Dec 10 2004 -- Comet (our first cat) dies. I am pretty well shattered by this.
I grew up largely ignorant of death: blessed with four long-lived grandparents and few losses among people I knew. For my first 30+ years, I simply didn’t lose anybody. And in the way of such things, I really didn’t understand how lucky I’d been.
Then my grandparents started to pass away, but there was something very remote about that. I saw them maybe once a year (often less), and their deaths were all far away, down in Florida. There was something unreal about it. A sense of loss, to be sure, and from time to time I would miss them, but at the same time it was sadly natural. It wasn’t just that they were in their 80s: all of them were pretty *old* by the time they passed.
It was a sad blessing when Grandma Supnik passed away: she had been probably the most shining of my grandparents, but was bedridden and quite senile -- talking to her the last few times had been agony. After her death, Grandpa Supnik’s burden was lifted, but that burden was a good deal of what had kept him going, so he passed away quietly not long after. Both of the Waks grandparents had been dealing with injuries, and while they aged better than Grandma Supnik, it wasn’t really a surprise when either of them died.
But Comet’s death was immediate and terribly real: ladysprite came over and helped him pass at home; I made the mistake of watching closely as he died. I’ll never entirely forget that experience, the first time I ever *really* interacted with death. It took a long time to get over. Worse, there was the awful knowledge that it had been my decision. It was the right one, and I’d do it again today: his health was failing, and it was a choice between a gentle euthanasia now or a worse death in a few days. But that responsibility was one of the hardest I’d ever felt. (It echoed terribly in Jane's last few hours, but we'll get to that. Sometimes the hardest responsibility is simply letting go.)
Jane wasn’t quite as naive to the topic as I, having lost her father a few years earlier. But again, that was relatively natural and unsurprising. Most folks never met her father, who was fully 50 years older than her -- her father and my grandfather were contemporaries at Lafayette. He was a good, solid, quiet man who didn’t make waves, just provided for his family. I’m slowly getting to know him better through the memoirs and materials that I’ve inherited. He passed much as he had lived: quietly and without fuss one summer afternoon.
Jan 30 2005 -- And then, with little time for recovery, Merlin (our second cat) died. This hit me arguably even harder than Comet -- Merlin was the clever and fun little monster, and had always been my favorite cat. Those of who are newer to my friends circle, imagine a smarter and less shy (but just as lively) version of Jedi, and you’ve got Merlin.
The situation was much the same as with Comet -- Merlin was slightly younger, but still quite an old cat and in terribly failing health. Again, putting him to sleep then was the right and necessary thing to do. But again, it tore me up inside more than anything I’d ever felt before.
After that, we decided more or less immediately to move. We had long grown to hate the old Waltham house: while we’d had many good times there, it had always made us crazy with its eccentricities, and we needed a clean slate. The only reason we had stayed as long as we did was because we didn’t want to disrupt the lives of our poor old cats; with both of them now gone, we chose to made the jump.
December 2005 -- We move to the new house in Burlington. The year was largely focused on the house hunt -- somewhat idly at first, then more actively once Susan came on board as our Buyer’s Agent and jolted us into action.
That brought its own strange little passing -- not a death, but a ritual of change nonetheless. We had left the old house largely as it had been when we’d bought it: the paint had gotten a bit dingy (and the look was quite dated), but it was homey. But to sell it, we had to spruce it up, and that new coat of paint -- going from the old warm pink to a cool and impersonal white -- was its own odd rebirth. A bit of a loss, but a helpful one: walking through the house after the paint job, it was no longer the home that we’d made for ourselves, just a piece of property to be sold. Our lives were now bound up with the new place in Burlington, and Waltham was now the past.