Riposa in pace, dolce gattina


“About a week ago, I got news that my childhood cat had finally passed away. Miso was just about 20 years old, and had survived a twice broken leg, so she’d seen her fair share of challenges. But she lived a long, and what I hope was a happy life with us. She was the type of cat who wasn’t quite aware that she was feline, and loved playing fetch and snuggling more than a lot of cats I’ve known. She was still the type of creature who oversaw the subjects of her domain, but she did so with benevolence and care, and was always there for you when you needed her. I’m happy that so many of my friends met her; she loved you all.

I’ve been waiting for some great breakdown to happen inside me, but the fact is we knew she was nearing the end, and she went cozy and peacefully, brought on by nothing but old age and a long life. So here are some of my favorite pictures of her, just a couple moments from throughout her life that I have to remember her by. Here’s to you, Miso. Thank you for your constant presence and affection. I love you and miss you.”

So writes my eldest about our recent loss. His brother says he doesn’t recall when Miso wasn’t with us, as he was four years old when we adopted her as a rescue recovering from a broken leg. I’ve always felt that she chose us. Miso was fetching and charming, and as she looked at us from the top of a cat tree, she rolled onto her back and invited attention. Her claws were retracted in a display of good manners as she reached out to us. We all felt it; Miso was to join our family.

For the past two years, kitty had been on the decline. Nothing wrong but the insults of old age. Her feeding routine became complicated, as she required very small frequent meals. She suffered senility, and was sometimes confused. As my son wrote, we knew the end was near.

On the morning of January 18, 2018, Miso spent a few hours dozing in a quiet corner of the parlor. She refused food and water. I sat with her there, as did my younger son, who was readying to return to his studies after a month off for the holidays. I knew what was happening. I prepared my son. So I scooped her up, and carried her into my room and gently set her on my bed in a cozy fleece blanket she liked.

I pulled out my stethoscope to listen. Her heart rate was double than normal, and her respiration was labored. I gave her drops of water from a syringe. She seemed to appreciate that, if only to wet her dry mouth. My son came in, and we both laid around her, and talked to her softly. We stroked her still-soft fur, trying to imprint a memory of  touch in our hearts. We wrapped her in her warm blanket on that cold, rainy day.

Miso was a cat who lived in a home where music was a constant. Whether it was my kid’s music or me practicing, or teaching my voice students, she loved to come into the studio and stretch out in the middle of the floor. Bach or Stravinsky or the Dead. All of it was good to her. German Romantic music would induce her to crawl up onto my lap as I listened and studied. In retrospect, how cool was that? Those last few hours of her life, I played Schubert lieder.

An die Musik came on. It is a love song to music, and one which I’ve sung a hundred times. As the song played, sweet Miso stretched, and sighed. And then she was gone.

That night, in the rain, we buried her in our favorite area of the forest in the urban national park a few blocks from our big city home. The rain let up as we put her to rest. My son rolled some big logs to protect her grave, and we each offered reflections of our life with her. Expressions of gratitude for her kind and loyal nature. Of a long life, and the sorrow of saying goodbye.

The house feels empty. It will take time for our grief to ebb. Our home will never be the same, and our hearts will always be a bit tender when we think of her.

Thank you old friend. It was a blessing to share the journey with you.