Flo died this morning. We buried her in the shade garden, next to Gus, under the Hydrangea bush.
Flo had been declining for a while. And in the past week or so, I knew that she was dying. And I knew what to do for her because she told me.
When she first showed little interest in her food, I got her special food. The first day she stopped eating completely, I still brought her food when I fed Minnie. I even put a touch of it on her nose like I learned to do when I worked at the Veterinary Hospital when I was in my early 20s. Usually, a cat will lick off something on their nose. Flo didn’t.
That was when I knew for sure she had stopped eating.
After that, every time I went into the basement Flo was either in the little heated cat house or laying on the bed outside it. I made sure she had water close by and would pick her up or pet her.
Since Friday, if I went into the basement and Flo was on the bed, she would get up and go into the cat house when she saw me.
That’s when I knew to leave her alone.
I’ve had and heard of outdoor cats who leave when they are ready to die. They go off to a place where no one will find them. Flo has always been a wild thing. As she got older and deaf, she stayed closer to the house, but she still preferred being outside until the winter came.
I feel like Jon and I gave Flo the death she wanted. The only difference is she got to go off to die in a safe and warm place.
And of course, Flo did have company. Minnie was there with her. Sleeping next to her in the little heated house and eating Flo’s food when she didn’t finish it.
When I found Flo this morning I wrapped her in the towel she sometimes slept on and put her on the chair on the back porch.
Then Jon and I buried her.
Yesterday when I was walking with the dogs I found the wings of a hawk on the side of the road. It was a shocking and amazing thing to see. They were still attached to each other by the bone that holds them together. They looked so powerful even with the rest of the bird gone. I put the wings in the bushes and took four of the small downy feathers that had fallen off of them.
As I walked up the road, feathers pinched between my thumb and finger, I was thinking of Flo.
I dug the hole and placed Flo in it. Then I sprinkled some dried Hydrangea flowers on top of her. I asked Jon if he thought the feathers should go inside the hole or out. We decided to put them in and save one for the top of the grave.
Jon thanked Flo for being his “first cat.” Not literally, he had both Mother and Minnie before Flo showed up at the farm. But Flo was the first cat that was able to work her way into Jon’s soul. He had no real interest in cats before Flo.
Then Jon buried Flo.
I read Pablo Neruda’s poem Ode To The Cat. And I thought of Mother, the barn cat we brought with us from Old Bedlam Farm. She disappeared soon after we moved and a while later Flo showed up.
I used to read Neruda’s poem to Mother in my Studio barn. Me in the pink chair, her on my lap. I never said goodbye to Mother, I just always waited for her to come back, but she never did. So this morning I felt like I was reading that poem to both Flo and Mother, two wild things who lived and died the life of a cat.
“…But the cat,
only the cat
turned out finished,
born in a state of total completion,
it sticks to itself and knows exactly what it wants….”
Ode To The Cat by Pablo Neruda