Shoah was one of my two beloved tabbies. He and his nearly-identical brother Plath were born together on May 1, 1997, and never separated after that point (apart from a brief stint in the hospital when they were neutered as kittens). They came to live with me when they were a month and a half old and I loved them dearly every moment since then. Shoah passed away in a tragic accident on June 26, 2001. Upon his death, he was wrapped in his favorite blanket and driven to Pennsylvania, where he was buried in a beautiful wooded area on my friend Jill’s property. He was buried in that same blanket with one of his favorite toys (a catnip-filled Bill Gates doll), a photograph of him and me, and a photograph of him and Plath. A granite gravemarker was added within the next few weeks. Though timid, Shoah loved exploring our fenced-in yard. He would chase bugs and lie beneath the shade of grape leaf vines. He squeaked instead of meowed, adored being combed and playing with his brother, and oh boy, did he love eating. He is mournfully missed by Plath and me, as well as by my family, friends, and everyone else who knew him, no matter how briefly.

Have a safe journey, my sweet Sir Squeaks-a-Lot, my beautiful boy. May you find peace, calm, and joy wherever you roam.


Perhaps this is Hell, this ordinary day,
this June, sticky and relentless, thrumming
its tuneless song as our shovels ring
against rocks, severing roots woven
through the soil, and O yes, they say grief
is like an onion; though you tear away its
layers, there are always more beneath,
each burning as you burrow deeper
toward the core of finality.

And the trees that circle us can do nothing more
than plunge their thin arms into their green curls,
screaming Keep him safe, keep him safe,
keep him safe




Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East, and West.
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
–WH Auden


Soul-leading for someone who has died suddenly or unexpectedly

You have been called from the place of your dwelling,
After times, after duties, after separations.
May soul-friends guide you,
May helping spirits lead you,
May the Gatherer of Souls call you,
May the homeward path rise up under your feet
And lead you gladly home.



Blessing for the soul’s release

You go home this night to your home of Winter,
To your home of Autumn, of Spring and of Summer;
You go home this night to your lasting home,
To your eternal bed, to your sound sleeping.

Sleep now, sleep, and so fade sorrow,
Sleep now, sleep, and so fade sorrow,
Sleep now, sleep, and so fade sorrow,
Sleep, my beloved, in the rock of the fold.
The sleep of seven lights upon you, my dear,
The sleep of seven joys upon you, my dear,
The sleep of seven slumbers upon you, my dear.
Sleep, oh sleep in the quiet of quietness,
Sleep, oh sleep in the way of guidance,
Sleep, oh sleep in the love of all loving.



Pagan rite for the dead

We gather here now
To bid farewell to a friend
Who must travel far.
The blessings of the Goddess,
Of the God, of the Old Ones
And of good friends
Are with you
As you travel beyond.
There is a reason for being here
In this world and this life.
There is a reason for leaving,
When the purposes of this life are
The soul must journey beyond
To pause, to rest,
To wait for those who are loved.
For the world beyond is a land
Of eternal summer, and of joy,
Far from the cares of this world,
With happiness and with youth
As the evergreen does grow and prosper
Both in summer and in winter, year
After year,
So also does the soul
From life to life to life…
Growing ever stronger, wiser, and richer.
May the servants of the gods
Escort you with honor
To their own land.



Blessing for loved ones wandering in unknown places

The blessing of my love be ever with you,
Over sea, over shore, over stone.




May you go forth under the strength of heaven,
under the light of sun,
under the radiance of moon;

may you go forth with the splendor of fire,
with the speed of lightning,
with the swiftness of wind;

may you go forth supported by the depth of sea,
by the stability of earth,
by the firmness of rock;

may you be surrounded and encircled,
above, below and about,
with the protection of the nine elements.



They will not go quietly,
the cats who’ve shared our lives.
In subtle ways they let us know
their spirit still survives.
Old habits still make us think
we hear a meow at the door.
Or step back when we drop
a tasty morsel on the floor.
Our feet still go around the place
the food dish used to be,
and, sometimes, coming home at night,
we miss them terribly.
And although time may bring new friends
and a new food dish to fill,
that one place in our hearts
belongs to them...
and always will.
–from a condolence card I received



There must be a heaven
for the animal friends we love.
They are not human,
yet they bring out
our own humanity...
sometimes in ways
that other people cannot.
They do not worry
about fame or fortune...
instead, they bring our hearts
nearer to the joy of simple things.
Each day they teach us
little lessons in trust
and steadfast affection.
Whatever heaven may be,
there is surely a place in it
for friends as good as these.

–from a condolence card I received



Learn the darkness.
Gather round you all
the things that you love, name
their names, prepare
to lose them. It will be
as if all you know were turned
around within your body.
–Wendell Berry, “Song in a Year of Catastrophe”


You must not let terror overtake you.
It is a bone breaking in the middle of the night.
It is a misspelled word.
It is everything you thought you knew
becoming unknown, the leaves
stripped from the tree,
all the greenness orange and dry,
it is a pain past bearable, you must not.
–Susan Griffin, “Prayer for Continuation”



Following are photos of Shoah when he was a kitten. Many were taken with his brother Plath.


(Shoah is on the left; Plath on the right.)




(Shoah is on the right; his Aunt Cleo is on the left.)


(Shoah is on the bottom.)


(He is again on the bottom.)


(Shoah is on the right.)


(He is again on the right.)