I was sitting in the kitchen, about to start reading the newspaper. It was raining.
I heard my wife say “Oh, Mojo, do you want to come on inside?” as she walked over to the sliding glass door.
A moment later she came into the kitchen. “There’s something wrong.”
I could see in her eyes that it wasn’t a mouse. Maybe his eye was leaking puss again or maybe he had gotten into a scrape with another animal.
I found him lying on the back deck, on his side, with his eyes open. He was dead.
I stared at him for a long time, through the window. My kids, 2 boys aged 2 and 4, were both in the room, typing on the computer and watching a dinosaur show, oblivious to the dead animal on the deck right outside the door.
My sweet little Mojo, the most lovable cat in the world, was dead. He died on the back deck, right outside the door, on a cold and rainy night. Had he lay there for hours, meowing, begging to be let in?
There were no obvious marks from a fight. The most likely cause was a heart attack, or something related called a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It was probably quick and painless. But I still felt guilty.
Finally I stepped back from the door.
My wife produced an old diaper box and 2 white garbage bags from our kitchen. We quickly agreed that we didn’t want our kids to see a dead cat, and that I would move him while she distracted them. I put on some gloves – huge fireplace mitts – and went outside. I had to move quickly.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to touch him.
10 hours earlier I was snuggling with the cat in my lap, petting him while he purred, now I couldn’t even touch him. I was afraid. He wasn’t a cat anymore, he was a mess of decomposing organs, fur and claws and tissue and intestines.
My wife came outside. “We should do this together,” she said. We scooped him into the bag. Then we put the bag in the box, and went back inside.
Part 1 was over. Now we had to decide how to tell the kids.
We waited more than an hour.
My wife took the lead.
“Hey guys, something very sad happened last night. Mojo died. He was a sweet little kitty kat, but he was old, and he died. It’s very sad.”
Something like that. No stupid promises about cat heaven or anything like that. Just the truth.
My 2 year old ran into her arms and started crying. Seeing his reaction made me cry, for the first time. He said “Will he come back tomorrow? Will he be another kitty kat tomorrow?”
My 4 year old was drawing on construction paper. He kept on drawing while she talked. He pretended not to hear her. He pressed the marker hard into the paper, and harder still. He was drawing an orange cat, but he was pressing so hard into the paper that it was turning into an inkblot. Then he drew another cat.
“Hey buddy, do you understand what happened?”
“I’m drawing a cat! Two cats! They’re holding hands!”
He was crying. Sort of. There were no tears. He made these wailing noises, and his face got all screwed up, like he was about to start sobbing. I tried to give him a hug. He pushed me away.
“I’m laughing!” His voice was strained. He was not laughing. It was bizarre. I tried again and he pushed me away again. “I’m laughing! I’m laughing!”
He could not face his emotions. I didn’t know what to do. I sat near him and let him be. He continued to draw, adding fish and prehistoric sea monsters to his drawing.
I wanted to bury Mojo in the backyard, but the ground is frozen and rocky and I couldn’t imagine how I’d dig down 3 feet. So I paid the vet $144 to cremate him.
Rest in peace, Mojo.
Go here for Jeff Camaro’s take.