Almost a dozen years ago, when my daughter went to the animal shelter in Boston to get a cat, she saw him slumped in the corner of his cage, looking (in human terms) depressed — unlike the other cats who were vying for her attention. When she had the cage opened and lifted him out, he immediately put his paws around her neck and started purring, nuzzling her neck and then hunkering down into her arms and sighing with relief. When put pack into his cage, he went back to his corner and lay as if dead. The worker there told of how he hated the cage and how unlikey it would be for someone to adopt the two-year old of mound of matted, hacked out, and drooling fur.
She was hooked.
Cleaned up, fed, and loved, he turned into an amazingly kingly feline in both nature and stature (despite his short legs).
She named him Kazik, the nickname for Kazimierz, which translates into Casimir, which is the name of one of Poland’s greatest kings.
Kazik had been having some physical problems lately. The test had shown a urinary track infection, diabetes, and more. He was on medication.
Yesterday evening, she found him on the floor near his litter box, laboring to breathe. They rushed him to the veterinary emergency room. All four of them went together — my daughter, son-in-law, grandson, and Kazik. It was past the toddler’s bedtime, but they all went together. Kazik was deeply loved by all of them.
Only three of them came back. They had to make the tough but necessary decision. Kazik died in her arms.
On the way home, my grandson insisted that he didn’t want to leave Kazik there. “Nooo, want Kazik to come home!”
They tried to explain that sometimes animals and people, like trucks, get broken. Sometimes you can fix them. But sometimes you can’t. They are too broken.
She had just had a similar conversation with him about Bambi’s mother. “Want Bambi to be with his mother!” he cried. She didn’t talk about the hunter; rather she told him that Bambi’s mother was hurt and broken. And how his father would take good care of him. “Nooo! Fix Bambi’s mother!”
When my grandson asks, they will tell him that Kazik is never coming home. That he was too broken to fix. They will talk about how they all loved him and how sad they all are that their wonderful pet is gone, and they will soon let him pick out his own cat from the shelter.
It’s my grandson’s first lesson about dying. It’s only the beginning of the lesson. As he asks, they will do their best to explain — within the context of their non-religious beliefs. (It’s so much simpler to explain if you believe in heaven.)
Kazik, yesterday. My mom at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Life is a long letting-go.
Goodbye, Kazik. You were, indeed, a loveable king of cats.