She died quietly today, after being ill for just a few days. She was old; while we don’t know her exact age (we adopted her from the SPCA), our best guess is 18. That’s not too shabby for a cat. While she’d been showing signs of age and some frailty for the past year or so, she was 100-per-cent her smart, full-of-beans, affectionate but independent-minded self right up until three days ago. Over those three days she quickly became weaker and less able to control her bodily functions, and at midday today her body quietly gave out. It was a blessing. We hated to see her so ill, and I am sure she hated being so ill.
But she was still our old Sieste to the end. In these last days she always acknowledged us when we came near to her bed, and purred when we stroked and cuddled her, which was often. She did her best to get up and follow us around when we were in another room, as she always has.
And here is the best story of all, one I will not be able to write for you without sobbing.
As I mentioned in this post chronicling Sieste’s daily routine here at the Manse, for a long time it was her habit to come upstairs early each morning and yowl at us when she thought it was time to be up. Which tended to be half an hour or so earlier than we actually needed to be up, half an hour before the non-feline alarm clock would sound. Many were the mornings when we would sleepily curse at this too-early wakeup call from Sieste, even while we (of course) always continued to love her and appreciate the fact that she wanted us to come and hang out with her at the start of a new day.
Sieste hasn’t done the early-morning wakeup for the past couple of months or so, probably because she was just getting elderly and tired. Those steps can be hard for an old girl to climb, especially the high, steep ones ones in the Manse’s back staircase (as opposed to the front staircase; and why there are two staircases is an interesting question). But frankly, Raymond and I weren’t complaining about the lack of early-morning yowling.
Last night we stayed up quite late with her, as she lay in her bed in the dining room downstairs, just beside where I am writing this now. She was very weak and obviously fading quickly. She could hardly move, and when she did try she could not go even a step without wobbling, often falling over and having to lie where she’d fallen. We knew she was almost gone, and it was hard to say goodnight.
I set the alarm for 7 a.m., when I had to get up to go to work.
At 6:30 on the nose, there came a quiet, familiar yowl from a familiar place.Sieste the cat, who was failing so quickly and had absolutely no strength left, had somehow climbed those steep old back stairs at just the right time (that is, half an hour before the alarm was to go off), lain down in her familiar old position as the sun was rising, and issued one last wakeup call to her people.
I spent a lot of time with her this morning in that place at the top of the stairs, stroking her and telling her over and over again how much we loved her and how much we appreciated the morning alerts. Which in general was not exactly the truth; but on this morning, it was the truest thing ever. What a good, brave girl to have forced her dying body to do it one last time.
She died a short time later.
As I take a few minutes to weep about that lovely final gesture, I will turn things over to some pictures of our Sieste, Manse Cat Extraordinaire:
It feels so strange to be finishing this post without Sieste perched either on the living-room chesterfield (where she could keep an eye on everything) or on the hassock right beside me (where she could keep me close company). She was always an excellent assistant for Meanwhile, at the Manse.
The Manse feels very lonely tonight. And very quiet.
Raymond and I buried Sieste late this afternoon. Her final resting place is beside the clothesline pole, a place that sees lots of action by her clothesline-loving mum (me). I will think of her every time I hang the laundry out and take it in. I know she would like that.
We don’t yet have a grave marker, so in the interim we put up a little sign that we bought a while back (at Wilson’s of Madoc) and that formerly hung in the corner where Sieste’s food and water dishes are. It was perfect for Sieste: “What part of MEOW don’t you understand?”
Here is her grave, with a tulip from our garden and a scattering of some Madoc Mix grass seed – the latter the subject of a future post.
Which I will have to write without Sieste’s help. Our good pussycat. Our good girl.
Never was a cat more loved.