Sometime soon I will tell you about our family trip to France, courtesy of PW’s sabbatical. I wouldn’t have mentioned it at all, except that for weeks ever since we came back, we often pepper our goodbyes with cheery repetitions of “Merci! Au revoir!” Actually, it sounds more like one word: “Merciaurevoir!” when the shopkeepers in France say it. So that’s how we say it, because we’re so continental and whatnot.
Our family said a “Merciaurevoir!” this afternoon that has been a long time coming. Our last cat standing, the beautiful and sweet Tiger, lost his soul mate in January, when we had to put down our 10-year-old golden retriever, Lucy. Ever since then, he’s had a steadily dwindling interest in food. For the last two months, he’s eaten only in plain yogurt. He stopped eating anything three days ago.
Our amazing and sweet veterinarian, Jake, came to our house. Tiger hated going to the vet’s office. Jake made us laugh with stories of an old black lab he had who, in her last weeks, would eat only Cheez-its. Jake gently wiped Tiger’s eyes and face, saying, “Let’s get you cleaned up, mister.” Then Jake conducted an incredibly compassionate euthanasia, which was as deeply comforting as it was shatteringly heartbreaking. When Jake left the house, he told PW, “You made the right decision. It was time.” This was a great thing to hear, considering that for the past couple of weeks we have spent time every day asking ourselves if today is the day.
We buried Tiger in the back yard, next to where we buried his litter mate Zoe, after she died suddenly two winters ago. We eased Tiger’s emaciated body into the hole and then we took turns reading verses of this poem:
Let Evening Come, by Jane Kenyon
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. [Love] does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.
Then GForce tore open a hole in the plastic bag that has held Lucy’s ashes since January. Then PW, Lulu, GForce and I each took turns sprinkling fistfuls of Lucy’s ashes onto Tiger’s body. Then while I shoveled dirt over our beloved cat and dog, PW read this poem while we all cried:
Final Notations, by Adrienne Rich
it will not be simple, it will not be long
it will take little time, it will take all your thought
it will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
it will be short, it will not be simple
it will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
it will not be long, it will occupy your thought
as a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
it will take all your flesh, it will not be simple
You are coming into us who cannot withstand you
you are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
you are taking parts of us into places never planned
you are going far away with pieces of our lives
it will be short, it will take all your breath
it will not be simple, it will become your will