Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Cat Emily

My cat Emily died Sunday night.

I knew she was dying. She never got over Alexander's death, four months ago. She literally pined away for him.

Emily was six weeks old when I brought her home from the Humane Society. She died when she was thirteen. For her entire life, she had Alexander as a companion, someone to play with and boss around.

After Emily came to live with us, Alexander was royally annoyed. He was a year and a half old and in no mood for a kitten. Emily put up with this for one week, then made it clear to him that they were going to play. Emily always had her way with Alexander, who was sweetness personified. She could never get over the fact that after she provoked him, chased him around, and wrestled him, he'd win the physical battle. Sure, he was bigger. But she was Emily.

When it became clear to me that Emily was dying, a month or so ago, I decided to let her die at home, in her own good time. For weeks, I'd go to bed at night not knowing if I'd find her alive in the morning. Before going to Florida for the FAME conference, I worried she'd die right before I left, and I'd have to drive to the airport sobbing. All the time I was there, I feared I'd come home to find she'd died in my absence. A couple of weeks ago, she stayed on my bed for 36 straight hours. I was sure then she would die, but she kept on. She stayed in the places she liked, under my bed, on the bathmat, on my lap. She never seemed to be in pain, except briefly the night she died. She simply gave up on life. With the help of my friends, Marci and Bill, I buried Emily Monday afternoon. It was a beautiful October day.

I lead a very placid existence. I figured out a long time ago that my career has no steadiness and that I'm better off if things are relatively calm around it. But the past five months have been incredible highs and difficult lows. My friends, my family, my editor, my agent, have all helped me celebrate the highs and make it through the lows. I am eternally grateful to all of them.

I keep looking around my apartment, expecting to see Emily and Alexander. This morning, I woke up to the sensation of a cat jumping on my bed, curling up in the small of my back. Most likely, it was a dream.


Judi (Australia) said...

Dear Susan. What a sad year this has been for you, but what a beautiful tribute to Emily. I had a similar experience a few years ago when I knew one of my girls was dying. I shared your fear that she would just disappear one day, or I would wake up one morning and find her a cold little bundle in her favourite chair. But when the time came, she found the energy to walk outside to see my husband, who brought her to me, where she said goodbye in her own way and then died in my arms. It was a beautiful way to farewell a beloved friend, and a privilege to share. My heart goes out to you.

Mr. Cavin said...

I never know what to say. I'm really sorry.

Dawn said...


I am so sorry to hear about Emily. Our cats are our family and it is so hard to lose them. Take care of yourself!

Best wishes,

Nora said...

Dear Susan,
I am so sorry to hear about Emily. I lost my long time cat companion, Zelda, when I was away at college, and it broke my heart that I wasn't with her when she went. You are in my thoughts at this time.

Anonymous said...

It was difficult to read your story. I have been lucky to have 2 cats in my adult life -- Kirby was an orange tabby like yours, and he died long ago, but his calico sister Penny (who looks so much like Emily!) is still with us at age 18. She's fading, thin, and frail. She doesn't seem to be in pain, but just reading you story reminds me that she could slip away at any time. She's had a great run.
Thanks for the story.

Anonymous said...

I reread the post just now and realized that your other cat was gone, too. I'm so sorry for both your losses. As I e-mailed you a couple of days ago, my three girls in fur are among the blessings of my life, and after I first read your post, I went home and petted and kissed the two who'd let me.

Anonymous Santa Fe

Anonymous said...

Ms. Pfeffer,

I'm sorry to hear about your loss. I lost my cat this past Monday. She was suffering due to her chronic renal failure. Sometimes when I come home, I expect to see her running to the door to greet me like she always did. I miss her sleeping on my hip...and, in fact, can't quite get to sleep myself without her in that normal spot.

She was only 8 years old, but she lived a wonderful life. I guess we just have to focus on the positive.

By the way, our unit on your novels is going amazingly well here at Holy Trinity (in Kentucky). The students are absolutely loving your stories. Thank you for inspiring them.

I will be keeping you (and Emily and Alexander) in my prayers,
Ms. Jennifer L. Griffin

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about your cats. We have made ours part of our family and would sadly miss them if anything were to happen to them. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Texas Pixie said...

:'( I'm SO sorry for you loss. Like Mr. Cavin, I never really know what to say at times like this. I'm such an animal lover, and I know it hurts to the core to see them go. Take care of yourself.

donna said...

I am so sorry for your loss.

Glen said...

Very sorry to hear this news.

My cat was an inside / outside cat and, when he got sick, he sort of just never came back.

Kind of made me think he was still living somewhere and chasing birds and mice, but I knew better.


Violet said...

I'm so terribly sorry.

Marci said...

Emily and Alexander were really special kitties. Alexander was absolutely beautiful (and knew it)and a friend to the world. Emily had an endearing and quirky personality. She was very picky about who she would accept attention from and give attention to. It was one of the great moments of my life, when Emily jumped into my lap during a dinner party at Sue's home. I was honored!

She was a very special cat.

Misrule said...

Dear Susan, Like one of the other posters, the first thing I did after I read your post was go into the living room to give some love to my old girl, who will turn 19 on Tuesday. (Unfortunately she's very deaf and didn't hear me come up behind her and I startled her rather badly!) I am trying to gear myself to the idea that I will very likely lose her in the next year or two, and it's so difficult. I am sorry to hear about Emily and Alexander. I know how you must miss them.

Judith, a fan in Australia

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Thank you all for your comments, and thanks also to everyone who sent me e-mails. I truly appreciated hearing from each one of you.

My friend Cynthia called me last night to see how I was doing, and said, "Marci and Bill are wonderful friends."

They are, and it bears repeating.

It's been a week since Emily died, and I realized this morning that in effect I sat shiva for her. Shiva is the Hebrew word for seven, and it's the custom of seven days of mourning following the death of a loved one.

But now that it's the eighth day, the idea is to get on with one's life. Which I will do. But first I have to do my recycling and take my mother to the dentist.

PS- The scrambled word I have to copy to get this comment published is "facking."

What a difference a vowel makes!

Anne M said...

My condolences...the unconditional love we receive from our pets stays with us our entire life....Anne M

Little Willow said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I have had three cats, all of whom I loved dearly, all of whom I miss terribly.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Little Willow and thank you-

Yesterday I walked past cat food at the supermarket (casually buying a box of kitten food just in case) and the sight of the food made me sad. I mean nearly weeping in the supermarket sad.

Of course the sight of what cat food costs made me sad as well. But I don't think I'm going to be able to overcome my fierce kitten desire!