Friday, August 19, 2011
They were once at peace
I’ve been procrastinating this post, for obvious reason—we killed Schafe on Monday, and I’m having a difficult time with the decision. Even though I’m convinced that it was absolutely the right thing to do. Monday morning K. found maggots in the cat’s hip wound, flies actually flying from his body. He showed me, and I’m glad I looked, even though it may have been the most awful, repellent thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It was the heart of darkness, the face of death, everything that I live fighting to destroy, even though I know the flies themselves are just fighting for their own damned lives.
When I saw it, I knew it was Schafe’s time, one way or another. I wanted to drive him to the vet. I knew they still would have put him down, unless we insisted, cruelly, that they do surgery or give him antibiotics or do something equally ridiculous. It was still the most awful thing. But we decided that it was crueler for Schafe, to drive him to Presque Isle, to put him in an awful situation with other animals screaming and having a doctor poke around at his wounds with bright lights and cold instruments and then the same result, but not at the home he loved. So instead we found bullets for the .22.
We planted marigolds on his grave, the place he chose before he died, and had a real funeral, watching a slideshow of pictures of him from ten years ago. He also may be the first cat to enjoy a full-on Irish wake. I can’t say enough good about him. He used to be a car cat, riding around, wrapped around his driver’s shoulders. He used to fit in a tee-shirt pocket. He used to push my pen with his head, purring, as I wrote.
These things still bring me to tears. When I told my sister, she reminded me of a story I don’t think I had heard before, of when my grandfather was a teenager and had to shoot every single cat on his Michigan farm, at least thirty of them. He spoke of it as if it was the worst thing he ever had to do. It made me feel better to know that even someone as strong as he was struggled with death. Maybe that’s what makes farm life so hard—the reality of death, its presence, looking into its face daily.
It’s been a rough stretch. Hail, blight, animal suffering. Maybe it’ll get easier. In the meantime, we grieve. Grief is as real as anything else in life, and I don’t want to deprive myself of its lessons.
I’m in Massachusetts now, visiting family for a week or so. Knowing I don't have to worry about a cat or tomatoes makes our absence a lot easier, and it also makes me want to celebrate life with the people I love.