To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

In April 1992, I had come home from living in the Midwest, having just gotten out of failed relationship. I wanted to get some cats, but I was going to wait until after my parents took a trip, because I would be staying at their house to take care of my grandmother.

We had a family friend who was a vet, and his wife was a specialized teacher that I’d had in grade school. She was visiting my mom one day, and I excitedly mentioned to her, “Tell your husband that I’ll have two new patients for him soon!” I explained to her how I wanted two cats, but was waiting until after my parents’ trip.

Shortly thereafter, in May, I received a call from the veterinary hospital asking me if I wanted to adopt two kittens. Apparently, someone had dumped a box of kittens at the veterinary office; the vet wanted to adopt them, and mentioned them to his wife, who immediately proclaimed, “I know exactly who would want these cats!”

Those cats turned into my cats, Pyewacket and Howling Mad. I must admit, when I saw Howling Mad, I thought, well, he’s a grey tiger, but he needs a home. You see, I didn’t think a grey tiger would be anything special—there were lots of grey tiger kitties around.

They were so funny–I would come home and find the comforter in the hallway of my apartment, because they would tussle with the comforter during the day. They were my babies. The funny thing is, HMC always tried to assert his dominance, even as a kitten. He’d sit on the stairwell newel by the door and bat my head when I arrived home from work. I had to make sure he knew that I was in charge of the house.

I moved to a different apartment, which they loved to run through. Then I moved to a house. There were some problems—Howling Mad had to be separated from his sister for about a year and a half because he was attacking her (we had many cats running around the neighborhood, which I believe provoked my cats into fighting). That summer he was allowed to go outside. I lived one house from the corner of the block, and he would wait for me on the corner until I came home, and then bound in front of the car when I got into the driveway. (Needless to say, this scared the bejeesus out of me!) Fortunately, he and Pye became buddies again, and I didn’t allow him to go outside anymore. Oh, the howls I heard because I wouldn’t let him out!

IMG_0007_1 IMG_0008

I took many pictures of my cats. HMC was amazingly photogenic. He seemed to pose for the pictures. Of course, he was the king of his castle. No one ruled above him. When Pye slept with me, HMC would always come over and try to sit on top of her. The funny thing is, when I got my dog, Pye was nonchalant about it, while HMC would run away from the puppy.

Soon, my beloved cats became geriatric. Pye particularly had kidney problems and had bad arthritis. She always wanted to be in my lap, or under the covers next to me. Sad to say, when Pye passed, HMC did not shed a tear.

That same year I met my husband. When my husband became a part of our family, HMC adopted him without reservation—after all, this was just another human to adore him! In fact, they adored each other. HMC ran around the house howling like a maniac. He often demanded to be catered to. He even had gotten into a game with the dog. He would walk around the dining room table until the dog barked at him. Of course, the dog would earn my disapproval, which HMC reveled in.


We were quite amazed when he reached the age of 20, and then 21. HMC was like the Energizer Bunny—he just went on and on! But then he was having problems with his mouth. The vet managed to wiggle his loose tooth out. We had to take him to the vet’s again after his third eyelid showed up, and the vet mentioned that he might have a tumor in his head that knocked the tooth out.

Since that time he slept more and more, and was sneezing a lot. His face was changing shape. He favored one side of his body over the other (toothless) side. When he would lay down next to me at night, he circled around and around, and his head had a tic to it. Thursday, October 24, my husband called me at work to tell me that HMC wasn’t eating. This was odd—he always ate. No matter what, HMC was always voracious. My husband also mentioned that he was having problems walking.

On the way home, I called the vet to make the appointment. It takes me an hour to get home from work. Thank God for my friend who talked to me the entire hour on the way home. She saved my sanity.

I had an hour with HMC before the appointment. I wrapped him up in some towels, and I took him outside. The sun was shining, and the breeze stopped long enough for us to enjoy the warm sun. I held him, pet him, and smelled his fur.

I know ya’ll know this: It’s a hard thing when you are in charge of an animal, to make the just and right decision that it’s time to end his suffering, that it’s time for him to go. Dean Koontz said it best in one of his books, The Darkest Evening of the Year. He said it about a dog, but I think it applies to all animals that are entrusted to our care:

“Dogs’ lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you’re going to lose a dog, and there’s going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can’t support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There’s such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price.”

