Saturday, February 4, 2012

Here lies Mali. She was a good cat.

Mali and Vi, 2/3/12
In an episode of The Berenstain Bears, a pet dies and the cubs make a sign for its grave. Augie and ViMae decided that when our aging cat died, they would make a similar sign for her.

Today is that day.

We got Mali in August 1994, the weekend we delivered Abby to college. We named her for her birthplace, a farm in Malcom, Iowa. Our other three cats were getting old and slow. Mali was feisty and fearless. She managed to get Macaroon to join in some of her games, and she learned that Lucy and Chatsy had no sense of humor. She was an awesome tree climber, back when we let her out, and she chased off neighbor cats twice her size. When we stopped letting her roam, she loved just sitting nearby while I worked in the garden.

For the last few years, Mali was our only cat, and she grew into the role nicely. She stayed under the bed when the children were babies, but in the last couple of years, as they became more like the adults she'd always known, she had made friends with them, too.

Mali in 2005
A year ago, Peter woke me early one morning to say she'd had a stroke and seemed to be on her way out. A couple of hours later she was back to normal, but she began to lose weight and to take on some nasty old-cat habits like ignoring the litter box.

Cats, when they are dying, will often try to get away to die alone. Instead, Mali followed us around all week, crawling into our arms at every opportunity. We knew her time had come, and we had been discussing it with the children.

This morning Peter found her dead. He cleaned her up a bit and uncovered the hole he and Augie had dug in the garden. The kids came over after swimming lessons for the "funeral."

Augie, ViMae, Mali 2/3/12
They didn't want to touch her, but they looked at her lifeless body for a long while and talked about what a good cat she'd been. Then we tucked her into an old pillow case and laid her in the hole. I thanked her for giving us such good memories. Vi got sad and went to her mom's arms. Augie was proud and very serious as he and Pa filled the hole with the dirt Pa had stored in the garage. Then Augie picked up the sign he'd made this morning and laid it atop the dirt. Augie hates practicing letters, but today he wrote his first two full sentences: "Here lies Mali. She was a good cat."

The sign in place, we all came inside and had juice and snacks. That, after all, is what you do at a funeral. We also made plans for getting a couple of kittens this coming summer, after we've replaced the upstairs carpet and gotten rid of as much old cat scent as possible.

As Augie pointed out, it's okay. We will have lots of fun with our new kittens.


25 comments:

DJan said...

It's a good thing you did for your little kitty. Mali has gone over the Rainbow Bridge and is now happily chasing butterflies. That's what I think, anyway.

Sorry for your loss, though.

Ms Sparrow said...

I have an elderly cat named Tweedy so I'm facing the prospect of losing her in the next year or so. On her good days she will come and snuggle. On her bad days, she holes up and keeps to herself. I love that you made plans along with the grandkids for when Mali's end came. It made it all the more "normal" in the road of life. You have surely made other events to come in life just a little bit easier for them.

Far Side of Fifty said...

A fitting sign for a good friend. My sympathy to you all, you will carry Mali's paw prints on your heart for a long time..but Augie is right..new kittens will help. It sounds like the children did good..they may have questions for a long time...and yes snacks go along with funerals at least in Minnesota:)

Retired English Teacher said...

This is such a sweet and tender post. I think the grandchildren learned much by you explaining what had happened and letting them be a part of honoring a dear and treasure family pet.

Kittens will be fun.

Lo said...

So sorry you had to lose Mali, but that is the problem we pet lovers all face. Take comfort in the fact that she had a great life with you and you have good memories.

Would you consider adopting young adult cats instead of kittens......cats even 1 year old are still young but have more trouble finding homes than kittens....however, please do adopt.

Jeanie said...

I think you did a wonderful thing for the kids with the way you handled Mali's death. They have learned a valuable lesson in dealing with loss and grief.
Augie making the sign is very sweet and poignant.

Southwest Arkie said...

