The Rainbow Bridge and Angel Wings

6 Sep 2022
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This weekend we said goodbye to Sparty, our cat. He was an old boy and become very thin. His coat was matted because he wasn’t grooming himself and it had become clear that he just wasn’t enjoying life. We had hoped he would pick his own time, but his body just wouldn’t give up, and his heart didn’t want to leave us. It was we, therefore, who had to make that hard decision. The vet agreed, and he was gently put to sleep, loved to the end. My husband, younger daughter and I were with him as he slipped away, and we all shed tears. On Sunday, we took him to the family farm, and buried him in the orchard next to his brother. It’s so peaceful there in the tangled grass, with the apple trees bejewelled with fruit and the breeze sloughing through the limes all around. He is at rest.

There are some who will say, “He was just a cat. It’s ridiculous to make so much fuss about a pet.” but perhaps these people have not had a pet who was a part of the family and who gave as much and more love than it received. Sparty was family for us, and we are grieving his loss.

We rarely use the word “died.” We say, “passed away,” or “left us,” or “lost his fight against...” I do not say, “The vet euthanised my cat,” but that he was “put to sleep.” Of pets we use the term, “to cross the Rainbow Bridge,” and to “gain his angel wings.” As you will see from the photo, Sparty’s markings suggest he already had his wings.

So often, when people have lost a loved one, we don’t know what to say. We mumble something like, “Sorry for your loss,” and stumble to an agonised halt, feeling anything else we can say is miserably inadequate.

I have heard, and know it is true, that those who are grieving are grateful for any words. Most of all, they want acknowledgement that the person now gone had lived and was loved. When my much-loved uncle died, I wanted to tell everyone what a wonderful man he was. I wanted to share all the words of wisdom he had given to me; and talk about the funny things he did; like buying one share in an African goldmine, just for the romance of it!

When you meet someone who is grieving, therefore, encourage them to tell you about the person who has died. They will have stories and memories that acknowledge the life of their departed one.

It is said that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken. To talk of someone, or of a pet, who has died, does not deny his death, but rather keeps precious memories alive.

Oh, and the stories I could tell you about Sparty! He was a good and loving cat, but certainly no angel!

Mary

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Comments

G

Sept. 6, 2022, 11:47 p.m.

This is a beautifully written blog and so comforting are your tips on how to cope when having to deal with grief. I like the advice to keep talking about them especially. We can also write about them and so I would love to read about Sparty’s little antics. They can be so funny! RIP Sparty and *** Bless to you and your family Mary xx

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 10:16 a.m.

Thank you so much, G, for your kind words. Sparty was such a gentle cat. Sparty was short for Spartacus but that name never suited him. We should have kept the name he came with, Dip-stick, from the markings on his tail. He was my children's plaything (we got him and his brother when my younger daughter was 1) and he never seemed to object. They took him to the top of the climbing frame and gave him slides down. He would be worn on their back like a cloak (while they bent over, I hasten to add, so he wasn't in discomfort) while they ran around yelling, "Catman!" They would slide him over the tiled kitchen floor. He seemed to love the attention. I can't remember him ever scratching - and certainly not on purpose. He was a sweet and affectionate boy.

Patty

Sept. 7, 2022, 2:45 p.m.

Wow, what a laid back cat. He was quite an exceptional fellow quite obviously. Most cats would not go down a slide or ride around on your shoulders. I'm sure you will miss him dearly but have wonderful memories of him.

Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 5:41 p.m.

I first wrote about him and his brother in Cat Among the Pigeons, published 6th August 2014. I think it's rather an amusing blog, if you would like to read it...

Lance

Sept. 7, 2022, 1:49 a.m.

My animals mean everything to me. People, not so much. Within the last 4 years I've watched four cats slow down and pass on. Twenty four years on our favourite who also was there for me when my last two dogs died. That was two years ago this month and I am "better" but still devastated. My dogs have always been huge. One hundred thirty pounds each for Sammy Davis, an abandoned "Goberian," and Dean Martin, a dedicated, loving huge Yellow Lab that would stare me down when he'd feel I needed it. Sammy went quick in renal failure. Dean suffered with debilitating arthritis and I waited too long to end that. Twelve years of dual devotion, both gone five weeks apart. I can't write anymore

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 10:17 a.m.

