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Bright he was, and golden-eyed

Friday I awoke to a bit of brightness seeping through my bedroom drapes. It was more than my excitement about the day ahead: there might have been a bit of sun, too. Sun, which we had almost forgotten in our cloud-covered malaise.

I rolled the two, small, overly warm sleeping bodies of my children off of me, and I crept out of bed. I wanted a cup of coffee, which I would sip as I perused my favorite blogs in the quiet stillness of early morning.

However, my foot had barely touched the ground at the base of the stairs when a small voice from up and behind me said, "Mama? I hungee."

Within a few minutes the downstairs was a chaos of noise and demands, with everyone up and about. But, we all carried a happy anticipation.

First, I had a very exciting and happy work stuff (nope, not being ironic).

Next, we had a playdate with Kyla and the Tars. A little known fact might be that Kyla and I live pretty close together. Since we're all fans of Kyla, I'll bear your envy stoically. Another little known fact might be that our kids are the exact same ages. With every reason to do it, we planned a nice get-together.

Then, my sister was arriving. She's moving down from Pennsylvania, and will live about an hour from me. My mother is already here, staying with me. It's a tough call who was more excited and happy. It's a first place tie: the kids and Nana. We planned to talk on Friday (the day her movers were delivering her stuff) and go over sometime this weekend.

Some neighborhood friends were gathering to take our older kids to a stage performance of high school musical. All the little girls 5 and up were so excited! Moms were bearing it, with grins.

Finally, I had high hopes for the blog post my husband was going to do about his time in the ring with Romeo "Rocky" Raccoon. (cue theme music) He was flattered by (and frightened of LOL) the encouragement.

Is that a knock it out of the park lineup or what?

So here is how Friday went...

First, when I went into the kitchen to make coffee I noticed another one of our trees listing. I got so distracted and tied up calling the tree company, alerting my husband, and so forth that I forgot to make coffee and eat breakfast. Next, my sister called. My father had planned to come help them with the move-in but his boss canceled his vacation and he wasn't able to travel here. We knew that with four kids and a move, she might need some company.

We all planned, replanned, and planned yet again for the morning as more and more wrenches leapt into the works.

We did have a wonderful time with Kyla and the Tars. Honestly, she is so great, as, of course, are her kids---cuter and brighter than even those awesome photos you see show. That KayTar. She is is something special. Which is not to detract from BubTar who is adorable, sweet, has the biggest brightest eyes, and is so wonderfully big brother five. He ran and played, Patience ran and played, Persistence ran and played, and after a bit of running and playing, then accepting that Mom was not going to allow her to go up the slide, KayTar decided the next most entertaining thing to do was sit with the grown-ups and charm our pants off. She smiled, she flirted, she chatted, she entertained, and basically added more fans to her club.

After a happy farewell to the Tars, we hopped on the highway and drove to my sister's new town and home. Beautifully wonderful to help her settle in here. The kids were so overjoyed to see one another, they played adorably together, and even the two year olds could barely manage one small turf battle of Mine. They even all nicely shared Nana. When we left, Patience asked, "How soon do we get to go back?"

It's when we arrived home, you see, that I learned how much had gone on while we so enjoyed a good day, what had happened while we weren't looking.

It was dark, and almost 10 p.m. by the time we pulled into the drive. The girls had fallen asleep in the car before we'd even left my sister's neighborhood, exhausted after a long and fun day, and well-past their usual bedtime. My mother and I climbed out of the car and each carried a semi-dozing child in to the house. I walked in first, stepped to the left so my mother could walk in behind me, and started towards the stairs.

That's when I saw my cat, Bubba.

He had died. On the stairs.

I stepped back, shocked, unaware of anything except the sight of him, the loss of him. My mother, now blocked from entering, called softly, "Julie?"

I turned and whispered, "It's the cat. Children in the living room?"

She understood immediately. Bubba was elderly, and quite sick. The dying had been coming for a long time. He might have made it through the summer, but I believe last week he caught a stomach virus. He lost weight he couldn't afford, and the damage from the illness was, I thought, the end of it. But he seemed to rally over the weekend. Early this week, to my surprise, he began grooming himself a little. He became a little more sociable again, wanting to be in the room with us, meowing for attention. I think, deep down, I knew he was setting a stage. I think we all did. We all changed towards him, made him more of a priority. Especially Patience. We all understood, somehow, that this was really the end.

I just didn't think it would come, one day, a happy day, when we were all out and he was alone, but in another way, I can understand that this is when, why and how it would happen.

Alone he could let go. With us, he felt too much of a pull, I think. That he lasted so long is a testament to his love of life and family, to his will---of not wanting to miss a second.

My mother sat in the dark living room with dozing children.