I believe that children can handle a beloved pet's death much easier if they are allowed to participate in the events that follow. Sorry for your loss.

Jenny Schouten Short said...

That was a sweet story and a touching and meaningful way to teach children about death. All pets die and so do family members. They won't be afraid of death having been to Mali's funeral. But, it is sad to lose a beloved cat. I'm trying to find a home for my stray cat so I don't have to take him to the humane society when Enno and I go back to Holland. xo Jenny

IndigoWrath said...

Hi Nancy, thanks for sharing this. I salute the way you handled it with the youngsters. I'm sad for your loss. Indigo

Sharon Longworth said...

I'm wondering whether I can come to you for 'being-a-grandma' lessons - you seem to have an unerring knack for getting it right.
I can't think of any better way to celebrate and remember Mali's life and death; beautifully done.

Chantel said...

Such sweetness. Tears in my eyes a bit, I've buried two feline friends in the last two years--one from illness, the other from a vehicle in the night. The boys still cry once in a while, but these painful moments I think make us appreciate each other--and all that is in our lives--more. Realizing that everything is temporary and must be cherished is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child. New beginnings--thoughts of love to you and yours...

laurie said...

i am so sorry. she sounds like a *great* cat. and i knew you had been dreading this day. my thoughts are with you.

hocam said...

I know how you feel. Our cat, we had her for 15 years died last August. We missed her terribly. We got two kittens in October and while they didn't replace Snuffy. They brought lots of fun as we watched their devilment. Unfortunately Ging got killed on the road yesterday and now Tabs is wandering around the house like a lost soul. Heartbreaking!

Ellen said...

I'm truly sorry to hear about your loss. I agree, it was a wonderful idea to have a funeral and include the grandchildren. It is a painful part of life but all of us animal lovers go through it. She was sure blessed to have you.

Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs said...

Tender tribute to your Mali. Does indeed sound like she was a good cat. I'm sorry for your loss and the tough lessons that had to be learned by your little ones.

Pearl said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. You did her proud with this post.

I think that's all one -- cat or not -- could ask, don't you think? To have it said "Here lies so-and-so. She was a good cat"...

Pearl

WhisperingWriter said...

Aw, I'm so sorry for your loss.

troutbirder said...

Sweet & sad. I know we had a burial ceremony for all our boys dogs. The youngest boy was about 4 the first time it happened and I'll alway remember his questioning as to whether we were gonna sing a "church song." :)

Jeanie said...

what a beautiful post. My eyes are filled with tears -- partly because I know the pain of having said goodbye to a dear feline family member and partly because I know the time isn't so far away that I will have to say goodbye to Gypsy. I hope I can be so brave and beautiful as you and write so wonderful a tribute when that time comes. Thinking of you all.

Linda Myers said...

Lovely post, and a wise experience for your grandchildren.

Thinking of you today.

Teresa Evangeline said...

As children, we always buried our pets and had a small funeral, usually just saying something brief, but acknowledging their passing and our loss. I'm sorry for your loss. Children do move on quite readily when given the emotional space to do so. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all let go that easily?

Murr Brewster said...

It's been five years since I lost my Larry and I can still barely stand to read about a dying cat. My condolences to you. I hope you consider making the new kitties indoor cats. They adapt very nicely and they're way less trouble for the birds, who should count too.

adinparadise said...

Always a sad day to lose a beloved pet. You've reminded me of our dear cat, Joey, who was hit by a car and left to die. We also gave him a proper dignified burial, with the pillowcase and the prayer. It's so important for the kids especially that thy get to say a fond farewell to a loved family member.

Green Monkey said...

it was a wonderful lesson for the children. so hard when you lose a pet. especially a cat as sweet as your Mali

Deb Shucka said...

What a sweet story about a really important life lesson. I'm sorry for the loss of Mali, but I know she would have loved the way the kids and you sent her over the Rainbow Bridge.

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