Bask While The Sun Shines.

It is a fairly key moment for a teacher born in Reading.

There I was, discussing finance with the secretary and bursar in the school I ran, which perched on the hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean: and a parent flew in through the double doors with news.

“Go and stand on the cliffs!” she gasped between breaths. “There are basking sharks off the coast!”

Basking sharks. Gentle giants who feed on plankton which inhabit the warmest part of seawater; that layer just before the surface. The warmth of the sun reaches through those upper lapping layers, and creatures great and small rise to meet its rays. They bask.

It is the deep, golden mindfulness of basking which seems most at one with the earth as it turns. As if the great creatures slow to the rhythm of the planets and their brilliant star.

I stayed to work but I, too, should have stopped to bask in life’s rays, out there on the North Cornish clifftop.

Today, at lunchtime, during Felix’s birthday party for his close friends, Phil dropped a blob of cottage cheese on the floor.

He waited for the dog to fetch it and clear it up, but Macaulay is a sloppy operator, and choosy about his hoovering. With creditable speed, the cat shot in and claimed it as her own.

For 18 years, she has been dominating this family, and today was no exception.

Later, I found my old cat in the back garden, stretched out for all the world as if she were basking.

Except that she was not. When I looked closely every breath was a gasp. She was labouring terribly. I was horrified. I scooped her up and cradled her and willed the breathing to become regular again, but it would not. Each breath tortured the fiery soul who has lit our days for almost two decades.

As I sat with her on my knee, stroking her, I knew this was not fair. I should not be asking her to fight this fight.

Phil called the vets. 15 minutes, they said.

I called Maddie and Felix, and they said their goodbyes. There is no happy ending for our lives. It ends, and we are wrcnched unceremoniously away from those we love. But to some of us is given the serendipity of a goodbye.

I helped her into a cat box. She did not complain, and that in itself was deeply unusual.

And I walked out of the front door into sunshine. The drive was baking warm. And normally, as I headed out anywhere, I would look down and see a cat with a fierce face, half-ginger, half brown, Β basking on the drive, barely acknowledging my passage, imperiously flicking her tail.

Today, I must carry her past that baking warm drive and away, into the shadows.

Which I did. I held her as she entered them. One day I will follow her there.

Millions have said it before, and millions will say it after. But we are born into this wild, beautiful, terrible world, and we have but a short time here, to live in vivid technicolour. Β We seem to have little choice, like meteors which appear and trail an effervescent tail through the cosmos, and then are gone.

This creature could no more stop time than any of us. But she seemed to stretch it, long and languid,with her habit of basking on the concrete drive in the noonday sun.


69 thoughts on “Bask While The Sun Shines.

  1. Oh how her tail would flick with satisfaction if she knew the eloquence with which her human reported her passing. My heart is with your family and you, Kate.

      1. I can only imagine, Kate. I’ve never had the privilege of an 18 year relationship with an animal, but from my much shorter ones, I know that shadow of a friend no longer there.

  2. Our life is ephemeral and your post movingly brings that home to us. I am pleased that we all knew your cat who you so lovingly portrayed, and I know that we shall all miss your little vignettes about her.

  3. Dear Kate and crew, I am so terribly saddened to read this touching tribute to your cat. How fitting that she dominated your family’s life right up until the end, choosing the last moments basking in the sunshine. Love comes your way, Kate, across all these miles.

  4. Such an acute change, from licking up the spillage to being near the end, just like that. How shocking.
    Are you in the habit of burying the pets in the garden, with a little memorial service?
    Big hug x

  5. Dear Kate, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve lived with cats now since 1972 and as each dies my hearts crumples and cracks. Eliza, like the cat who basked in your love, was 20 years and five months old when
    she died in my arms. The book you see on my blog “A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story” was given to me by Dulcy right after she died back in 1989. Her first words in that giving were “At the end all that matters is love. My love for my human and hers for me. I have planted the memories of our life together in her heart. She will find them there when I am gone and they will comfort her.

    I hope that the memories of the friend you just lost will comfort you.


  6. A lovely tribute to Kit Kat. Multiple hugs for you and the family. I know Phil was devoted to her, and I hope Felix’s ninth year will be imbued with her strength and spirit. These losses are such black holes in our hearts. May the days get easier as time passes. Love to you all.

    1. It isn’t. We have been blessed by 18 years with her: the memories will always be with us. Thank you so much for leaving a comment today, Alice: it is much appreciated.

  7. how sad, Kate, to lose an old friend and companion… I’m glad you took the time to immortalize her in this wonderful tribute

      1. All our pets are the best. Which is just as it should be. Did yu get my link to Lorely’s post? Just get your hankies ready. It is quite cathartic.

  8. I just cried with this one, Kate. I have pictures in my mind of my own “goodbyes” to precious pets. I recently found pictures I’d been looking for. My son at three and again at around 21 with the same cat. I must ask him if I can share the pictures, but the story of when we lost that special 20-plus-year-old cat is still very clear in my memory. I’m so glad you were all togethr for the good-bye. All of our old bodies do give out. *Sigh*

    1. Wow, that was a long-lived cat, Debra. They span such huge chunks of our lives, and bring the richness of their own personality with them. I’m glad we were there at the end, and the children could say goodbye too. Thanks so much.

  9. Basking is woefully under-rated. Your lovely cat was a good teacher. I’m sorry for your loss. She’ll always be remembered with much love.

  10. What a beautiful cat she was.. it’s always struck me that I go day to day always expecting these sorts of things to never happen and when they do I’m stunned. My heart goes out to you.. she must be so missed..

  11. I was very moved to read this. What lovely words. So sorry for your loss. My pets always chose to leave when I wasn’t there to say goodbye. She’ll be in your heart always.

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