Oh Lance, I understand, and am sending you my deepest sympathy and condolences. They live on in your heart, and you will never forget them.

Paula

Sept. 7, 2022, 5:31 a.m.

Thank you for your post. Our adored cat Fluffy (ginger, very fluffy coat) died some years ago, age 19. I drove home from work one day and there she was lying across the path to the front door, where she often waited for me. She was still warm and must have just gone. I held her for over an hour on my lap, then my husband buried her under a tree near that path. It was devastating for us, but it was her time. She had had arthritis, thyroid disease, dementia ... so her last months were pretty difficult. Every spring a beautiful bunch of snowdrops appears over her burial place. I can see it out of the window now ( I'm in Australia so it's Spring). It was a real grief and luckily I have some friends who like cats and we can reminisce about our cats' wonderful habits and funny ways. They have big personalities don't they! Fluffy loved us, and we loved her. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you have some friends who like cats and when you feel like chatting you can spend happy moments remembering all the joy Sparty brought into your life. I'd love to hear more about him too. Paula xx

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 10:56 a.m.

"Fluffy loved us, and we loved her" That says it all, doesn't it! Those who say that cats are incapable of affection cannot have lived with many of the species. Our Sparty was a sneak-thief. We have bench seating around our kitchen table, and Sparty would always join us for breakfast, sitting so quietly by your side, you would never know he was there. Then, a paw would appear over the edge of the table. Slowly, slowly, it would inch closer to your plate. Then, quick as a conjurer's trick, he would be gone - and so would your bacon!

Isabella

Sept. 7, 2022, 5:44 a.m.

A lovely blog Mary, thank you. Deaths of pets is often underestimated but they really are part of the family and we do grieve. When my husband died my dog Daisy was my lifeline - I had to get up in the morning to take her out, I had to look after her and in return she is my constant companion - no human does that for me. So yes, please be kind to those who lose a pet, it’s not the same as human loss but still devastating. Why the name Sparty, Mary? Thank you x

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 5:43 p.m.

Well, he and his brother were supposed to be Spartacus and Achilles, but Achilles became Lemon (named by my elder daughter - ???) and Spartacus was so obviously an entirely unsuitable name for this great softy, he just became Sparty.

Liz

Sept. 7, 2022, 7:10 a.m.

Hi Mary. Sending much love to you all over the loss of your dear Sparty. They are family aren't they? I'm a huge pet lover and I totally understand the grief that their passing leaves with us. Facebook throws up memories, not so much now of the other two as their "dates" have been and gone... May 2019 then July 2019, nine weeks apart for both terriers. We were devastated. Both boys buried in the back garden and now mint, borage and lemon balm fragrant their space. There are photos up but most of all there are so many memories as we take our new dog to the places they graced before him. We've had our current incumbent since July 2019 and found him quite by chance, meant to be, as he got out of a car driven by his then family, to be rehomed. They give us a richer life for sure and for anyone who has been touched by mental health issues, I believe they are an absolute godsend. Thank you for your blog and your lovely picture, makes me want to reach out and touch the screen to feel that soft fur. Take care x

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 5:45 p.m.

Thank you for your lovely comment! I believe is it such a privilege to care for an animal. We get back so much more than we ever give them. How wonderful that you have fragrant plants growing over where your dogs lie in peace.

Valerie

Sept. 7, 2022, 7:12 a.m.

Oh Mary,I am so sorry.The cat I had as a child,who had been one of a feral litter,lived to be 26.She was living in Ireland with an aunt at the end,and had to be pts when her back end was paralysed,everything else was working well. I am lucky in that all my friends are like-minded animal lovers,so we give comfort and support to each other when we lose a beloved friend. I do so hope all my animal companions will be waiting for me.If they are not,and it's just people,I don't want to go there! ***

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 5:47 p.m.

I did read a well thought out and theologically sound argument as to why there will be more animals in heaven than people, so I think you're safe! For me, as for you, "Heaven" will not be complete without my beloved non-human companions I have loved over the years and who have given me more loyal companionship than most humans.

Chris

Sept. 7, 2022, 7:17 a.m.

I liked this blog very much and identify with much of what was said as my dad died recently. I very much like the advice that someone is not truly dead while people are still talking about them . I heard similar advice that a person lives on while someone who met them personally remembers them. Everyone try and have a nice day!

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 5:52 p.m.

