This has been a tough week. It is the last week of term and also Boy the Younger’s last week of Primary school. This means that there seems to be an event at the school every two and a half minutes, all of which require me to DO something or BE somewhere. In between this, I have to fit in my normal work and spend a day on the Fens shooting for seven hours for the Grace and Glory photographic project. I am proper knackered.
Yesterday afternoon, I had finished work, been to BTY’s sports day and had run home for a cup of tea and a rest before heading out for his school play at 5.30pm. As I got out of my car, my next door neighbour came out with a very anxious expression.
She had found one of my cats, Jeremiah, dead in her garden. I went round and there he was, lying in the grass as though in a deep sleep. He was stiff but warm from the sun and his mouth was full of grass. There wasn’t a mark on him – no sign of injury from fighting or being run over – he just looked as though he had fallen asleep in the sun. Smog, my other cat, was hovering beside him, standing guard and she followed me back as I carried his little body into our own garden.
I sat on the bench with him cradled in my arms, stroking his head and pulling the grass out from between his teeth. I can only speculate what happened to him. Perhaps he ate something poisonous and he had a stomach ache which was why he was eating grass, perhaps he had a heart attack, we shall never know. He was only four.
The boys sat on either side unable to take in what had happened and BTY and I cried and cried. Boy the Elder was worried that he didn’t feel like crying but, as I told him, we all grieve in different ways and we should never feel obliged to put on displays of emotion just to demonstrate to others that we feel deeply. Grief is a private and intimate thing and we don’t love less for not displaying it.
The timing of the cosmos being what it is, BTY had to perform in his school play and, to his credit, insisted upon going ahead with it. We wrapped Jeremiah in an old towel and placed him in a lidded wooden box and put him in the shed until we could decide what to do with him.
The garden soil is solid clay so burial there was impossible and cremation at the vet is too expensive. We decided that we would bury him in the woods which rather suits his adventurous nature. We had found him as a lost kitten in a hawthorn tree, so it seemed a fitting end.
We walked into the woods, and found a place of soft earth under the dappled light of hawthorn trees, at the end of a long-disused railway track. We took turns at digging, hauling out tree roots and clearing twigs and stones. We laid him in the hole and covered him over with soil. We found some bricks from the former embankment to edge the grave and covered the top in loose chippings, having planted some flowers on the top and placed the lid of the box at the head as a marker. I shall use the rest of the box to plant flowers in. BTY said some prayers, we lit some little candles and quietly walked home.
I can’t quite bring myself to take up his food bowl yet and it will be some time before I remember not to call him in at night. He often slept on BTY’s bed and I would creep in at night to find them curled up together in blissful peace, a picture of calm and happiness.
The sadness of losing a pet should never been underestimated. For some people, their pet is their sole companion and their reason to get up every day, and to lose that animal is akin to losing a family member and the feelings of loss are the same.
For us, Jeremiah was a gift. He came to us out of the blue and we loved him deeply. He was an independent cat who wandered abroad and who had learned to knock on the back door to be let in. He occasionally wee-ed on the carpet and would torment small animals for fun. But his love for us was genuine and freely given and I hope that wherever he is now, he has gardens to explore, furry things to chase and a full tummy.