Lullaby

I first started writing this post on May 3rd, 2010 when my cat, Sushi, sixteen years old and in kidney failure, was really, really sick and I feared the worst. With all of your lovely hopes and prayers and support, I felt so blessed and grateful when she pulled through. After that, she would get sick every few months, but would always buck up after a course of antibiotics and a week of subcutaneous fluids.

Still, nothing lasts forever, and this recent bout was different. Sushi had been losing weight pretty steadily by the time she fell ill last weekend. This wasn’t the usual infection and she wasn’t her usual, cheerful, goofy Sushi self. She stopped eating, couldn’t really get on the bed, and gave up on her litter box.

When I took her to the vet last Monday, I walked away with pain medicine instead of antibiotics, and the heartbreaking instructions to take her home, spoil the hell out of her with cuddles and delicious food, but to bring her back, and soon, so she wouldn’t have to be in pain for too much longer. In the Death Cab for Cutie song “What Sarah Said” from their album Plans (most depressing album ever, seriously), Ben Gibbard sings, “Love is watching someone die.” As much as I wanted to protect myself, drag it out, keep her alive with drugs and fluids, I knew I had to do the loving, merciful thing.

Long story short, the vet just left after a very caring home visit, and my little cuddlebug is finally at peace. My eternal gratitude to Dr. Mollica at the Carroll Gardens Vet Group. I put together the most wonderful — if I say so myself! — play list as she fell asleep. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” (Death Cab), “Magic” (Ben Folds Five), “Levon” (Elton John), “When I Fall” (Barenaked Ladies), and, finally, “Lullaby” (Ben Folds Five). Right now, as the music ebbs, I’m imagining her in one of those afternoon sunbeams she loved so much.

For almost exactly five years, I’ve been so incredibly lucky to share my life with two amazing cats. I lost Smokey to old age in July 2009, and it tore me apart to see Sushi fade from the same so soon after. A heart without a pet to love is truly a lonely thing, and I miss both of them so much. I always will. If this strikes a chord, please donate to the Humane Society of the Silicon Valley, the non-profit shelter that gave me both of my wonderful girls. I love them and every moment they’ve given me has been a joy and a gift. Even on this very sad day, I swear, I live an incredibly charmed life, in no small part because I got to be Sushi and Smokey’s “forever home,” as they say when you adopt.

I’ll let Ben Folds take it away perfectly because, well, he always does:

Goodnight, goodnight, sweet baby
The world has more for you
Than it seems
Goodnight, goodnight
Let the moonlight take the lid off your dreams.


113 Replies to “Lullaby”

  1. I’m so sorry about your loss Mary. Pets are family and losing them is painful. I lost my baby Simba (12 year old male Chow Chow) in September and it was devastating to say the least. My heart and thoughts are with you.

  2. I’m so sorry for the loss of Sushi. I lost my little Mulligan after 24 years last winter and still feel that deep sorrow. Maybe Sushi and Mulligan are getting to know each other now. Sending peace to your heart.

  3. What a touching tribute to your beloved companion, Mary. We don’t own cats – they own our hearts and stay in them long after their earthly life is complete. You will always remember the happiness Sushi brought you, but think of all the happiness, love and comfort you gave her, right into “forever.” You are blessed to have had the opportunity to ease the lives of two rescues, and they rewarded you with much entertainment and affection. The sadness will eventually pass, as I’m sure you know, but the memories are yours to keep.
    God bless you.

  4. My heart goes out to you. I still vividly remember putting our cat, Chai, out of her pain almost seven years ago, and the tears shed at that time. Thank you for writing such a tribute to your cats, Smokey and Sushi, and for the glorious line: “A heart without a pet to love is truly a lonely thing.”
    Peace,
    Michael

  5. So sorry about the loss of your adorable Sushi, Mary. She looks like the sweetest cat, and it sounds like she was very lucky to have such a loving mama.

  6. Thank you for adopting your kitties in the first place. Animal adoption is a wonderful thing. I thrive on the love I get from our three adopted dogs and rescued kitty. Smokey and Sushi are playing with each other at the rainbow bridge, but I understand your pain. So sorry.

  7. losing our beloved Bear was the hardest thing i’ve ever gone through… until i had to say goodbye to my Ani. i still can’t look at images of her without my heart aching.

    when my wife and i were talking about what our idea of heaven would be like, the first thing we knew heaven would need to have was our cats. and, if our cats were there, they’d want heaven to be someplace with all of the crab they could ever eat on a daily basis. (they were ravenous when it came to crab) thus was born The Crab Shack. (http://fivecats.livejournal.com/193499.html)

    I’ll ask Bear and Ani to keep an eye out for Sushi.

    — Tom

  8. So sorry to hear about your beloved cat! It made me rethink how mad I was at my tabby boy this morning for trying to bring a jackrabbit haunch into the house.

    I also volunteer at a no-kill cat sanctuary in Northern Calif (www.fatkittycity.org) and we have special-needs cats. It’s so heartbreaking when we get the news that one passed away, but it helps to know that they got a second chance at a loving, and loved, life. It sounds like you did the same for Sushi, and did the right thing for her in the end.