If you are not aware of the beautiful “poem,” The Rainbow Bridge, please read it here. It is a homage to beloved animals.

My beloved HMC—my beloved, complicated little being—we will miss you so.


Title quote is from Claude Campbell.

P.S. I may continue this blog. We were going to wait a couple of months to adopt more kitties, but my husband wanted to go to the SPCA this weekend, and we have put a deposit on two 6 month old kittens, to be picked up Tuesday evening.


58 thoughts on “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

  1. HMC is definitely waiting for you by the Rainbow Bridge. He will help keep the new kittens in line from there too. Wooooowooooooo, from Ku and his pack: Mama, Nalle, Apollo, and Zoe

  2. I felt a connection with HM. I don’t follow many blogs but as soon as I met him I was enthralled.
    He was very photogenic but of course it was a partnership between the photographer/ writer and the cat. I loved him and I enjoyed following his adventures and I thought he was a little bright spot in this sometimes dark world. It isn’t about me, it is about his brave owners. You did the right and kind and brave thing. I know you will be all sad and I send cyberhugs to you all. I am making a little amigurumi of him to send you at the end of the year. I will continue to follow your blog should you decide to continue.

  3. I send my love to you as I know this pain you feel..all I can do is think of you and hope that are surrounded by love from friends and family..
    HMC the Rainbow Bridge is better for you being there..
    Love and cuddles at this time
    Bev xxxxx

    • Thank you for your warm words, Bev. It almost seems surreal: (1) That HMC is gone, and that (2) we are getting new kittens tomorrow! I know they won’t replace HMC, but I’m hoping they will ease his passing. Ellie

      • I understand Ellie..we had Squash for 17 years and it seemed so surreal that she was not there whenever I turned around…I also know that their is no such thing as replacement pets..they are new individuals who just happen to be in need of a new home and people who just happen to have love still to offer…they will be a reminder of the joyfulness of living with cats..and a future that is yet to be lived.Hugs to you all and good luck with the new babies..Bev x

  4. I’m so sorry for your loss, Ellie. This post made me cry. HMC was like a good friend for me, I loved all his posts and comments. It was an honour knowing such a fine and wise cat. I’ll miss him. I’ll miss his comments. Cherish all the beautiful moments with HMC deep in your heart so he will never be gone.
    Rest in peace, my dear friend HMC. Take care, Ellie. Sending you big hugs and love.

  5. Oh, my heart hurts for you. It’s so difficult to let the furry kids go, but while here on earth, they bring smiles to our faces and joy to our hearts. It’s very apparent there was no lack of smiles and joy with HMC. My deepest sympathy.

  6. I cried reading this, Ellie. Not long before we adopted our two sister kitties six years ago, my husband had to bring our beloved 20 year old Smokey to be put to sleep because she stopped eating too. So your words and your pain are all too familiar.
    HMC had a long and love-filled life. Please accept my warmest condolences for your loss.
    Jennifer x

  7. I’m so very, very sorry for your loss. (I haven’t been following your blog too long, but am sending you thoughts of sympathy.) Brings back memories of making “that decision” for my sweet Beezy, my kitty soul mate, who was 16.

    “Rise up slowly, angel. It’s hard to let you go.”

  8. Oh HMC, you will be forever missed. You were a loved a great kitten, always bringing a smile to my face when I read your quotes or saw pictures of you out in the garden or on the flowery couch. Thank you for being that little ray of sunshine.<3

    Ellie, I am so sorry for your loss. Reading this post brought tears to my eyes. I truly feel for you and can understand what you must feel. I am so glad that you were blessed with HMC for 21 years. That is so amazing and a blessing indeed. I'm sure he loved you so much and felt just how much you cared for him, all those years. Hugs, hugs, and hugs to you!

    Rest in peace, little Howling Mad<3<3

  9. I thought Louie would outlive me, and I was worried no one would want an elderly cat. I’m sorry about HMC, and hope, when you are ready, his successor is a companion as beloved as he. It really isn’t any easier that a cat or dog is “just and animal”, and I cried as much for Louie as for HMC when I read this this morning.

