Wednesday, January 9, 2008

R is For Remembrance

After reading Jodi's post and then Amy's, I feel compelled to hold up my end of the blogosphere's conversation on the subject of beloved pets that have passed on and memorials in the garden. Yep, they're connected.

I've always loved cats and I've always had cats. From the time I was born and my parents had Tom, a cat nearly as big as I was at six months of age (and I was BIG at six months of age) through Friend and Big Yella Fella and Christopher and Smokey and Misha and Woogie and Muffin and Jazzy and Mimi and the recent troupe of understand. And they have all been well-loved, but perhaps none more than our Mimi.

When the girls were little, we went through a succession of kittens that came from who knows where - you know how it is when you live out in the country. They just show up. Kids and kittens just seem to take to each other naturally and when the hand of fate takes a slap at unsuspecting kittens that wander too close to the road, you have a couple of really sad kids on your hands.

You have a pretty sad Mommy, too, who not only feels bad for her children, but who had also gotten pretty attached to the kittens. So Mommy went to Daddy and begged him to allow the next ball of fur to live inside. What's a daddy to do with three pleading, whining females on his hands?
And that's how Mimi came to live with us. Really live with us. Oh yes, we promised to clean the litter box every day and we meant to do it. Honest! But time went on and you know who ended up taking care of the cat.

Mimi was special. First of all, she was a Hemingway cat - a polydactyl, with an extra toe on each of her front paws. And she talked to us; I'm not kidding. You could hold her in your lap, face to face, and meow at her and she would meow back, every time. The girls just thought that was the funniest thing and always wanted me to send a video of it to AFV (America's Funniest Videos).

Mimi was a big girl at 16 pounds and no doubt owed her girlish figure to successful begging at the table or when we'd eat snacks. She was really good at catching popcorn in her mouth when you tossed her a kernel.

When someone would come to the house, Mimi would disappear and you'd never see her unless she decided to grace you with her presence. She didn't like men very well and eventually she was the gauge by which we judged boyfriends to be worthy of a second date with the girls. If they were okay in Mimi's book, then they were generally okay with us. Such a good protective mommy cat she was!

But in the sixteen years that Mimi lived with us, it was a well-known fact that she was my cat. She loved me best. I could call her and she would come. If I laid down on the couch for a nap, she had to be right there snoozin' with me and not just beside me - she had to have her face right there next to mine. When I had bacterial meningitis in 1999 and spent eight days in the hospital, the girls told me she wandered around the house, mournfully meowing, as if she were calling for me. When I returned home for recuperation, she never left my side for a minute. For the first couple of weeks when the visiting nurses came to give me my daily dose of antibiotic through my pic line, we physically had to move Mimi off my lap because she just wasn't going anywhere. I sure felt loved.

Eventually, Mimi became quite deaf and because of this, she grew to love the Dustbuster almost as much as she loved catnip. She would get a good buzz on with her kitty weed and running the Dustbuster over her fur elicited much the same response. Prior to her deafness, she was scared to death of it.

Arthritis was also not a friend to her and in her last few years, she was unable to jump up on the couch or the bed. She would sit and look into your eyes and meow, then wait patiently for you to lift her up beside you. One of her favorite napping places was at the foot of our bed in the mornings when the sun shone through the east window onto it, and it was here that Mimi spent the last morning of her life.

We had always said if the time ever came that Mimi was unable to use the litter box due to health problems that we would not be able to live with that. For one week in April 2003, we dealt with that very issue and we knew the time had come to make the dreaded decision. Romie and I talked about it and without actually saying it, we made the choice to call the vet. They told us we could bring her in that day.

Kara had to go to work, as did Romie, and Jenna was away at college. That left me to deal with it alone. I'd called Jenna at school to ask if she wanted to come home to say goodbye and she declined, wanting to remember Mimi as she was when she had been home just a couple of weeks earlier. Kara carried Mimi up to our bed and laid her in the sun, then said her tearful goodbye before leaving for work.

My mom was out of town, but I called my dad and asked him to go with me to the vet's and he readily agreed, so I picked him up and we both went in and waited our turn. Mimi fell asleep in my arms and began snoring, which she was prone to do, and Dad and I both grinned at it. Finally, the time came and I took Mimi into the room and as I sobbed and told Mimi what a good kitty she'd been...The Best...she left us.

I walked out with her in my arms as Dad drove back to his house, then I laid Mimi in a little box I had in the passenger seat and drove her home. By the time I got there, Romie was back home from work and he prepared her burial site. In my earlier conversation with Jenna, she had suggested that we bury Mimi in the herb garden under the kitchen window. We grew catnip there and Jenna said that's where she belonged. So it was that Mimi was laid gently to rest under the catnip, wrapped lovingly in one of our dark green bath towels.

The catnip no longer grows there, nor do any other herbs because the trumpet vine has grown over the pergola so much now that it's shaded nearly all day and herbs love sun. But a specially engraved stone now marks Mimi's grave. Mimi left her mark on our hearts long before that.

There have been other family pets before and since, that have found a final resting place in our gardens. Several cats, an iguana, a salamander, two birds, and a tarantula are buried in the vegetable garden. Just more than a year ago, we buried Jinx in the flower garden. I made a simple concrete name marker that is at ground level below a flat stone stood on end that we found as we were digging in the yard last year.

We love remembering our pets this way. They are a big part of our lives and because of them we will live longer than if we had never had them. They've earned their place of honor in our little pet cemetery. This is where they lived and died and live again in our memories.

NEXT: Special Plants For Special People


Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Oh Kylee, your Mimi was a once in a lifetime special kitty, wasn't she? You are so lucky to have had her in your life and well you know it. Thanks for sharing Mimi's wonderful story of her life as a much beloved and pampered family pet.

BTW cute pic of you and a little kitten!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is a wonderful way to remember your pets.

Mamma Sarah said...

What a wonderful tribute to your pets. Your post made me cry, but that was because it was such a wonderful story. said...

what a lovely, poignant post. I know how very special our 4-pawed family members are to each of us.

That stone for Mimi is a lovely remembrance too.

Dogs Naturally

Unknown said...

Well, I'm now sitting here with tears rolling down my face, and so are probably a lot of other readers who know just how this feels...beautifully written Kylee, and please pass the kleenex!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Yep, tears here too. Kylee this was a beautifully written post. I have never been a cat person, but I love the little kitty I found three years ago, she is my favorite pet ever. I'm her favorite too and identified with that part of your story too.

Cindy Garber Iverson said...


This is a beautiful post about your beloved Mimi (I'm weeping as I type this). What a sweet and wonderful tribute to a beloved companion and friend. I know how it feels to say goodbye and how it feels to still miss a special kitty friend years later. Mimi would be proud of this post, I'm certain of it.

Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Anonymous said...

Your post made me cry as well. I'm such a wimp when it comes to animals. **sigh** It reminded me of all my beloved cats that I have adored over the years. I miss them.

Kylee Baumle said...

Oh dear. I didn't mean to make you all cry! Kara and Jenna (our daughters) both called to say it made them cry, too.

Mimi really was a special kitty and we are better for having been loved by her and she paved the way for future kitties. We still talk about her and miss her.

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