This past weekend, my cat Binks passed away.
My friends sent me flowers that now sit on my drawing table in little jars. It feels beautiful to know that they care. I don’t know if they have ever seen me cry before but now it somehow feels very important to let them see me this soft and tender.
I was halfway through a movie when the vet sent me photos from his burial. As matter-of-factly as he had showed me the gory photos from his surgery, he delivered pictures of Binks lying in his little grave, his nose pressed against his chest.
They had laid a traditional Balinese offering on top of him: a small bamboo container with flowers, incense and a 2,000 rupiah note. When I had gone to pick up his collar, I hadn’t asked to see him; I hadn’t seen him dead. Now I was face to face with this image, but as tears came, so did the laughter. Why would they think I wanted to see my dead cat? It was just so absurd. I guess for the Balinese death is a celebration of life.
Life goes on, I told a friend when I tried to explain how I was feeling.
Except for Binks, he said, and that made me laugh through my tears all over again.
Later that night, I was struggling to sleep. Do you think cats need to pay a toll to get to Balinese heaven, I asked him. Why would they put money in his grave? That’s so silly. He doesn’t know how to use money. I hope someone shows him how it works.
He said he didn’t know but that in ancient Egypt, cats were the ones guiding souls to the afterlife. I looked it up and I don’t think it’s true; nevertheless, the idea comforts me.
I visited his gravesite in the morning. He is buried in a vegetable garden at the end of a gravel road off the highway to the north. I talked to a man named Ketut who farms that plot of land and greeted me with a scythe in hand and seemed confused as to why I was there until I told him, using almost every Indonesian word I knew, ‘kucing hitam dan putih’. A black-and-white cat. Then he showed me the fresh mound.
I knelt down and touched the dirt on his grave. Tears welled up just behind my eyelids as they had so many times that weekend. ‘Poor kitty,’ I said softly, to no one in particular.
I hadn’t brought anything with me so I left him there with nothing but prayers placed on his grave.
He used to sleep in the crook of my legs and lay his head on my arm; now all that’s left is his collar around a jar of funeral flowers and the scar on my arm from the time I tried to get him down from the top of my bedframe and he got spooked and accidentally scratched me. My other cat misses him. I miss him too.
Now rice grows through his eyes and the land swallows him to be her own, and through my sadness I can be thankful of two things: that he lies resting in a peaceful place between rice fields and bubbling brooks, and that while it lasted, this small life I could give him was thoroughly beautiful.
Thanks for reading!
I wrote this little piece to sort out my thoughts and feelings. I only had Binks for five months but he was important to me. I guess I never understood the owners who memorised their pets with complicated rituals and keepsakes; now I get it. It’s never “just a cat”.
Anyway, hope ya’ll are doing fine! Do you have any stories about beloved pets?