Thank you Chris

Orangeblossom

Sept. 7, 2022, 7:30 a.m.

Hi Mary I am very sorry that you lost Sparty’s physical presence from your family. RIP. I strongly believe that pets are members of our family as are the humans. In the early 90s we had a pet rabbit called Merlin Thumper Frodo. He is very alive in our collective memory. He died on 29 July 1997 & we buried him under the Buddlea which was a young sapling & we were convinced that that is where he wanted to rest. We have now renamed it the Merlintree. Your blog fully resonated for me Mary.

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 5:53 p.m.

I am glad my blog brought back happy memories of your Merlin.

Ruth

Sept. 7, 2022, 7:34 a.m.

Pets are much loved members of the family. I know I have cried buckets even when my fish have died!! You put time and into caring for them and looking after them and they return that love. Thinking of you all and praying for you. XX

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Ruth

Sept. 7, 2022, 7:35 a.m.

Time and love that should be!

Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 5:54 p.m.

Thank you so much, Ruth. Grief is the price we pay for love, but it is always worth paying.

vicky

Sept. 7, 2022, 8:06 a.m.

This is lovely and comforting on so many levels for me, having lost both beloved animals and of course my husband ,its quite true its really best to acknowledge they actually existed by a mention it means so much

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 5:58 p.m.

Thank you, Vicky. My father died by suicide in 1967, so of course, it was hushed up and nobody spoke about him. Quite casually, a couple of weeks ago, someone who had known him as a young man through Young Farmers, said to me, "Your father was a lovely man. I liked him the best of all the family." It meant so much to me, and I nearly cried. My father was so much more than the bipolar that killed him. It was wonderful to receive, even second hand, such a good memory.

Lynzi

Sept. 7, 2022, 8:16 a.m.

Thank you Mary. Beautiful words. Yes, I agree, pets are an important part of the family. Therapy for me. My tiny little tower of strength. We had to put our black cat, Rocky to sleep a couple of months ago (well the vet did, we were with her, l gently stroked and held her). She was nearly 18, but quality of life had gone, cancer had taken hold. So sad. Miss her terribly. She was (will always be) my familiar :) I'm nearly ready to look for a new family member... Probably 2. Ooh gosh, cats or kittens? The boys want a puppy too (so do I..). We had to wait for queen Rocky to pass... After we lost Sascha, poor little man, so sad, far too young (little tuxedo cat, a bit like Felix) madam had firmly decreed ours a single pet home !! RIP gorgeous Sparty. I hope we'll all meet (again) some day. Love, peace, sparkles; namaste Lindsey x

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 6:01 p.m.

Thank you, Lindsey. I wish you so much happiness with your new feline overlords. May I suggest looking at black cats? Apparently they are harder to rehome as people think they bring bad luck...

Gayle

Sept. 7, 2022, 1:28 p.m.

Condolences and warm thoughts Mary--I am watching 14 year old Muffin aging and getting thinner and thinner, so hard to lose our loved companions. Gayle

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 6:06 p.m.

Thank you Gayle. I think I left it too long with Sparty. I kept expecting him to tell me it was time, and he just wouldn't. He felt so ill, but wanted to stay with us so much. I should have taken him at least three days before I did - and I will live with that remorse. Nobody wants to say goodbye, but the vet said to us, what her vet had said to her when she had to have her own cat pts, "Better a day too soon than a day too late." I shall remember that , should the time come again.

Lexi

Sept. 7, 2022, 1:40 p.m.

Oh Mary, I'm so sorry. When my beloved cat Max died I described it as the purest form of unconditional love that I had ever known. They are angels, aren't they? xoxo

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 6:06 p.m.

Well, if angels can be thieves, yes!

Patty

Sept. 7, 2022, 3:07 p.m.

Mary, it is so wonderful to hear all the animal lovers coming forth with their beloved pets. I'm glad to know there are so many people who treasure them as part of their families. I come from an animal family and my husband and I love our two dachunds. We lost our 3rd one approximately three months ago. We miss her very much, but it was her time to go. She was 15 when she passed. I almost brought her in twice, to be put to sleep but am glad she went on her own. She was very sweet and very loved. Definitely had a mind of her own. I am sorry about your Sparty. It is so hard to lose our adored pets. May time ease your pain and may he RIP.

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 6:09 p.m.

