The ‘spirit animals’ category

Sweet Lukers

February 2nd, 2022


We always held our breath past cemeteries, afraid of getting tainted with a whiff of mortality. 

In the millionth week of January, we had a sudden pet death. Sweet Luka, our scrawny, high-strung little kitty, suffered a blood clot and had to be put down. It was very shocking. I still wake up every morning thinking, did that actually happen?

My daughters have mirrored this sentiment, asking me, periodically this week, “What if this is all just a dream?” I don’t think they’re referring specifically to the kitty. I think it’s more a general philosophical query, and one borne of perhaps too many TV shows lately. But part of our process around Luka’s death has been a lot of questions. And I mean, a lot.

“When Luka died, did her body just disappear?”

“No, her body was still there, but it was not moving. The thing that made her Luka wasn’t there anymore.”

“Did she just look like she was sleeping?”

“Yes, pretty much.”

“So why couldn’t you bring her home and we could just pretend she is sleeping all the time?”

Another conversation:

“What was wrong with her?”

“Her legs weren’t getting blood anymore and she was in a lot of pain.”

“Couldn’t you just bring her home and we could wheel her around on a little cart?”

“That’s not really a thing.”

“Yes it is; I saw it on YouTube.”

Fucking YouTube. Watch YouTube long enough and you’ve seen it all. Jon and I actually took YouTube Kids off our iPads because we were getting creeped out by some of the stuff they were watching: Preteen girls who reenact the entire Frozen plot with Barbie dolls in squeaky voices. Moms in high heels and get nails baking elaborate cakes in extreme closeup. Grown adults who make lifelike human bodies out of play-doh in order to perform realistic surgery. 


Back to the processing of death:

“What happened to Luka’s body?”

“We had her cremated.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means they put her body in a really hot oven until it turned to ash.”

“You mean they cooked her? Where exactly did this  happen?”

I have no idea, because as an adult, I have learned not to ask too many questions I don’t want to hear the answers to!

Kindhearted friends have offered to recommend books on this subject, but honestly, I doubt there is a book out there that covers all the questions my kids think up around death.

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A few days after Luka’s demise, I had my favorite photo of her printed and framed, then suggested we take turns talking about what we loved about Luka as we ate dinner. I started:

I loved Luka’s soft black and white coat, which made her look like a baby cow. If she lined up her front paws, the pattern continued from one leg to another, like a puzzle. Even though she was very strictly black and white, if you pushed her fur aside, you could see that each individual strand was gray underneath, which was wild. 

I also loved that Luka had the energy of a nervous old lady from the time she was a very small kitten. She, in fact, often energetically reminded me of my elderly Aunt Bea, who was a third grandmother to me. Bea would scold me for being “cross” and ask me if I had to “piddle.”

Luka never really learned how to retract her claws properly and was forever getting stuck on things.


She had the most irritating high-pitched meow and would have gladly lived her entire life on the threshold of a door so she never had to decide whether to go in or out. She single-handedly turned me into a cat butler until we got smart enough to install a cat door.

She loved to sit so close to me while I was working at my desk that I would have to contort myself into uncomfortable positions to use my keyboard. 

She was always hungry, and particularly loved yogurt. If I didn’t feed her quickly enough she would bite me so hard on the hand that I was convinced she would eat me if I ever died before her.

Fortunately, that did not happen. Unfortunately, my daughters and I are getting a crash course in mortality in the dead of winter. 


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