Our beloved cat Phoebe passed away Monday. Considering that Phoebe has been an indoor cat for 12 years with us, it happened pretty fast. She had been treated for thyroid problems for many years, and recently had lost some of her appetite. When we took her to the vet to find out why, we discovered that she had lost 75% of her kidney function. After two days of IV treatment, the hope was for another six months of a good quality of life at home, supported by fluid treatments we would administer. But after a day back with us, Phoebe was clearly letting us know that it was her time. She passed away peacefully after my wife and I, and our 11 year old, had said our teary goodbyes.
We haven much to grieve in this loss, but much to celebrate as well. Like all cats, Phoebe had a colorful personality, and was an integral part of our day-to-day family life. I think of her several times each day, including 20 minutes ago when I spooned myself out some yogurt. Phoebe would always get the bowl before I finished it all. Now I had to scrape the bowl clean for myself. Life will be very different now…
Since I help people write about the most meaningful stories of their lives in my role as personal historian and ghostwriter of memoirs and autobiographies, I suggested that we as a family begin to write about Phoebe. We can put our memories together as a tribute to this special pet.
We haven’t started yet, but I expect to use many of the same writing tools that I teach in my classes on Writing Your Life Story. I will start with basic writing prompts, which I call Story Sparks, to get things moving. Here are some possibilities I have in mind:
“Phoebe was the kind of cat who…”
As I go to fill in that blank, my first thought is “Phoebe was the kind of cat who would follow you around the house like a dog, and even fetch small balls and drop them back near your feet. Oh, and at dinner she would linger close to the table, ever-ready to pounce on a morsel of people food that might drop from our plates.”
“Phoebe made us laugh whenever she would…”
And my answer is “poke just her head out from under a blanket that she had crawled under or our son had draped over her.”
“Phoebe had an interesting way of…”
Here my answer is “talking to us through her persistent meowing. Part Siamese, she had a verbal response to almost anything you did, and especially whenever you spoke to her by name.”
“When people would see Phoebe for the first time, they would notice…”
The response that immediately comes to mind here is “that she had two different color eyes.”
“Phoebe’s favorite food was…”
I would complete that thought with “tuna juice. Just the act of picking up a can of tuna from the pantry would prompt her to bolt downstairs in half a second, before I even lifted the lid from the can of tuna packed in water.”
“At nighttime, Phoebe really liked to…”
No hesitation with this response: “curl up close to our son in his bed and help him get to sleep.”
I’ve got lots more to compile in writing this tribute to Phoebe. My wife and son will be joining me in this project, and I trust that it will help us both in our grief and in our celebration of the life of our cat.
Have you lost a cat, a dog, or some other pet? Might it help you to write about the life of your pet in a tribute book or some other form? Are you ready to begin?
Feel free to use the Story Sparks, or prompts, that I have introduced in this blog, substituting your pet’s name and kind of animal as needed. I bet you’ll have no trouble from there in adding new prompts of your own to cover any aspect of your pet and its special place in your lives. There’s even a guidebook on the process out now: Write Your Pet’s Life Story in 7 Easy Steps by Mary Anne Benedetto:
Our pets matter a great deal to us. They are a vital part of the fabric of our lives. We can honor that connection by writing about them after they have passed away…or while they’re still here with us.
– Kevin Quirk helps women and men of all ages and backgrounds write the most meaningful stories of their lives, including stories about pets, in his role as memoir and autobiography ghostwriter and personal historian. Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, he is the author of Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It: An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story.