I love my in-laws, I really do. So much so that when Jenn got a call from them last night asking if I’d take care of the body of their recently-deceased cat while they’re away on vacation, I actually jumped at the chance.
Why? Let me explain.
Death is a natural part (circumstance?) of life. In the grander scheme of eternity, such as it is, our bodies will be dead much longer than they are alive.
Plus, as someone who is an animal lover myself, I didn’t see how I could leave my in-laws in the lurch. It was my duty to them and to my wife to act on their (and the cats’ – the one that died and those still alive) behalf.
So I drove myself down to Fayetteville last night, let myself into the rec room and set about moving Max from his very permanent resting place in a red Igloo cooler to a semi-permanent spot in the fridge. Not the freezer, mind you, which was too full to really fit him, but the fridge.
As a co-worker pointed out to me it may be a bit awkward to eat Thanksgiving leftovers from that fridge later on (ugh!), but I digress.
The phone call Jenn got last night setup the scene relatively well: caretaker who checks on the cat every few days finds Max lying motionless in the litter and a chorus of his mates meowed their whiskers off. Struck with grief but mindful that Marty & Dottie (my in-laws) will want to properly send him off, she puts him on ice and tearfully calls his owners.
I came into their darkened rec room (thank you, flashlight iPhone app) to a quartet of pretty chill kitties (and one very chill kitty) listening to classical on their AM dial. The whole scene had a very CSI vibe with the expected Pet Semetary overtones.
For the whole process, I did two things:
- Planned ahead. I didn’t leave any steps to chance and so I cleared the fridge, positioned the garbage bag and donned rubber gloves for my own sanitary protection
- Documented the entire process via photos and I had my in-laws & Jenn on a blow-by-blow conference call the entire time. I even emailed photos from the car before I left their house.
It really is an intense experience to see the body of the deceased, human or animal. You recall their beauty and grace in life but also their flaws and their quirks.
Lying there in the Igloo cooler I remember how fluffy and like his breed (Himalayan) Max looked. A fluffy, regal thing with a round face and a weak little meow that sounded like he was complaining about his own name. “Maaaaaax,” he’d finish with a licking flourish of his tongue.
Even in death his appearance belied how thin and lithe he really was. Easily half of his mass was fur, so he only weighed half what he looked like he might.
His body – only slightly turgid – went gingerly into the bag which went into the fridge to await my in-laws. He looked serene and peaceful, eyes closed, like he was stretched out in the sun room and not in a makeshift morgue.
I really will miss that cat. And I’m just as likely to interject the humor and the haphazard way the entire evening unfolded as I am to get all misty like I have been here.
In any event, whether you laugh or cry, please think of my in-laws and of their cat Max. I know I am.
And I have additional thoughts about iPhone/Flickr apps, but that’s a side discussion for the comments, the pictures or a new post.