The Cruelest Consequence

     “Death is the price we pay for life, and for all life.” — Ursula Le Guin

     It is so. All that lives must die. Whether it’s by accident, disease, violence, or simply old age, all that lives must die. Realists know it. We know it couldn’t be any other way.

     That doesn’t make it any easier to cope with the loss of a loved one.


     Way back in the dim, dark ages of 2005, I adopted a kitten. It wasn’t something I’d set out to do. I’d simply shown up at my preferred pet-supplies store when there was a woman there with a kitten in her arms that she hoped to adopt out. The little guy was about six weeks old, jet black, and had the most brilliant blue eyes I’d ever seen on a feline. I took him home then and there. I named him Uriel.

     Uriel grew swiftly. He proved to be a big boy at full growth. But his size didn’t prevent him from being a cuddlebug. From earliest kittenhood to full maturity, a human lap – usually mine – was his favorite thing in all the world.

     He had a typical Fortress of Crankitude life. That is: he was loved and pampered by all the residents of this dump, and he returned love for love. He made friends with all the ambulatory creatures here, regardless of size or species. I don’t recall any of our other pets ever having a conflict with him, and we’ve always had a lot of them.

     The years pass too easily. We forget too easily, too.

     Early this morning Uriel’s life ended. He was worn out. He’d lost most of his weight and coat, and had caught an infection of some kind as well. From all indications, he simply surrendered to what had become inevitable. When I arose I found him lifeless, arranged for his cremation, and…well, that’s all there is to say about that.

     Except that it isn’t.


     We humans are blessed – or cursed – with too much awareness, too much comprehension, and too great an ability to love. Over the course of a typical life we love others of our kind, but also members of other species: dogs, cats, horses, hamsters, ferrets, three-toed sloths, what have you. I’ve loved pets of every kind. I once had a Norwegian white lab rat that my wife saved from a pointless death because “they didn’t need him.” I loved him too.

     You can’t love without the possibility of loss. What makes it a possibility rather than a certainty is only this: you might die first. They they’ll mourn you, to whatever extent they’re capable.

     From the moment you first choose to love – and it is a choice, always – you open the door to loss. If your loves include creatures of less lifespan than is given to Man, you’re likely to face loss several times on that account alone. It’s part of the bargain.

     But love enlarges you. By loving, even in loving an animal, you grow to be more than you were. Love is never wasted. Neither is the grief you feel over loss.

     That last bit is the part that’s hardest to accept, and to remember.


     Uriel had a good life. We made sure of that. But no power can defeat death. Not permanently, anyway. Uriel had used up his allotted span.

     I was taught long ago that animals’ souls die with their bodies. I’d rather not believe it. I know quite a lot of other Catholics who don’t. But I won’t know the facts of the matter on this side of the veil of time. I suppose I’ll just have to wait a while longer…not too much longer, matters being as they are.

     Goodbye, Uriel.


Skip to comment form

    • Univ of Saigon 68 on February 7, 2022 at 5:57 PM

    When you buy a puppy you are purchasing a tragedy.

    • Lion Mane on February 8, 2022 at 12:33 AM

    Had one pass away two years ago around July 4th and buried it out back.
    It did drink tap water excessively and that is something not recommended due to the water pipes and other infrastructure in terminal decline.
    A stray used to come around that had been through the wringer with half its tail missing and it looked like a little Pinto pony, it declined coming inside as it preferred to be free.
    It got hit by a car and buried it by the creek.

    • doubletrouble on February 8, 2022 at 8:20 AM

    Sorry for your loss, Francis.

    • Amy on February 8, 2022 at 12:41 PM

    O Bubastis, Goddess of the Nile, pray keep watch for the arrival of a little black cat named Uriel, who never scratched or bit without just cause, who was much loved by his people, Fran and Beth, and who returned that love in full measure.  Guide him forthwith to the Eternal Catnip Fields, wherein he may enjoy a well-deserved rest.
    (That’s my prayer for cats that have left us.  He’ll join two cats I loved, Star, a white-and-orange tabby, and Maui, a gray long-haired cat that my ex-wife took with her to Finland…and who will soon be commemorated by having a cattery named in his honor.)

    • FJ Dagg on February 8, 2022 at 3:47 PM

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Fran. RIP Uriel.

    • SiG on February 8, 2022 at 4:46 PM

    I’m sorry to hear that Fran, my prayers for you.   We’ve had cats my entire adult life and have gone through this with five dear little ones.  I don’t think I’ve gotten over the last one, 11 years ago.  And it’s looking like the next one may be before too long. 

    1. It’s one of the prices of love. “Life is loss as well as love,” said a brilliant but little appreciated writer, and I find that I must concur.

    • crankyoldcoot on February 8, 2022 at 5:57 PM

    Dear Fran, 
    I know what you are going through.  Both of my year 2007 pound-rescues are/were furry balls of love.  I have one left.  He has become so attached to me that he caterwauls if I’m out of his sight.  I spoil the hell out of him because I can and I love him.  I won’t be getting any more kittens after he goes because I don’t want to leave any orphans behind when I go.
    I believe animals have souls.  Why wouldn’t they?  When you observe their behavior toward their own young and our pets toward us, especially dogs and cats, I can’t see whatever it is just vanishing and being wasted with their death.  

  1. Sorry to hear, Fran.

    • Ragin' Dave on February 9, 2022 at 12:54 AM

    Our animal’s lives are shorter than ours to teach us just how precious life is.  And I couldn’t agree more than love enlarges you.  Every time you give love to a person or an animal, you grow.  

  2. I couldn’t finish this without tears streaming down my face.  There’s a million things I could say but none of them would ease the pain.  Nothing does.  Not even time.  Just know that others share your pain and mourn your loss with you.  It’s been almost eighteen years since my Clarence followed me into my home and announced that I was more than welcome to live with him if I wanted.  He had a cattitude like I’d never seen before.  He’s been gone for close to a year and the pain is still fresh… too fresh.  My sons don’t remember a time when Clarence didn’t share our home.My ex-husband passed away a few months ago.  He was 45 years old and he died of liver cancer.  I never shed a single tear nor have I felt bad about not feeling bad that I never shed a tear.  Animals own a special place in our hearts.

Comments have been disabled.