There are beings that are just too special for this world. They arrive, fully-formed, on the messy little stage of your life and immediately dazzle you with their stunning beauty and charisma and goodness. They capture your heart so completely that you are always a little fearful that something this perfect cannot last. Howard arrived in our household eight years ago, at a time when we were still mourning the loss of a previous companion. By the second day, previous cats were forgotten. He seemed to have two speeds—full and stop—careening around our apartment and crashing into furniture like a furry bowling ball. As an adult, he slowed down, but not much. “He’s never going to be an elder statesman,” my wife would often say and something inside me sank each time. He could have been a contender on the show cat circuit but he chose to be our best friend, a lovable maniac, a love sponge who could never have his ear rubbed quite enough and a complete nudge, which is Yiddish for charmingly demanding. He talked a lot; there were things he wanted to say. He was  a gentleman, incapable of getting angry or biting or scratching anything except his own furniture. In short, he was perfect.

On Tuesday morning, he came and sat with us on the floor in front of the TV as we read the morning papers and watched the news. As usual, he planted himself on my newspaper so my hands would be free to rub his ears. After awhile, he asked my wife to go ‘feed’ him which was a trick he taught us that required one of us to stand over and rub his head a few times before he would eat. As always, he drank some water and went to lie down for his morning nap. A couple of hours later, Suzanne went over to the table and reached down to pet him. And he was gone. We were never more than 10 feet away.

He was eight years old, which is pretty young for a cat, and never sick for a moment. There were no warning signs. A heart attack or an aneurysm, the vet said. He died instantly.

For those of us who lived in his enormous shadow, the loss is deep and painful. But, we are comforted by the knowledge that we were able to share our lives, albeit too briefly, with a true superstar. Like JFK and Marilyn and James Dean, and other special beings who left too soon, he will never age, or suffer, or get old. He will simply live on in our minds and hearts as the perfect friend and a reminder of the fragility and the awesome power of beauty, innocence and pure love.

21 thoughts on “A Death in the Family”
  1. Oh No, I loved this cat and treasured the pictures of him that Jerry sent every Christmas. So sorry! But on the other hand, I wish my passing to be as smooth as his.

  2. Thank you all for your very kind words. Because their lives are so short compared to ours, losing an animal companion is an experience most of us share. The fact is, that from the moment you bring home that lovable ball of energy and fur you’ve most likely just taken on a future tragedy. But, love is always an act of courage.

  3. So sorry to hear of your loss. We always looked forward to your card at Xmas-he was a handsome fellow! Our cat is 18years old this year and although she sleeps for longer spells she is like Howard-a character-likes a cuddle-evenings are her people time! I always tell her to hang on as summer is just a few months away.

  4. I’d like to echo the condolences above. A good owner treats a pet as part of the family and a death in the family is always hard.

  5. Condolences to El Casa del Bowles for the loss of one whose image continues to be posted here in his colonial outpost. People I introduce to Howard’s photographic representation usually ask, “Is his mouth open or closed?” While he looked ferocious enough to match the MGM lion, Jerry tells me the late gentleman’s manners were impeccable. Truly a terrible loss, but then, he may be waiting Out There to greet us when our inevitable moment comes.

  6. Yeah, Howard looked like one gruff but loveable kitty. And I was thinking about my “kids” as they are getting up in years (Frankie, a Himalayan, is 19 and also gruff but loveable, and Regina, is almost 13 and still like a scootle-ish kitten), not thinking about the inevitable.

  7. Jerry,

    Beautifully said and very sorry to hear about Howard.

    This is close to home for my wife and I. We still feel the loss of our little Wally four years later. There’s never any replacing them, just learning to live with the loss.

    Hope he and Wally have met at the Rainbow Bridge, especially given what sounds like a mutual sense of humor.

  8. Jerry,
    such beautifully chosen words… for a beautiful creature. I’m so sorry for your loss; our Charlotte (leggy shepherd-greyhound mix) is crossing her paws for you all to get through this.

  9. Jerry,
    Our hearts are with you. We know the feeling of your loss! Yes, cats are family.
    We were always looking forward to the picture of Howard on your website.
    He was such a pleasure to look at and now are sorry we never met him in person.

    Beata and Marvin
    along with our 3 furry creatures, Mimi, Puszek and Poo-Poo

  10. I never forgot an episode of MASH where Radar is getting a bunch of grief about all of the animals he’s taking care of in his office and he snaps: “Hey, animals are people too!”

    I’m so protective of my cat I just won’t share him with blogland. But then again, I really appreciated this post 🙂 thank you for sharing.

  11. What a touching tribute jerry, sorry for your pain. We don’t own these lovely creatures, we’re just granted temporary access to them, and they give way more than they usually get.

  12. Jerry, this was an extremely poignant memorial. Although I never met Howard in person, seeing his face from time to time on Seq21 pages made me feel like I knew him somehow. I know we will all miss his occasional appearance into our otherwise heady world of human new music talk here.


  13. Jerry,

    What a beautiful tribute. I’m so sorry for your loss…it’s amazing how these little guys (although they don’t think they’re “little guys”) get into your heart. I thank the universe every day for these additions to our households, for they’re such “wisdom givers”. They certainly know how to live.

  14. A beautiful eulogy, Jerry.
    My house is accumulating memories also. Last year a wife, two Boston terriers, six cats – and me. This year, four cats – and me.

  15. We have always had cats. And of course they have left us from time to time. Always a sad event.

    I’ve found that the best thing for it is a kitten…

  16. The loss of a beloved one is always tragical, human beings and animals alike. Condolences for you loss, and I hope your superstar-cat is right now playing with mine 😉

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