We’ve come to the end of our journey together, and Emeraude has gone to greet Lakota, who’s been waiting for her. The good parts of her days have grown more and more brief, and last night, though weak, she did one final tour of all the things she enjoyed—wandering the studio, settling on the blanket by the furnace vent, greeting the boys, hopping in the tub—and today refused all comfort. It is not unexpected. It is time.
I have been gathering my thoughts for the past few weeks.
She must explore
and open the door.
We are so fortunate to have shared our time with the wise Lady Emeraude, who showed us that, even at her age, life is an adventure. She had lost everything that was hers all her life but accepted the friendship of five black cats, and even managed to steal a treat from Giuseppe a couple of weeks ago when I tossed them out to enjoy on the floor together. Just a week ago she would still walk purposefully into my studio, open the cabinet doors and look in, studying what was on the shelves, peer under the tables and inspect the area under my desk and look at me sternly as if it didn’t meet her standards, and it certainly didn’t contain anything of any use, at least not to her. Even at nominally 20 years old, and with an end-of-life condition, she still had the incurable feline condition of curiosity.
A cat is a cat, no matter her age.
We are honored to have given her a home for her last few months, and happy that she felt comfortable enough here to explore as much of her new home as she was able, to mingle with and become a member of our feline family, and to find a few spots where she felt truly comfortable and at home.
Of course I knew when I agreed to take the two of them in June that we would not have a lifetime together as we usually expect when an animal companion joins our lives, and that we probably wouldn’t have much time at all, that loss was imminent.
But their loss is mine to bear. We don’t rescue for ourselves. We rescue for those animals who need homes, in whatever condition and for whatever amount of time they have or need. We rescue to save lives. When the alternative to being rescued is death, my feeling of loss is but a small burden in the face of their untimely loss of life.
A lifetime of other felines have taught me how to care for cats at the ends of their lives, whether those lives were short or long. They’ve also given me plenty of experience in letting them go as they’ve faced their ends with grace and dignity. I was well prepared by all these others for Lakota and Emeraude and what they brought to my life.
I’ve been remembering that Cookie died two years ago tomorrow, and that my mother died three years ago last week, and I’m somewhat immersed in this whole process right now. For the past few days I’ve felt that restlessness and inability to focus I mentioned in my article “On Dying and Death, and Remembrance”. Yesterday I gave in to my inability to focus on other things and focused on Emmie, knowing the time had come. This morning I’d hoped she’d have just an hour or so of her regular routine but that was not to be, so I made my calls and prepared all I needed to.
On good days she investigates;
on others she rests and remembers.
Of all the beautiful things I will remember about Emeraude is her joy in discovering something in her new home that she could own. I remember her person telling me that it was usually Lakota who would jump up to look out a window but Emeraude rarely did, and he did just that when they came here. But shortly after we lost Lakota I began to find Emeraude on the windowsill too, in both my studio and bedroom as well as the bathroom, but the bathroom was her favorite. I could feel from her that being on the windowsill, feeling the sun and the air through the screen, watching the trees and hearing the birds, was exceptional, it was perfect, it was her favorite thing, in the way that cats own experiences and things they enjoy. I was so enchanted at finding her there, and full of her happiness, in my way of owning something and expressing its perfection, I silently positioned myself to photograph her each time I saw her without disturbing her, and painted my first daily sketch of her, at the top of this post, on August 20, 2013, all the green leaves and bits of sky, the summer air on her face, warm sun pulling mahogany highlights from her fur. It brings to mind the lyrics from a song, “…In the shade of this old tree / in the summer of my dreams / by the tall grass / by the wild rose / where the trees dance / and the wind blows / as the days go oh so slowly / as the sun shines oh so holy / on the good and gracious green / in the summer of my dreams…”, titled “The Summer of My Dreams”. Of course, I sang it to her.
I painted another sketch of her at the beginning of November, at the end of this post, surrounded by yellow leaves and warm autumn sunshine, just before she began to feel unwell. I had suggested at that time that I’d paint Emeraude on her windowsill in all four seasons, hoping she’d make it to spring. I didn’t get a chance to paint her there for winter, though I have a photo; by the time the weather turned and all the leaves were gone, she wasn’t spending too much time there and I’d been waiting to catch her as she enjoyed the moment, as I prefer to do my sketches. I will paint this, and I will contrive one for spring, in her memory.
Thanks to everyone who has sent loving, healing thoughts from the time they arrived to now. Emeraude, and Lakota, thrived in their warmth. And most of all, I hope that following the experiences of Lakota and Emeraude have encouraged all of you to take an older cat into your home. Look at all that the three of us accomplished in just over six months, and counting in the Five we were quite a family. But Emeraude and Lakota will always be counted among my family of felines, we shared our lives for this time together and shared a bit of our hearts, and that is what rescuing is all about.
Don’t let the fear of loss keep you from love.
Let the knowledge that we will lose things we love urge us to love them even more while we have the chance.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
May we love well all the things we love, for as long as we can.
. . . . . . .
Read more about Emeraudeand her adventures in our household.
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