I carried in our things from the car and waited for my husband to get home. I hated to hit him with the news before he even got in the house, but I felt it was best to prepare him for what he would see as soon as he walked in the door.

As I expected he was shocked but not surprised, sad but accepting. We hugged, and walked into the house.

When he saw his cat---for Bubba was his cat, much as Cici has been my cat---he said simply, very sadly, "Oh Bubba." Then he stooped, and stroked Bubba's head. I waited, behind him, there, but out of the way while he had his private moment.

When he was ready, my husband and I carefully lifted Bubba's body. There was no warmth to him, and he was barely rigid. My mind flooded with all the ways the day might have gone, but didn't, and how we might have been home, but weren't. I felt badly he was alone, but I understood, and I felt sorrow he was gone, but also relief because the last few weeks have been hard for him.

We laid him gently in a towel, and arranged him in a comfortable looking pose. Except for his open eyes, he might have been sleeping in one of his favorite positions. Satisfied that he looked at peace, my husband and I sat together and cried while remembering his life and all he meant to us. When we felt a little stronger, we got Patience.

It wasn't ideal, getting her up from a sleep so late at night, but we also knew it was important to have a wake, and moreover, knew this was the only time to do it.

Our dog Brodie, Bubba's littermate sister Francie, my husband, Patience, and I sat together around Bubba. We cried, shared stories and feelings, laughed a little. We made a coffin, which Patience and I decorated with markers and messages of our love and gratitude for his place with us, in our family. When we all felt ready to say goodbye, we closed and sealed the box. Patience had drawn a picture of Bubba, which we put on top, with his name: Our Precious Cat Bubba.

This morning my husband got up and began digging a hole in the backyard. When it's finished, we'll gather around to say a final goodbye.

Then we'll go get a memorial stone and plant, and create a special spot. Patience wants something orange so we can remember our orange cat.

It's hard teaching kids to accept loss, manage grief, and say goodbye to a loved one. We can only hope we do it right. We are sure it's our best.

Bubba was a true character. Bright and golden-eyed. Feisty, and demanding. If we'd been smart, we might have named him Byron. He was a romantic poet in feline form. It's funny how that never occurred to us. We used to be so frustrated because he wouldn't tell us his name. All of our other pets have been so generous, sharing their names easily. But Bubba never would, hence the crazy misnomer he carried. It's funny how now that he's gone, I think, "Byron," and it seems like exactly the right name...too late.

He chose us for his family---and you might not believe it when I say it, but his choice trumped our own. Although he was unplanned, a surprise, and often a lot of trouble, we never were anything but glad. He loved us, we loved him. He was not your stereotypical cat. But then again, none of ours ever were. He was the spoiled rotten only boy in the house, coddled by the adoring females around him. Other than his brief period of rebellion when he ran with a gang of orange tabbies and took a week hiatus from us, he relished and stuck close to the comforts of home and the good life a domestic cat can have. He'd lie in the sun, stretched out, and soak up the warmth. Then he'd rub past his littermate Francie---any excuse to touch and love, this sensual flirtatious cat took it---and go to his ever-full food dish, where he'd snack on a bite or two, lap a bit of water, and return to the sun.

This is what I will remember, and the other things too, as soon as my mind links more to his life, than to his death. Rest, Bubba, in peace.

Playing with a new catnip toy at Christmas...


Everything in that day was almost too much, too big, for one short day.

Even the weather ranged from gorgeous sunny blue to pouring dark rain.

Friday August 3rd 2007.

More than just a day of the week, more than just a Friday.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert


Christine said…
oh juli, this is so awfully sad. you loved that little guys so much, huh? i am so sorry about his loss. and he was beautiful--those eyes are piercing. and he clearly brought you so much joy and happiness.

here's to you Bubba cat.
Kyla said…
Oh Julie. I'm so sorry. What a full day. We enjoyed seeing you all, I'm sorry you came home to sad news. I cried while reading this. We had a cat named George when I was a child and I remember his burial very well. He was a good cat, just like your Bubba. How's Patience handling it?
Liv said…
Poor Bubba, poor family. My heart aches for you.
S said…
So sorry, Julie. What a powerful post, and a loving wake. You did it just right, yes you did.

(And how cool that The Tars are so nearby!)
Bon said…
oh Bubba, pretty boy with the green eyes.

this was a beautiful post and a beautiful tribute to him, Julie.
Unknown said…
Oh goodness. I wish I could give you a big squeeze. It sounds like you guys did a great job of honoring him in your goodbye.

And you know, it occurs to me, that much like some people need permission to die, Bubba might have need that space of an empty house to go where he was ready to go.

with Love,

Unknown said…
Oh goodness. I wish I could give you a big squeeze. It sounds like you guys did a great job of honoring him in your goodbye.

