This is my sweet Stanley. Beautiful, isn’t he? Each day, Stan and that other sweetie you can see a glimpse of behind him, Miso, goes outside to roam our land, catch mice, play with bugs, and do anything they want to. And each evening, both cats tend to meet us at the door, or they will come when we call with a bag of treats before bedtime. This has been our routine for the past 2 years. So when Stanley didn’t show up one evening, we all began to worry.
I spent the next morning looking for him while taking a walk, calling his name occasionally. The day after that, I ran up and down the road while checking all of the ditches. By day three, I had pretty much given up hope of finding him. When my son asked me that night if I still had hope, I just shook my head no. As he choked back his sobs, he yelled at me and told me I couldn’t give up yet. “Mom, maybe somebody took him in or maybe he’s been out there fighting in the night. He *is* Ninja Kitty, after all!”
Because of the words of my little boy, I *did* have hope. If I started to think about the situation rationally, I thought Stanley would never be back. I grew up in (and still live in) a rural area. Coyotes have taken/eaten several of our cats before. We have bears and foxes in the area, too. And we have people…in cars. BUT, maybe somebody really *did* have him at their house. It was possible. Anything was possible, right?
A day or two later, a week since we last aw Stan, we made “Lost Cat” posters and put one up outside of our home. Bri and I set out to walk to the stop sign at the end of our road to put another poster up there. Everyone in our neighborhood would see that one for sure, and maybe someone would have an answer for us. As we started down the road, though, I started to smell something. I knew whatever I was smelling was dead and decomposing. If you run or walk much outside, particularly in Maine, you know this odor. As I neared the area where the smell was the strongest, I held my breath, hoping to find a bird or a groundhog.
And there he was.
I wasn’t sure at first. I thought it was a large bird. Then I saw glimpses of his beautiful grey fur….and his lovely tail.
Briar was lagging behind me, so he didn’t see anything. I told him I needed to go ask his Papa something. I walked into the house and whispered, “I need you to look at something for me.” Walter looked at my face and said, “Oh, no.” He went out and confirmed what I already knew. That’s when I started to cry. I tried to hold myself together, but as Walter told Bri that Stanley had been hit by a car and was dead, my son started to howl and I cried along beside him. Bri kept yelling, “I want him back! I want him back! It’s not fair!” He cried and screamed as we walked back to the house, then threw himself on his bed and cried some more. He threw things around in his room, as he continued to cry, “It’s just not fair!”
I completely agreed with him and told him so. I didn’t say anything about Stanley being in a better place, because I don’t believe that. I just told my son that he was right. It sucked, it wasn’t fair and I wish we could have him back, too. But we can’t. So we talked about how great Stanley was and how sweet and cuddly he was and how he really did have a good life with us. After Bri calmed down, he asked to play a video game for a bit. I immediately said yes. I wanted him to just “escape” for a while, and maybe I could, too. While my husband stayed home with our boy, I took a walk and listened to a trashy novel and just tried to get away for a bit. We now knew what had happened and we could have a little bit of closure.
But there was still a problem. How do we bury him?
Poor Stanley’s body was not what it had been. Although I had looked in the ditches for nearly a week, I never saw him the entire time. Yet now that I knew where he was, it seemed so obvious. There’s a spot on the road and the grass is patted down in front of where his body lay. Why didn’t I ever see it? How could I have missed this? But I did. Many times.
But now I needed to get his body across the road to my yard, where he can be buried under our spruce tree. My husband didn’t think we could do it. He used a term to describe Stanley’s body that I refuse to repeat. It made me angry and I couldn’t think of our beautiful cat in that manner. So when my husband went off to work this morning, I found a box, gloves and a shovel. I told Bri we would bury Stanley later in the morning, but I needed to get him ready first. Briar agreed and would stay inside until I told him it was ok to come out. And as I was getting ready to go outside, my lovely brother called to say he would be down to help me. His timing is truly impeccable. :)
As I started to dig around and under Stanley’s body, I thought that it was amazing (and fortunate) I had never had to do this in my life up to this point. I thought of gardening and digging in the dirt and anything but what I was really doing. After a few minutes, I knew I needed to try on the other side of the ditch to get a better grip on the dirt underneath Stan’s body. But…that’s when I saw his face….his profile….and I started to talk to Stanley. “Oh, sweetie,” I whispered and I started to cry. I kept digging and realized that I just couldn’t pick up all of him. It just wasn’t possible. Which made me cry even more.
My brother arrived at this point, took the shovel from me, and lifted what he could of sweet Stanley, and placed him in a box. It was just too much to do any more. It was too heartbreaking. So I closed the box, carried it across the street, and dug a hole. Briar came outside at this point, and after I placed the box in the ground, the three of us buried Stanley together. We talked about what a great cat he was and how much we’ll miss him. It was simple and cleansing in a way, you know? In kind of felt good. I did the best I could by Stanley. I refused to let his body stay in that ditch, and I allowed my son to take part in a brief ceremony that helped him say goodbye.
And helped me say goodbye, too.
You were a damn cool cat, Stanley, and impossible to forget. I love you.