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Dirge Without Music

March 18, 2015

photo (59)Walker found Samson as an 8-week-old kitten at the local shelter, an orange kitten curled up in a child’s yellow Winnie-the-Pooh chair, and having been promised he could take home a kitten, said “this one!” He slept on Walker’s new toddler bed, let Eleanor pet his soft belly fur, climbed directly up the sheers in the living room, and had a silly little mew that belied his name. We soon took to calling him Sammy.

Sammy was always a loving cat. He startled easily; I will always bear the thigh scars from summer days when he was sitting on my lap and somebody dropped something or made a loud noise in the next room, causing him to imitate the kitten in Fritz Leiber’s story “Space-Time for Springers,” with the claws on his hind feet propelling him across the room almost instantaneously.

IMG_1768In his old age, he got deaf, which made him calmer. For sixteen years, he was perpetually on my lap if I sat down during the day, and reliably on my bed when I went to it.

Even though our other cats went in and out, Sammy mostly stayed inside. When we went out, he would sometimes come out and walk in the grass with us, but he felt safer inside the house. He had a strict code of cat behavior. He ate first, and he fussed at the other cats when they weren’t doing things the way he thought they should be done.

Sometimes when I took off my shirt and threw it into the laundry basket in my closet, I would hear a reproachful meow. Sammy liked to sleep on top of the clothes in the basket.

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “Dirge Without Music” comes the closest of anything I’ve read to how I feel about his death:

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.100_1526
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the graveIMG_1657
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Sammy had green eyes and orange fur. He liked to be where the people were, or where the blankets were, or where the sun fell across the carpet. He was a lap cat. His purring is gone and I am not resigned.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2015 8:09 am

    Oh my goodness, the picture of Sammy with Walker just slays me. Also Sammy’s eyes –gorgeous! Wally (my butterscotch) has eyes the color of his fur so while pretty, they don’t stand out the way Sammy’s did.

    Thank you for sharing more about Sammy. I would have loved your kitty too, I know.

  2. March 18, 2015 9:56 am

    This is so lovely. And I echo what E said about the photo of Walker and Sammy. Stunning. The poem reminds of the lines from the Episcopal burial service: “All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” It sounds like Sammy’s life was full of alleluias, in the rejoicing sense of the word. Hugs.

  3. March 18, 2015 10:29 am

    No space so empty as the space where a being you loved used to be. Sad for all of you today.

  4. March 18, 2015 10:45 am

    Oh Jeanne, I am so sorry. Sammy was one beautiful and lucky cat. Big hugs.

  5. March 18, 2015 5:38 pm

    I’m so sorry about Sammy. What a beautiful cat he was! I’ve been told that orange cats are exceptionally loving, and it certainly sounds like it was the case with him.

  6. March 18, 2015 6:17 pm

    I’m so sorry, Jeanne. I know he must have had the most wonderful life with y’all, and you must all be missing him terribly now. I’m sending hugs and good thoughts your way.

  7. March 18, 2015 9:29 pm

    So touching and so sorry for your loss; I’m still just as sad as I was when my kitty went 5 years ago

  8. freshhell permalink
    March 19, 2015 9:27 am


  9. March 21, 2015 11:07 am

    I am still not reconciled to the loss of my Hilly. They are members of the family, as full of character and eccentricities and love as any child. Beautiful tribute, Jeanne, and I send many hugs.

  10. March 23, 2015 8:42 am

    Thank you.

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