Many of you have pets, and if you have a pet you know what a stressful time it can be when your pet is sick – especially when the sickness can’t be cured. Every day you have to prepare yourself for the worst – and you have to face that you may have to make that really difficult decision to end the pet’s suffering. It’s a hard time full of difficult days and nights. My pet cat is sick – she has inoperable cancer. But she’s my buddy – she still curls up with me and we “watch” TV. She is not in any pain, but you can tell she’s not herself. She is hanging on. Now there’s a sadness that pervades everything around here as we wait for the inevitable… but hope it doesn’t come soon. I’m sure if you ever lost a pet to long and serious illness you know how difficult it can be
Her sickness reminded me of another little friend of mine who died almost twelve years ago, on September 22, 2006. I wrote this essay the day after that – the day after my little friend died.
So for both my little furry friends, and for every one of you who has a pet or pets they love, we are republishing this 2006 essay entitled “Farewell to a Friend”.
We hope you enjoy reading it.
Farewell to a Friend
On a gloomy, peaceful, August morning I laid my little friend to rest.
It was raining and that seemed fitting. Like tears from a saddened sky the raindrops fell on me as I carried my little friend to his final resting place. The rain kept falling as I laid him to rest and my thoughts drifted back to happier times.
When my youngest son was nine years old, he was going through a difficult time in his life, as many kids do at that age. He didn’t have many friends then, but he was a bright and loving child, who loved people and wanted people to love him. He didn’t have a mean bone in his little body.
I thought then, that perhaps a pet would be good for him. Something he could take care of and love. We found a kitten – on a farm – just a little tabby cat. My son fell in love with the little fella. So, we took him home. My son named him “Cody”. That was sixteen years ago.
I was never a cat lover. I didn’t hate cats, I just never much cared for them. But I do love animals of all kinds. I guess I have always thought of cats as sneaky critters. I was about to learn something about cats.
When we brought Cody home, he was a bundle of energy as most kittens are. Slowly, as he got used to his new surroundings he began to develop his own personality. I can’t tell you the number of times he did things that made me laugh. He used to have a rather “DUH!” look about him, but I think underneath that blank-eyed stare he was pretty intelligent. After a few years he had us trained pretty well.
As my son grew, Cody became more and more a part of the family. During my son’s difficult times in fourth and fifth grade, Cody was his friend and brightened his days. They became very good and loyal friends.
Kevin and I used to kid around later that Cody was more like a dog than a cat. Who ever heard of cat that came when you called him? Cody did. And, Cody could sleep with the best of them. Anytime. Anywhere. We used to joke that when Cody passed away, we’d just think he was sleeping. We didn’t realize then, how prescient that “joke” would be.
Cody was more than a cat, he was part of my son’s life; he was part of my life. He was part of sixteen Christmases; and he became a part of each day, for sixteen years. When I’d go away for a day or two and come back, I would come to expect him to be sitting there by the door (it didn’t matter which door I chose to come in, he somehow always guessed right) waiting.
Cody grew up with my son and became part of his life. And because he was part of my son’s life, he was part of my life too. And, after my son left for college, Cody and I became even closer.
Well, I don’t know if a cat can really become “close” to someone, but I think so. He was everything a pet is supposed to be: Loving, gentle, funny, and loyal. And, I’ll tell you: he lived his life like a king. Cody even had his own lawn chair. I set up “his chair” in the garage during the warm seasons just so he could sit and look out at the world on spring, summer and autumn days – and watch the world go by. He used to like to watch the kids walk by after school; he loved watching the cars pass – he just enjoyed watching the world go by.
Cody also spent plenty of summer days sleeping under bushes too. He loved to lay in the shade, on a hot summer day, and sleep. Some days he would sleep under “his” bush, in the shade for an entire day. Whenever we couldn’t find him, we knew exactly where to look – under the bushes in the front of the house. It sort of made me jealous that he could sleep so well, anytime, anywhere!
Time flew by and my son grew up and Cody grew up right along side him. I watched them grow together; I watched them play together; I watched them become friends. Kevin loved Cody and Cody loved Kevin.
Then, one day it happened: My son left home to go to college and couldn’t take Cody with him. They don’t allow pets in dorms, at least not at his university. It was really a hard time for me when he left for school. I can remember crying all the way home the day I dropped him off. It was the first time he had ever been away from home for any extended period of time – and the house seemed so achingly empty and dark when I got back home.
But, I think it was just as hard on Cody as it was on me – and that’s saying a lot. For weeks Cody acted as forlorn and heartbroken as I felt. He didn’t eat with his normal gusto; he didn’t sleep under the bushes on warm days – in fact he hardly went outside at all. He just roamed around the house, looking lost and sad. It looked for all the world like he was searching and searching all over the house for his buddy and couldn’t ever find him. Cody and I shared a common bond in those days. We both missed Kevin dearly.
After Kevin left, Cody would lay on my son’s bed for hours and hours each day. And that was something he rarely did when my son was home; except when it was time for my son to go to bed – but that’s another story. And that memory still makes me laugh!