  9. Mary–I’m so sorry to hear about Sushi. Losing a kitty can be so hard, but know that Sushi was so super-lucky to have you as a mom. My best little buddy Goldie has gone to that giant tuna buffet in the sky, so I’ll ask her to look out for Sushi and help her feel at home, OK? Hang in there. ~Gabi

  10. πŸ™ This post made me cry…I have two relatively young cats, and the thought of going through what you just went through is incredibly hard to think about. *hugs* I’m so sorry to hear about Sushi.

  11. This is the worst part of pet ownership, but I wouldn’t trade mine for anything in the world. The memories and comfort they give us are worth ten thousand times the pain.

    I’m sitting here right now with my little black girl kitty on my lap and crying for you! Sincere hugs, and I hope you find another snuggly partner in crime when the time is right.

    And I totally agree on “Plans”– What Sarah Said makes me bawl every time I hear it!

  12. So sorry for your lost. I have three fur babies of my own. The oldest is 17 and she has ongoing medical problems, so I know what it’s like to be on alert for the signs that her time is finally here. Thank you for sharing this post.

  13. Mary, I am so glad you and Sushi had each other. And from the perspective of someone who does a lot of rescue work, it makes me so happy you picked a middle aged black cat to take home. Those are the hardest to adopt out, you know. I guess black isn’t flashy, doesn’t grab the eye, or maybe it’s the superstition about them being unlucky. All I know is, it always does my heart good to see black cat find a great home. You saw Sushi for what she was – a beautiful animal inside and out. The fact you gave her such a beautiful good-bye is testament to how much you loved her.

  14. I’m so sorry. It’s always heartbreaking to lose a cherished pet. Your post reminded me of Kate in Erin Bow’s book, Plain Kate – the scene where Taggle dies. I’m sure Sushi was happy to have had you as her friend and caretaker. Hugs!

  15. Damn. I knew I shouldn’t be have read this post at work (which is what I always do anyway–I never learn!). Now I’m sniffling and my co-workers are giving me curious looks.
    I have two kitties myself and though they are pretty young (1 and 2 years old respectively) I find myself dreading the time when they do grow old. I don’t know how I’d live without them to brighten up my days. My heart goes out to you! Drat. Now I’m sniffling again. Where is that darn tissue box!

  16. Oh, Mary – I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. It’s so obvious how much you care for both Sushi and Smokey, and they were truly lucky cats to have you as their human mom. One of the most unfair parts of life seems to be that we outlive our amazing pets – but rest easy knowing you witnessed their lives and made them happy every day. Sending hugs your way! xx

  17. Im sorry for your loss. I have gone through this too ( I lost my favorite horse to a broken hip), and it was very tough for me, but remembering the good times with him keep me happy, and I know that Sushi had a great time with her very caring and loving owner too. And now, I can only think of Cynthia RylantΒ΄s Cat Heaven, and I imagine thats where Sushi and Smokey are now.
    -hugs-

  18. Mary, thank you for sharing. This is one of the hardest things life brings us. I worked many summers at my parents’ veterinary clinic and saw people struggling often with the choice of if and when…I think you did this all as well and as lovingly as anyone could.

  19. Don’t know how much cats appreciate alternative-rock…But had a black cat of my own for fifteen years, that as a kitten used to play Fetch: If you so much as -looked- like you were going to snap-flick a little foam ball across the floor, she would get into starter’s orders, race the second it went off, and bring it back in her teeth, mouse-present style, for you to do it again. When she got into her older “retired” mode, she’d simply crouch at the top of the stairs and wait for you to toss it up, so she could jump at it and bat it so it would bounce all the way back down.
    Got too old (even lost her meow, and had to make importantly meaningful “Eh.”‘s), and after the vet diagnosed diabetes, we had to take her for the last vet trip: The night before, she was lying in her spot at the stairs, I found one of the foam balls which had disappeared years ago, and waved it to see if she knew what it still was. She immediately crouched into her “ready” position…

    (…You’ll have to excuse me, I’m going to have to break off and stop posting at this point and look for twenty boxes of Kleenex.)

  20. Sorry to hear about that, Mary. It’s tragic and poignant to think how the loss of a family member can mean so much. To be cliche, it really puts life in perspective.

  21. I am so, so sorry for your loss, Mary. But your courage in letting Sushi go with such love and grace is an inspiration to me. I have a wonderful dog who’s getting older and I know the time will come for me too.

  22. When you first starting posting about Sushi’s illness last year, I had the feeling kidney failure was the culprit. I knew the signs; I had just lost my sweet Cassidy to the disease a few months earlier. I couldn’t bear to tell you how my story ended because when you’re dealing with things like sub-cu fluids and injections, all you want is hope. I was only able to buy Cassidy two more months with us, but it sounds like you got almost a year. I expect those were exhausting, worry-filled months but worth every minute.

    I’m so, so sorry to hear about Sushi. You fought hard for her. My heart’s breaking for you.

