Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Midwifing Death. Goodbye Bella.

Bella Marie, April 1, 2002 - June 11, 2013
The death of our middle cat, Luna, was one of the major catalysts that prompted me to start this blog and share my work. I realized that yesterday, when I went back into the archives to see what I’d written about then. Only I hadn’t. This is the first time I have tried to write from a place of fresh grief.
Today, we had to put another little family member down. It was unexpected and a quick turn. Our hearts are broken for the loss of our youngest cat. Like many people, we found ourselves in the position of having to choose whether or not we could put an end to Bella’s suffering, whether or not we could decide to open the door for death.
It wasn’t easy and it took us a day of going back and forth to come to an agreement. All the while, our darling girl faded more and more, and we could see it. Still, it was hard to make that choice. It’s supposed to be. We shouldn’t ever be able to choose to end a life easily. It was a sacred choice. A human choice. A necessary choice. Bella was sick. She was only going to get sicker. It was important to us that we be able to make that choice, before she was in distress. We waited too long with Luna and her final moments were not peaceful.
This kind of grief is feral. It threatens to loosen itself at every moment of habit that you realize is suddenly altered-for-life because of the absence of a loved one. This was the second time we have had to make the choice to end a life. When we took Luna to the vet, we thought we were taking her in to get better, only to discover there was only one option left. This time, we hoped the vet would tell us there was some miracle way that Bella could be okay… but we understood we were taking her to the vet to be put to sleep. Put down. Killed. Nothing sounds right, even though it was the right choice. It was not the choice we wanted to make. It was not a choice easily made. But we had learned from the first one.
While waiting for our appointment, we put on Bella’s favorite music, Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach on the Cello. We followed her around the house and cooed over her. We sang her every silly song we had ever made up for her. We snuggled with her. We brushed her with her favorite soft-bristled brush. We told her how much we loved her, over and over.
We held her head and promised her some peace as she died. I told her she was the best girl ever. Just like I did with Luna. And I meant it again. She was our baby. To be able to stand in that space with her… it’s a strength I didn’t know I had. Luna was gasping for air and it was an easy choice in the moment. This one was harder, maybe, because that other loss is still so painful. If you want to know what your places of fear are, if you want to know what you’re made of, the first time you sit a death bed vigil, you will.
She died in seconds, maybe less. I wrapped her in the purple blanket we bought her when she was a kitten and held her to my chest. My heart needed to feel that her heart was no longer beating. I needed to feel the rhythm-less weight of her in my arms before I could leave her body behind me, in the room.
One of the last photos I took of her.
It has only been a few hours and my head is dizzy from the interlocking layers of memory, from the feeling of where the spirit world met this physical world at the moment of her death. I can look in the kitchen and see Bella where she sat just this morning, and I know that moment can never happen again. Won’t ever. But both exist for me simultaneously in this grief. She is here and she is not here. To have had such a friend that my soul is so deeply grieved will be a blessing in the days to come, I am sure.

A Letter to Bella (April 1, 2002 – June 11, 2013), from your Momma
You were the nameless one. When we adopted Zami, they were calling her Beth, and Luna was named Sandy. But you were a blank slate in a cage in a mall pet store. And we wouldn’t take you home unless we could feel out your name the way we had found theirs. You were turd-colored in your young tortoiseshell mottling. You were so sick, they were considering putting you to sleep. So, of course, we brought you home.
In plumper days.
            Your first nickname was Brutus, because of the way you slapped your feet on the floor. We could hear you coming from three rooms away. You were more bear than cat at first, very roly poly and surprisingly ungraceful. Do you remember when you were small enough to sleep across the top of my head? How many times did I wake to find you gently kneading my eyelids?
You were a good kitten. I love that you spent your formative years living under the bed, or burrowing caves into folded up blankets. I loved the unpleasant cry that we came to learn was your sweet sound, and the way I would sigh and say, “Ah, the dulcet tones of Bella.” I loved making up songs to sing to you to coax you out of your persistent skittishness. I still think “catnip-stuffed purple moo-cow” is the best lyric I ever wrote.
Bella was fluent in Squirrel and learning Cricket.
I miss the jumpiness of the days before we knew how bad your eyesight was. I miss the way you would armadillo-jump into the air at any sudden movement around you. No wonder you spent so much time under the bed. And if anything about a room changed, like a purse was moved, or shoes were where no shoes had been before, it took you forever to slow-stalk your way in, while you pieced together what was different. While I loved the fat bear-cat who would come out at night and sit in my lap, I did love you best when you stopped living under the bed, when you stopped living like a shadow in our lives.
We shall not soon forget your exploits with your Arch-Nemesis, the Evil Yellow Vacuum Cleaner and his sidekick, the Dreaded Swiffer. Who will defend the dust bunny tribes, now? You evolved over the years from Brutus to Peanut (in the very last moment, I called you Nutter). I can’t imagine my life without you.
I will miss your company, and the lengthy conversations we used to have. I loved that you were a talker. I will miss understanding every nuance of sound you made. I will miss you pawing me in the face in the morning so that I would let you under the covers. I will miss the bullying moments when you would slap my knee with your paw and demand lap, right now, mama, damnit! I will miss giving into you. It was an important lesson for me. You were right, by the way. Ten minutes of lap time a day was not a lot to ask for.
            Little girl, who will be our great Moth Hunter now?
Thank you for being part of our family. Thank you for telling us you were sick. Thank you for trusting us enough to do what was best for you. I realized you had not left the door of the house since you were spayed ten years ago. I am glad you got to see the mountains and green fields before you left us. Before Luna came to greet you. I know you weren’t ready to leave us, but you needed to not be in pain. It’s okay that you wanted out of your body more than you wanted to stay. We understand.
You really were the best girl ever, Bella-bear. I love you. I will miss you forever, and remember you always.
Cave-Bella has left the building. Good night and sweet dreams little girl.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. A beautiful, moving tribute. Your love for her shines in every word.

  3. My heart goes out to you. My dear baby will be 21 in July, and I am cherishing every moment with her. Several years back I had to make that very same decision as you did, and I found a website, It helped me pull through my loss. They have an amazing candle ceremony in honor of our beloved pets which goes on every Monday evening. People from all over the world participate in this, and it is such a source of strength.

    Thinking of you,

  4. Thank you so much. The quiet of the house has made this harder than the last loss. sounds wonderful, and I will be looking into that.


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