Thank you Patty. Every dachund I have met has been such a cheeky little character. They have so much personality! It's such a gift when they go on their own. Sparty's brother Lemon went that way last year. He too was very thin. One day he just came in, curled up in his box, and didn't move again. It was his time and he went so peacefully. We had hoped for the same for Sparty, but it was not to be.

The Gardener

Sept. 7, 2022, 3:31 p.m.

Our many cats were adorable, we hated it when they had to go. They were also scheming devils. One had 12 years in UK and 4 in France. She was francophobe, and duffed up the peaceful cat next door, his owner was the notary, and we expected a proces verbal. We buried her under the lilac tree. The next one came from a refuge, 2 years old. He may not have been born with wicked ways, but I swear the spirit of Mindy influenced him from under the lilac. When he had to be put to sleep the new vet in town said they did not do house visits. Mr G said they jolly well would, Jerry would die on his lap. They came. But they had just rescued a lovely Persian from a ditch, hit by a car we presume, she lost an eye. She spent her week-ends with us. I have been very cross with two people whose faithful dogs of fifteen years had to be put to sleep. Wretched women could not face the 'trauma' and did not afford their pets the small Thank you of stroking them as they quite literally 'passed away'.

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Valerie

Sept. 7, 2022, 6:01 p.m.

I agree TG.It is the one last thing we can do to repay all the love and fun they give us. A couple of these delicate souls have said to me "It's different for you,I am very sensitive" My ****! ***

Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 6:12 p.m.

The vet asked us if we wanted to stay. I was shocked she even asked! How could you NOT stay? My previous cat, at 22, was put to sleep peacefully in my arms, purring to the last. We could not hold Sparty, but we stroked him and I cradled his head in my hands as he slipped away.

Salt Water Mum

Sept. 7, 2022, 4:38 p.m.

Ah Mary, I am sorry to hear about Sparty. I love your blog and feel for you and your family. Our pets do indeed become part of the family. Teddy, our dog, is needy and snappy and grumpy and stubborn but he's also awfully cute and very cuddly and we love him to bits. Sending positive warm thoughts your way, swm x

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 6:13 p.m.

Your Teddy sounds such a character. Thank you for your kind words.

Patricia E

Sept. 7, 2022, 4:58 p.m.

The terrible hollow space left when one of our animal friends dies is totally disproportionate to their size. It's all about the love and companionship they gave us and which they allowed us to give to them. A beautiful blog Mary, honouring beautiful Sparty

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 7, 2022, 6:15 p.m.

thank you Patricia, for your kind and understanding words.

Another Sally

Sept. 8, 2022, 11:44 a.m.

Hi Mary, sorry for the late reply, we had my BiL staying and I couldn’t spend time on my iPad. I read your blog in the morning and was almost incredulous at the coincidence. I had an appointment to take our 15 year old cat to the vet yesterday morning. His kidneys are failing and he is hardly eating. Lost so much weight. He is a beautiful silver tabby and had had such a gorgeous soft coat. I brought him home last night for family, especially the grandchildren to say goodbye. Yesterday would have been my late daughter’s 32nd birthday - so poignant. Our final appointment at the vet is tomorrow afternoon. Lovely Louis will be buried in our garden and a beautiful rose planted over him. The rose bush is one I bought 11 years ago for my granddaughter - called Rose. I hope his little body will provide good plant food to the rose and his beautiful self will appear each summer with the blooms. Such a lovely lot of comments. Warm thoughts to those who grieve their furry friends. Another Sally xx

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 9, 2022, 6:06 p.m.

Thank you for replying, Another Sally. Your lovely cat will journey to heaven alongside the Queen. While she was more of a dog person, I hope she will spare a ticket for Louis.

Saskia

Sept. 9, 2022, 12:53 a.m.

What a beautiful tribute to Sparty! I used to feel ashamed that I would get so devastated and cry for any animal that dies , especially our own. I no longer feel that way because I have since found more people like me and you who truly love their pets as family and not "just a cat". Thank you for suggesting we DO talk about our loved ones who have passed. You are so right! I believe they are always with us and we will indeed meet again. I love Sparty's wings, he was already an angel with fur. But I acknowledge that cats (like my own) are naughty at times! Warm thoughts to you and everyone who grieves a loved one...

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 9, 2022, 6:06 p.m.

Thank you, Saskia, for your beautiful words.

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