  10. There s no pain like making the decision to free your baby from their pain. What a beautiful and special post you have made in tribute. HMC and Pye can have as many naps in the sunshine on hallway comforters as they want to now. Thank you for sharing your story.

  11. Our hearts are aching at hearing about HMC crossing the Bridge. He was an inspiration for Sammy because he was a senior citizen to admire – living life a day at a time and loving each one for what it was….a gift. We are sad for your loss – it is one of the hardest things to do – letting a cat go – but of course it’s part of taking care of them and they DO depend on us to do that from beginning to end. I’m thrilled to hear you’re getting some kittens – they have a way of healing a broken heart. But just know that we feel your loss and will miss HMC’s sweet face………

    Hugs, Pam and Sammy

    • Thanks so much Pam and Sammy! I must admit, it has been very healing to hear from HMC’s fans. I will be sure to post pictures of the new kitties soon. We have names picked out for them, but as we all know, sometimes cats pick their own names! Ellie

      • You’re right…..the minute my husband saw Sammy at the shelter he said “that’s a Sam!” and he was and is and always will be. I’m happy you’re getting some kittens soon…but we will all miss HMC – believe me.

        Hugs, Pam

  12. I am so sorry to hear of HMC’s passing. I enjoyed meeting him via your blog. Such personality! Perhaps he will meet with my dear, sweet Natasha on Rainbow Bridge. She was 21, too, and left for the Bridge this past spring, just two months before her 22 birthday. No matter how long they are with us, they always leave too soon.

  13. I am very sorry for your loss. 21 years is a long life for a cat. While it is always sad to lose a family member, it is nice to know he had a good long life. I lost four cats in three years all under the age of nine. It seems I have discovered good blogs lately at very bad times. I hope you continue to write. If you do, perhaps you can reveal the secret to feline longevity.

  14. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve had so much fun reading about HMC and will miss him. Your new kittens are beautiful, I’m looking forward to watching them grow. 🙂

  15. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss and will miss HMC. 21 years is a lovely long time and I bet he had an excellent life with you and the rest of his family. I bet he’s now in heaven and hopefully he’s meeting my past cats too. Lots of hugs to the whole family.

  16. I am only reading this today and I am so so sorry for your loss. Obviously, HMC was the king of his castle and you gave him his throne, crown and your adoration. He had a good long life, even if long for cats is never long enough for us humans.
    I am sending lots of hugs and the kitties are sending purrs.
    Carine & Texas

  17. Sending heartfelt hugs to you ~ I have tears in my eyes. Our darling 17 year old Chessie passed in March ~ we wrapped her in her favorite blanket and I carried her in the car and not in a carrier to the vet. The sun shone on her face and she leaned back against me and put her face towards the warmth of the sun. I too buried my face in her fur ~ it’s a moment I’ll never forget. I understand how you feel. Please know I am thinking of you. Our furkids touch our hearts, our souls and our lives in the most amazing ways. We can never forget them for they live in our hearts. ♥

    • Thank you! HMC was carried in a blanket to the vet’s for the past couple of years. It started when I had to take him to the vet’s on a really cold day (0 degrees F) and he loved it so I always did it after that. I will never forget standing in the sun with him, and I put his face in the sun as you mentioned with Chessie. Thank you for sharing this (my husband appreciates your comments, too). I love the new kitties, but my heart still aches for HMC. Ellie

  18. We are so heartbroken that HMC is no longer with you. It does sound as if he was ready for the RB. Our humans went away for 11 days, and we are very slowly each day trying to catch up with all our friends. Our Mom gets a huge hole in her heart each time one of her kitties passes, and it usually isn’t too long before another comes to live with us. She says if she didn’t do that she would be grieving forever. And there are always so many kitties in need of a home. We know you will have many fond memories of HMC for the rest of your lives. He was so lucky to have such a wonderful home. You are in our prayers during this very sad time.Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  19. I missed this announcement while I was on hiatus, so I’ve also had the opportunity to read about the two new hooligans ruling the household. It’s hard to say goodbye. I’m glad you didn’t wait long to fill the void.


We look forward to your comments and meows!

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