This last Sunday evening, we had to put our beloved cat, Casper, to sleep. His circumstances escalated to a state of emergency late Sunday night while both littles were sleeping, so neither of the littles got the chance to say good-bye. When D-Bop woke the next morning, Mac Daddy and I fought through tears as we told him the sad news. As he digested the information and studied our faces, he responded:
“Fart nugget.” Then he laughed hysterically.
Not exactly the response I was expecting. Especially from the kid that cried for weeks over the fact that we were selling our car.
But in D-Bop’s defense, death is, well, weird. Unexpected. Unknown. Scary. Peaceful. Mysterious. Confusing. Sudden. Drawn out. Inevitable. Terrifying. And to a child, death is watching adults cry in front of you.
So perhaps “fart nugget” as a coping mechanism makes as much sense as anything.
Later that day I picked D-Bop up from school and we headed to our play date. He told me that at rest time he was sad because he was thinking about Casper. (Which I’m not going to lie, gave me a bit of relief — my kid DOES have normal sympathetic feelings!!). He then asked if Casper could see us right now, since we had told him he was in heaven.
“Yes,” I said. “He can see you and hear you right now.” D-Bop then decided that we should turn up the radio, because there was a rock song on, and surely Casper would like it. The two of us then continued on with this schtick and decided Casper was actually in the car with us, and in fact death was kind of cool for him because now we could take him EVERYWHERE because he would always be with us. He was climbing all over the car and at times even FLOATING around in the car. When he was alive, he could never go on play dates with us, and we were on our way to a super fun bounce house place, and now we didn’t even need to worry about his claws popping one of the bounce houses. I mean, what a lucky cat.
And why can’t all of this be true?
Talking with my little fart nugget made me find hope and joy again. It was the first thing all day that cheered me up. Casper was a very special cat with the energy, presence, and appetite of about five cats, so being home that day was CONSTANTLY being reminded that he was gone. The house was eerily quiet without his snoring; lunch was too easy without him jumping up on the table looking for food and pets; his spot on the edge of the couch was empty and free of cat hair.
And then leave it to my 4 year-old to cheer me up.
He offered more wisdom that day, “Mommy, don’t be sad—we still have two other cats!” Which to me meant something much bigger, “Take in your surroundings in the present moment and feel gratitude for your many blessings.” And Cookie helped too—I felt comfort in her smile, and love in her hugs.
Mac Daddy and I first created a “furry family” with our three furry littles; Casper, Minnie and Carmella. We then added to our family with our two human littles: D-Bop and Cookie. Saying good-bye to Casper made me reflect on that time before kids, before home ownership, before our careers. Casper was there for all of that. He offered comfort in times of severe sadness and loss; he sat in the bathroom with me while I was pregnant and sick with D-Bop; he curled up in my arms on the nights he was frightened by fireworks. He was such a good buddy.
As we remember him and say goodbye to that era in our marriage and lives, I’m blown away that my littles helped me uncover a little unexpected comfort.
*If you’re done, I get it, but I HAVE to write down Casper’s story because he was just too awesome.
Nicknames: Cas-man, Cassie, Cassie-Pooh
Age: Who knows? Anywhere between 11 – 15
Favorites: Eating (wet cat food, chicken on the bone, shredded cheese, Greenies), naps on the edge of the couch or under my side of the bed, pets and brushes from Mac Daddy, people
Story: When Mac Daddy and I lived in an apartment in Echo Park (different times!!), there was a mama cat that had a litter of kittens at the bottom of our stairs (all feral cats). Our apartment was built in the 1920s and it had a little door for milk delivery, so we used to leave the door open so the kittens could go in and out of the house for food as they wished (kind of disgusting, now that I think about it). One night Mac Daddy and I got home and saw a flash of gray and white hair go past the milk door.
‘That’s funny,” I thought. “I could have sworn I just saw all the kittens downstairs.”
We walked into our apartment, went into our room, turned on the lights, and there in the windowsill, backlit by the moon above Echo Park, was a crazy, wild, hissing
beast cat. We screamed, he ran, and that was that.
The next morning we were walking to our car and Mac Daddy said, “Look! There he is!” By the time I turned around, the cat disappeared. Or vanished. Like a ghost.
So we named him Casper.
And Casper stayed true to his name in that he was a FRIENDLY ghost cat. He suddenly started appearing more and hanging out when we fed the mama and kittens. He always let them eat first, and then would hope for leftovers. Since he was feral, we didn’t expect much, but quickly discovered that he was a LOVE BUG who could not get enough pets.
One night I was returning home from my bartending job when I saw Casper fighting with another neighborhood tom cat. I tried to break it up, but these were LEGIT tom cats that grew up on the streets of Echo Park that you just don’t mess with. I chased them around the apartment building, being the crazy cat lady that I am, and much to my dismay watched as Casper pounced on the other cat at the top of a very steep stairwell and rolled with the other cat down the entire length of stairs.
I gasped, I cried, and I said good-bye in my head, because NOTHING could survive that fall.
But he was a cat, so he did.
The next morning he showed up looking for food with a huge puncture wound in his back from the other cat’s tooth. If we didn’t do anything, he would die. So we took him to the vet, paid for his surgery, and decided it was time to really call him ours and make him an indoor cat.
Bless his heart, he was SO happy to be off the streets and have meals provided for him daily that he didn’t care that he was locked in a room for a month with a giant cast around his back and front leg OR that it was during a heat wave in an apartment with no air conditioning. He had a bed, food, and lots of pets and that was enough for him.
Casper went on to be an incredible pet. He greeted EVERYONE that ever came to visit. He saw people as “two more hands that could pet him”. He was gentle with kids and while he may have scratched an adult from time to time when he felt overwhelmed, he never used his claws on children, although he endured many tail pulls, hard pounding pats to the back, and balls thrown at his head by a very young D-Bop, who unfortunately had very accurate aim.
While I was obsessed with my giant 16-pound cloud of grey and white fluffiness, he was really Mac Daddy’s cat. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t pet him the way Mac Daddy did… or brush him like he did… or carry him like he did. He would always be on the couch whenever Mac Daddy was there, and would paw at his hand if Mac Daddy ever paused petting him. But I know he loved me because if he was ever frightened (he was TERRIFIED of fireworks and thunderstorms) he would always curl up in my arms in the middle of the night.
Good-bye, sweet Casper kitty. You brought us a lot of joy. You will never be forgotten. May you rest in peace…or hang around with us forever and go on fun play dates. Whatever you want, Casper the Friendly Ghost Cat. 🙂