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!
A Moodscope member.