Late last night I went downstairs to tell Faithful Reader something. He said, “Shhh. Peeps is making the strangest sounds.” I stood on the stairs, listening, looking down on you. You were sleeping on your favorite spot on the couch. You stretched and relaxed. Faithful Reader said, “Her eye is open.” I said, “She looks dead from this angle.” I was only joking, but then you didn’t breathe. We waited for you to breathe, but you didn’t.
Faithful Reader scooped you up and moved you around and tried to make you breathe. Why didn’t you breathe? I stroked your fur and called your name and soaked you with my tears, but you did not breathe. Why didn’t you breathe?
I don’t understand. I had always that thought Mojo would go first. You were younger, only nine or ten years old. You weren’t sick. You had acted normally all day long. Why didn’t you breathe?
We were looking forward to so many more years with you. We thought someday you’d be our only cat, and you deserved to be our only cat, because you’d always had to share us. Yet you were so good about sharing, never demanding, always happy to take attention when it was offered.
And you were such a beautiful cat, Peeps. When I wrote the story about the night you got out, I imagined you being hunted for your pelt, because you were surely the most beautiful thing in the woods that night. I described you as having gray fur, but that was just for convenience of storytelling. In real life you were a mackerel tabby, with a mix of black, brown, and a little white. You had one paw that was completely brown. I called it your “peanut butter paw.” Your eyes were close-set, exotic.
You were a champion mouser. We could always tell when there was a mouse in the house, because you’d stake out its hiding place. If it dared come out, you’d show us where it was. One time you cornered one in the kitchen, and all I had to do to get rid of it was open the back door. Now who will warn us when a mouse gets in, and who will corner it for us? We need you, Peeps. Why didn’t you breathe?
You brought so much trouble into our lives at first. You had a disease of some kind that you gave to Mojo and Zoulie, and the litter boxes were disgusting until we finally found a cure. Then when Livia was a baby, you started smearing poop on the floor. We didn’t want our baby crawling around in that, so we thought about finding another home for you. We could never trust anyone else to take care of you, though. So we cleaned up after you, reorganized the litter boxes, hoped for the best. And we got the best. We chose you, and we kept you, and we wanted to keep keeping you.
But then you didn’t breathe. I will never understand why you just stopped, or how it was that we were both there to watch you die. In my mind’s eye, I replay the moment. I watch you stretch and relax, and then I wait for the breath that never comes. I wait and I wait. I am still waiting. I will always wait.
We haven’t told the children yet. They had to go to school this morning. We didn’t want to drop such terrible news on them without giving them time to digest it. Livia told me just the other day that you were her favorite. I don’t want to have to break her heart. Marshall is sensitive and introspective. He will ask us why you died. We will have to tell him that you were old. It’s not a good answer. He will see right through it. He will feel lost, just like we do.
We miss you desperately.