When my son was in grade school, Cody would always want to go to bed with him. But my son didn’t necessarily want the cat going to bed with him. Well that was because Cody would lay right next to him, and I mean RIGHT next to him – and my son was a “tosser and turner”. He was always afraid he would roll over on Cody and hurt him. I think Cody was faster than that, but still, my son was always concerned that he’d toss and turn and end up hurting Cody. Be that as it may, it was extremely difficult to keep Cody from getting in my son’s bedroom every night. Cody might have looked dumb, but he sure wasn’t – he could outwit us – at least when it came to getting in my son’s bedroom.
Every night when I said goodnight to my son, the word “Goodnight” became a signal for Cody to come scurrying into my son’s bedroom as fast as he could from wherever he was. This set off a series of complicated maneuvers, as we tried to outsmart the cat and keep him out of the bedroom. We tried all sorts of things to trick Cody so that my son could go to bed and I could shut the door before Cody found a way back in the room again.
Now, Cody might have had that “the lights are on but nobody’s home” look about him, but he was smart. No doubt about that.. He began to understand that we were going to keep him out of my son’s bedroom and he wasn’t going to be allowed to stay in the room all night. I can’t even count the number of times I would pick him up and haul him out of my son’s bedroom so my son could go to sleep. It got to the point where he would scurry into the room as soon as he heard the word “Goodnight” and hide under the bed; under the very center of the bed – just out of my reach. And I swear he looked at me from under the bed as I tried to grab him and smirked. Now cats can’t smirk, but I swear I saw him smirking at me.
So, we (hopefully), being a little smarter than Cody, started saying the word “Goodnight” a little before bedtime but we’d say it from another part of the house. We would say it VERY loud too!. And, Cody, would, as scheduled, run off into the bedroom and wait. However, my son wasn’t there, I wasn’t there, the room was empty. After a little while, Cody realized he’d been fooled and would come moseying back out and looking for us. My son would then quickly go to bed and I’d quietly say goodnight to him with the door closed, and I, knowing Cody would be right outside the bedroom door (he caught on to this little ruse after a few days) carefully opened the door, put my hand down in front of Cody’s face to block his path, leave my son’s bedroom and shut the door behind me. Cody, bewildered by all these machinations, would lay down in the hallway, right outside my son’s bedroom door and wait for any opportunity to present itself so he could gain entrance to this now forbidden room.
But, children grow up and go on with their lives.
My son left for college and Cody was left bewildered and lonesome for him for a long time. But, even for cats, life goes on and after quite some time had passed he grew accustomed to this his situation. And, I became his friend. I fed him, I gave him water, I talked to him, I cared for him, I petted him and I played with him. So, after my son left, Cody sort of became “my” cat. Yes, me, the one who never thought much of cats, now had a cat I loved. I was his friend and he was mine.
My son left for college seven years ago and is now a graduate student. Cody was just past his sixteenth birthday. Age had taken its toll on the once energetic cat. He moved slower, he ate less, and he slept more – the mischievous gleam had long since left his mysteriously yellow eyes. But, he wasn’t sick. He had always been cared for very well. Even until the last morning of his life, when I got up and made coffee, he’d greet me with a “meow” and follow me around until I finally gave in and petted him. And, (this may sound strange) but I would always carry on a conversation with him in the morning. And though, I’m positive that he didn’t understand what a word I was saying (and I don’t think he really cared what I was saying) he’d look up at me with those big yellow eyes as if he did; and that’s all that mattered to me. He knew I was talking to him. We became “old” friends in more ways than one.
One Saturday, near the end of August, I realized that I hadn’t seen Cody all day – not since “our” morning coffee. But that was not unusual. It had been a warm summer day, and that usually meant that Cody had sought out his favorite bush and fallen asleep in its shade.
But, as darkness fell that day, I became concerned and went out to look for him. It had started to drizzle and it was very unusual for Cody to remain outside in the rain. As darkness was falling, I went out and looked for my friend. I found him. Under a bush, apparently sleeping. But he wasn’t moving. He wasn’t breathing. He had died in his sleep at the age of 16 years and a few days. I thought it was fitting that this gentle, loving cat, had died peacefully in his sleep – and that’s the best any of us can hope for.
I went in the house and alone in the dark I cried. I cried for my friend of 16 years who had become so much a part of my life. It was hard to believe that he wasn’t going to be in the kitchen with me the next morning as I made coffee with him under my feet. It seemed strange that a man who once didn’t like cats, was heartbroken over the loss of one.
On Sunday morning, I buried my friend. The morning brought a glooming peace with it. And, as I shoveled the the last bit of dirt on top of the small box which was Cody’s coffin, a single tear ran down my cheek. The rain fell lightly and silently. And on this peaceful, dark, gloomy morning I buried my old friend. I never ever imagined that I would cry over a cat. Cody was not just a cat. He was my friend. And, it’s a hard thing to do when you have to say your final farewell to an old friend.
Farewell, Cody. I will miss you. I really will.