  23. Oh, I’m so, so sorry to hear about the loss of Sushi. My heart breaks for you. Our feline friends are incredible and special and just don’t stay with us long enough. I hope you take comfort in knowing what a wonderful life you provided for her–and Smokey.

  24. Sushi! Here come the tears. I’m so glad you got your lovebugs from the shelter. I have two cats and both were adopted. They are getting up there in years and I can’t imagine my life without them. I know you gave your girls a good life. They know it, too.

  25. I said goodbye to my little old lady cat Samantha after 18 years. The vet was so gentle and understanding and her passing was peaceful. I’m so sorry for your loss.
    3 months after my Samantha died, I started visiting the Humane Society and came home with two little orphaned Maine Coon kitties. I now get to share my life again with cats who love me. This is the legacy that old Sam left me; the ability and the opportunity to love a couple fur people again. Many hugs to you.

  26. Oh Mary, I’m so sorry about Sushi. Our cats just don’t live long enough. Sushi and Smokey were so lucky to have you. Cats bring so much to our lives, even in their passing they make us better.

  27. I’m so sorry to hear about Sushi, but I have no doubt the two of you loved each other as much as any cat and human could. May you be able to let go of the pain without losing the memories.

  28. I’m so sorry for your loss. Inadequate words, but the best I can find. Nothing takes the pain away, but I’m glad you have wonderful memories, beautiful pictures, and music to soothe the soul.

  29. So sorry to hear about this loss, Mary. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Just remember, though, like you said, you live an incredibly charmed life, and have loads of great things coming in the future, I’m sure. Sushi sounded like a fantastic pet. If only we were all so lucky. πŸ™‚ You’ll pull through!

  30. Trying to type through tears is not easy. My sympathies to you Mary. I went through the same thing last year with my cat. When I buried her the most amazing thing happened. I buried her next to a tree in the garden, it was a cloudy day but just as I lay her down, a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds and lit up her grave. It shocked me so much I actually looked up and said thank you. I’m not a religous person but it was almost as if God was seeing her on to her next destination.

    Cherish the memories, Mary. Bless you.

  31. Oh Mary, I feel so sad for you. My thoughts are with you and Sushi too. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  32. Mary, I am so sorry. I remember how she was sick right before you moved to Brooklyn and was so relieved that she recovered and made that next step with you. She must have known you’d be okay now, which is why she was able to go. I truly believe that animals don’t depart until they know their humans are ready to go on without them.

    Still, it’s one of the hardest things to do – say goodbye to a beloved pet. My condolences to you. Take good care of yourself!

  33. Oh, man! First your post and then Eric J.’s story! Lots of tears over here! As a lifelong cat lover, I can relate so well to the huge range of emotions you’re feeling. It reminds me of The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst and even Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows. Dang, those were good books because everyone can relate to losing a beloved furry friend and it’s just about the saddest thing ever. I can remember CRYING my eyes out in fourth grade reading those books.

    If it helps at all (and I know it sounds super cheesy), I found that planting a tree for my cat Misty helped me to deal with her death. She was 18 when she died of kidney failure, too.

    Your kitty was adorable and precious, Mary. I’m so sorry you’re missing her.

  34. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost both my doggies when they were barely seven years old to cancer. It was devestating to lose them. They were family. My thoughts are with you.

  35. When we adopt a pet we think we are saving them. I have found it’s usually the other way around. Touching fur for you and Shushi.

  36. I’m so, so sorry to hear this. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you and that your love for Sushi sings loud in your posts.

  37. I’ve made that heartbreaking trip to the vet too many times, so your post had me in tears. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I hope your happy memories of Sushi help ease the pain of losing her.

  38. I’m so sorry, Mary. I think that pets tell God about the people who gave them good lives. I know Sushi and Smokey are in His lap and telling Him stories about you. I’m sending you a big hug and virtual shoulder.

  39. Mary, You are an excellent writer… thank you for sharing this! Your post brought tears to my eyes… I can relate. Praying God’s loving comfort surrounds you as you grieve the loss of your dear Sushi. p.s. Great pics!

  40. So sorry to hear of the recent loss of your dear cat, Sushi. Losing a furry friend is never easy as they leave pawprints on our hearts. But she is out of pain and is reunited with her friend Smokey. Thanks for sharing your story in such a personal way. Take care,

  41. Oh, Mary. I just read your moving post about your dear, beloved Sushi. I’m so sorry. There’s nothing like the love and affection between person and animal friend – a special bond. My thoughts are with you.

    Suzie F.

  42. Awww, foo. That’s what I have to say, though profound it’s not. Sorry you have to go through this, but I’d say both you and Sushi have been lucky and loved. And that, at least, is a mighty good thing.

  43. Mary, I know Sushi was your friend, your companion, and your baby. So hard to say goodbye to a furry loved one who filled your heart so full.

  44. So,so sorry! I’ve been in your shoes and it is the most awful thing to go through. My son said he didn’t believe that animals have souls, but I told him that they do, because it wouldn’t be “heaven” without animals.

  45. Mary, I am so, so sorry to hear of your loss. You’ve inspired me to donate to your shelter and our own shelter here.

    I love the picture of her sleeping in the sun.

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