others I’ve known, as suddenly as life begins. I gripped him in his last violent spasms of a seizure, without complaint enduring kitty kicks to my face, and massaging his belly and chest into some semblance of calm — all the while keeping a very uneasy grip on my own.
I don’t know how many times I said “okay, it’s okay” perhaps it was in the hundreds, was it ever enough?
As his head began to slump to the side, I braced his spine with my leg and rubbed his sides, looking into him, keeping his attention as much as possible. These were the labor pains of death, “my death” Mr. Snuggles seemed to silently acknowledge, his eyes starting to lose their vibrance as he stared into me as if I were disappearing. And I felt as if I were the one dying, he leaving me behind, and I could not go with him. It was then I know how it felt like whenever I left him home alone. But he must had some knowing I’d be back, because he knew precisely when to jump up to the window and cry for me. As he kept slumping, I wailed for him, apologizing to him first for alarming him, because that wild cry that comes out of me is frightening, a keening so banshee-like it has sent neighbors calling 911 on me, and for good reason. I am not me when I give myself to mourning. I surrender to the passion of it, I sing in Menominee, not quite remembering all the words to the prayers I was taught long ago, yet they come back in an emergency. Then the Menominee words fever pitch into other languages then into animal noises quite barbaric.
My expression of grief is like world music, very non-ethnocentric, yet all me, my own creating, coming out from the deep woman I may have been once during an ancient time in a forgotten culture… I lose track of my thoughts for a moment. My tear-strained temples pull at my brows and eyes and my sight goes all blurry. What am I trying to say? I’ve seemed to lost myself in hyperbole.
Let me breathe.
Mr. Snuggles knew what was happening. I was in deep trance prayer and grief, part of my soul stretched and torn and reshaped to let him go, a death midwifery process, holding him, at the end, against my belly and breast as I would my own child (yet I do not know what that is like — I have no children — just a cat who is my child). As he lost all muscle control, somehow he shot up an arm to dig into me with his last ounce of strength and control, looking straight into my eyes from the pillow of my right breast, and I, looking into him, felt our connection all the keener, cutting into each other deeper than before. Over my heart he coughed up deep, black blood. His tongue had turned a dark blue and he couldn’t open his mouth enough to vomit out the blood in order to breathe. As the thunder of his heart dropped silent, I tried to clear his throat, prepared to give him CPR, but…
His eyes then indicated all was lost.
Everything was black inside him. His body was all poisoned. I felt crazy screams itching at the back of my throat, but I stayed silent now, calming my brother who was on the phone (I barely remembered him ringing) asking what was going on, and “are you alright?” “Can you feel a pulse?” “Check his breathing!” I worked my fingers into Mr. Snuggles’ mouth, prying open the jaw that fought to cage the slack black tongue, a black tongue growing grey. Gobs of old blood decorated my skin, gooey as honey, nothing to be done, my darling was gone.
His left paw seemed stapled into my shoulder, his grip lasted for a long while, it made me feel like he was still going to cough back to life. I waited fevered seconds for an answer from his empty eyes. Those eyes had the look I knew too well, except I’d seen them on human beings…
There is something far different about the death of an innocent animal. There’s a wild yearning in them for release and they are filled with curiousity for the end, determined to live out every second til that end, sometimes willingly. Mr. Snuggles had ways of teaching me how to meet the end with dignity and a great deal of love. He wanted to die with me at home. I gave him what I promised him from the very start of our relationship:
“Baby,” I always told him, not caring whether or not he understood human talk, “I love you so much, I don’t care what it takes, I will be there for you til the very end.”
Our story is a long one, filled with many adventures, I took him to meet lots of interesting people and other animals, I brought him with me on walks and trips, neighbors envied the way he’d cling to my left shoulder in a near parrot fashion and perfectly behave as if he truly were my baby. Yes. He was my baby. At this point, this is our “forever story”, the one where his spirit gets to glide around me, waiting for me to catch up to him when my time comes to pass.
I still feel him clinging to my left shoulder. I don’t want him to let go, so I won’t let go. We’re part of each other. He’s truly a “spirit” familiar now.
Or perhaps he was always a part of me just fused back into my body to make me whole again? Spirit is full of strange lessons, and I am full of weird musings.
It is assumed that Mr. Snuggles died of liver cancer that spread quickly throughout his body. Blood tests confirmed he was living on borrowed time. He was given a “death sentence” on August 21 and I was given the choice to put him down in a vet’s office, but I listened to my cat’s wishes instead. He wanted to die at home. He knew more than I did what was going on, yet I was determined to keep him going.
At 2:30am (standard central time) August 30th, Mr. Snuggles exhibited strange behavior — I heard him scratching at the door and howling loudly. I did not know he was in pain or not. When I went to investigate, he hid under my bed and would not come out for some time. Then, as I tried to get back to sleep, he creeped back out from under the bed to sit and stare at me. I picked him up and he howled. Something was really wrong. I read it in his face. After failing to help him go to the litter box, I took him to bed with me and we both settled down.
We spent one last night together cuddled cheek-to-cheek, but upon waking, Mr. Snuggles’ jaw was going slack and he wasn’t swallowing water. Sadly, this reminded me of when my mother was dying. The same happened with her. She could not swallow when her time came. All I could do for her, and now for Mr. Snuggles, was dribble a tiny bit of water into the mouth for comfort.
I cancelled all my appointments for the day, sought emergency vet care, but it was too late. No way to see any vet in a timely fashion. It was the way Mr. Snuggles wanted it. He wanted home hospice. He hated going to those offices where he got poked all the time. He wanted to be with me.
And so we were together. That’s the way it had to be.
I am now planning a funeral, looking for a burial site, and Pagan/Polytheistic clergy to lead the rite. Mr. Snuggles was greatly loved by many! Very popular darling of a cat. Where ever he shall be buried, it should be a place where all my friends can pay their respects. But, for now, please feel free to leave a nice word or two here, thank you.
Rest in Peace, Dearest Friend
Mr. Snuggles, the Midnight Angel
b. 2005 — d. 2013