And you know, it occurs to me, that much like some people need permission to die, Bubba might have need that space of an empty house to go where he was ready to go.

with Love,

flutter said…
Oh Julie. ((you))
Girlplustwo said…
Bubba, rest in peace, cat friend. I am sorry for your loss sister.

And isn't Kyla fantastic? She's beautiful and lovely and funny and how cool is that that you all hung out.
Lawyer Mama said…
I'm so, so sorry, Julie. I can only imagine how I'd feel if my Hilly died. I'm glad Bubba had such a great family. ((HUGS))
Anonymous said…
Oh, Julie, I'm so sorry. Much love to you, Jon & the girls.
Slackermommy said…
I'm so sorry. It is so hard to lose our beloved pets. I think you handled the burial beautifully. Your children will cherish that.
Snoskred said…
When you talk about Bubba setting a stage - that is so spine chilling to me because both my Grandmother and our old family cat who had a long happy life did that. And the way they looked at us - it was almost like they were trying to take a mental photograph, fix us in their minds, before they moved on. I wonder if maybe you felt Bubba do that too?

I also think Mary-LUE makes a good point - so many souls leave this earth when they're all alone - they wait till you leave the room.

I'm so sorry for your loss. You handled it so beautifully.

My mother used to not let us have pets because when she was little she had a lot of pets and it upset her a lot to lose them - but how to deal with loss and grief is an important lesson we all have to learn in life.

This is painful stuff but also truly one of the most touching posts I have ever read, Julie.

Ally said…
Julie-- I am so sorry about your Bubba. I have a soft spot for orange kitties. His pictures here are lovely, and a nice tribute to him.
Her Bad Mother said…
I just don't have words for this, I don't. Heart. Lurch. Thud. Ache.

I am so, so, so sorry. So sorry. I've been there, I have, and I know.

So sorry, friend.

Anonymous said…
Oh sweetie, I wish I could just hug you! In fact, if I knew your address I'd drive over there right now and do it.

I'm sitting here crying my eyes out thinking of my little orange Bubba who's getting on in years.

Those little guys leave such holes in our hearts.

I'm so, so sorry.
Anonymous said…
Oh, I was so distracted by your beautiful bubba that I forgot to mention that I want in on the next playdate. 'K?
Anonymous said…
Julie, I'm so sorry you lost Bubba. You wrote such a moving tribute to him. I have a yellow cat (I make sure I always have a yellow cat) and think they have the best temperament of all. I'm sure Bubba was a pistol. You are probably right that if you had been home he would have kept hanging on. I'm hoping that you can smile through the tears as you remember him. And, remember him, you will.
Anonymous said…
I'm so sorry. Just so sorry.
Aliki2006 said…
I am so so very sorry for your loss, Julie. What a beautifully touching post--you will always remember him.
Tere said…
Oh Julie, so sorry to hear this - how sad. Even though he was sick, it doesn't lessen the pain. My beloved dog passed away 4 months ago, so I know. I'm so, so sorry.
amusing said…
What a full, important, sort of day -- on so many emotional levels. Wow.
Heather said…
This is my first time here.

I am so sorry for your loss. We lost our little puppy a little over a year ago and it was as sad for us as it was when I miscarried our baby several years ago.

Only someone who has loved an animal can understand the sadness.
dmmgmfm said…
I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. I absolutely adore all 6 of my cats and can very much relate to the emptiness you must feel. I believe you are right, he waited until you were out to let go.

Anonymous said…
I am so sorry to hear about Bubba. I lost my beloved cat this year too, so I can appreciate the heartache you and your family are going through. {hugs}
Julie Pippert said…
I cannot tell you how grateful I am for all the sweet comments. Although I haven't replied until now, I did read everything. All of this understanding, personal stories, sympathy and all has just meant so much to me (and my family).

We went to the garden shop and got some beautiful plants for the Bubba memorial spot. Patience understands what happened, understands death (as much as it can be understood). Persistence is confused.

We tried to carefully explain that *Bubba* had gone to Heaven so he was finished with his body, which we were burying. I didn't want her thinking we buried Bubba. But she is still confused, and now and again asks, "Where is my Bubba?"

That's a little tough.

But everybody is doing okay. We feel peace mainly.
Anonymous said…
OMG I am so sorry.

I'm glad that y'all are doing okay.

And yet another reason to love you, you are cat people and that you would name a pet Bubba.
Mom101 said…
Oh Julie, I'm so sorry. Having lost our feisty cat a couple weeks ago I know the gap it leaves. We keep reminding my daughter how lucky we were to have her in our lives to pet and cuddle and love. (Okay so mine didn't let us cuddle so much.)

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