Remembering Bodhi

On a day in early September, 1993 I drove to meet an orange kitten, the last of the litter, being given away in Cambridge, MA. I’d never seen such large ears on such a small little body. And as big as he grew, his ears were always oversized for his frame.

There was some debate about his name the first month he lived with us. I proposed “Pumpkin Bread,” unwilling to shorten to “Pumpkin” because that seemed generic. My housemates refused to call a cat “Pumpkin Bread.” Then it was “Mr. Darcy” when my British Lit class tackled “Pride & Prejudice.” That was a bit formal for such a rambunctious kitten who would bat my pencil as I tried to do my homework. Name enlightenment struck during my Asian Religions class. Maybe this kitten could help me find my own buddha nature. Bodhi it was.

It’s hard to reconcile the cat of the past few months with the memories of the early years. After one vet visit, I loaded him into the cat carrier with a cone around his neck. In the car there was a tremendous whirlwind of activity in the carrier, and when I got home I discovered he’d removed the cone. While in the carrier. I called the vet to ask if I should put it back on.

“Oh yes, please put it back on. You shouldn’t take it off yet,” said the vet’s receptionist.

“I didn’t take it off,” I explained, “He did. In his cat carrier on the way home.”


“I don’t think you should try and put it back on him.”


In the early years, Bodhi spent time outside, getting into cat fights that left him with a torn ear, bringing me presents of little dead rabbits when we lived on the Cape. He was a “dog” cat then, coming when I called him, and following me wherever I went walking.
He moved to San Francisco with me before I had an apartment, living with my parents while I traveled for work as a consultant. When I eventually settled down, I brought him from Marin to my place in the Inner Sunset. He settled on the sofa as I called my landlord for permission to have a cat. She refused to give it to me, and respectful of authority at that time, I drove him back over the Golden Gate the next day.

A few months later my parents moved back east, and I had no choice but to bring Bodhi to my apartment. There was never any issue. I don’t know if my landlord ever found out, and “ask forgiveness, not permission” became my rule of thumb, at least as far as landlords and pets were concerned.

In May 2001, the day I was laid off from a dumb job I’d taken in financial desperation, Bodhi had some weird seizure. At the vet ER they diagnosed a heart murmur and heart disease. They said most likely he’d last six months to a year. At that time it was hard to imagine ten more years of adventures: a move to New York City, a sojourn in New Hampshire, a return to New York City and three different houses before his final home in the West Village.

Our first New York apartment was tiny, and Bodhi got fat from lack of exercise. But I’m not sure he realized it, and when some friends came to visit and sat on our sofa, Bodhi hopped up to join them, wedging himself between their laps, intent on being part of the conversation.

The arrival of two kids meant less attention from me, but more from them. As old as Bodhi got, he was always so patient with the kids, letting them lie on him like a pillow, putting up with their petting and pulling. Even this morning, purring as they played with him and Minna showed him her rain boots.

These last six months he’s lost so much weight, until the bones just poked through his fur, and you could feel his skull when you rubbed his ears. Often I’d pass him sleeping and sort of hope that maybe his chest wouldn’t rise as I watched. But it always did, slowly, as he slept and slept.

I struggled with whether it was time, and how to know for sure. But to know for sure would be in some ways to wait too long, to see his pain and suffering too clearly. He stopped using his box over a week ago, and that was something about which he was fastidious. The dog-cat who welcomed every visitor to our house now barely raised his head when someone entered the room.

The semester before I got Bodhi, I took the best class I’ve ever taken. We studied Buddhism, Deconstruction, Emily Dickenson, and Walt Whitman. I read every word of “Leaves of Grass” again and again, and in times of great sorrow I always come back to it:

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death;
And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
All goes onward and outward–nothing collapses;
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

I took Bodhi to the vet this afternoon. I petted and stroked him as they administered the injections. At the end, we were left alone. I thought of how lucky we both were: to have shared so much time together, to have been so loved. To leave this world without pain, surrounded by love, is about as lucky as one can get.

Bodhi 1993-2011

35 thoughts on “Remembering Bodhi

  1. *sigh*
    Thank you so much for sharing. Dreading the day I have to make a similar decision about my cat-dog.

  2. Oh, Meg! I’m so sorry for your loss. And this piece is such a beautiful testament of your love for Bodhi and his love for you. You were both so lucky to have found each other. He lived a great, long life. Yet, it is always too soon when they leave us. BTW, I met another woman this morning, while at the vet with my 12 month old kitten Mochi (who is under the weather at the moment), who walked through the door with her just passed 18 year old cat. She had him wrapped in a towel. She was so heartbroken yet she found time to show me a photo, a Polaroid of her and her now deceased friend. You can tell he was loved. And that is really all we can hope to do. Love and be loved. On a personal note, I lost my 15 1/2 year old “Gato” a year ago this month. I still miss him even though I have a new kitten now. In fact, meeting that woman this morning brought out lots of deep emotion that I found impossible to control. As I handed her a box of tissues I had to walk away from the vet’s office, in tears. I’m in tears now, even now, writing this. The love we feel for these creatures is so deep and so pure and so persistent. I’m sending you a hug and my best wishes of comfort for you and your children. xo, Myra

  3. My girlcat went the same way this year. Thirteen years of some of the best feline companionship I’ve ever had. The last few months of decline are so damn painful, so full of hope denied: the hope that she’d get better, the hope that she might pass on her own.
    Thank you for that line from “Leaves of Grass”. Bodhi sounds like a great cat. Everyone deserves a great cat in their life, at least once.

  4. Aw. Sad kitty mom.
    Putting our first cat down was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. He was an indoor-outdoor cat who got bit by another cat that had FIV, and he lasted about another year. We still miss him.
    Sometimes being responsible is just too hard.

  5. An excellent memorial to an excellent cat. My condolences.
    I took the same journey with a 17-year-old cat I got in college in 1988 who was named for Flannery O’Connor. When her kidneys began to fail, the cat left my office for the first time in months and searched the house until finding me in the tub.
    Three weeks later I was with her at a vet as an injection ended her suffering.

  6. I’m so sorry to hear Bodhi finally passed, he was looking pretty slim back in July when I last saw him, but he still perked up around me which was great. On the bright side, I remember when you got the “death sentence” for him in SF, and it seemed kind of amazing that he made the NYC trip fine and looked pretty healthy the last few years, losing his giant size he had in SF. He was a great cat and I will miss him.

  7. I’m so, so sorry… Bodhi was such a friendly guy. You’re right though, the kids got a great introduction to the joy of having a pet, and there is something beautiful about the obligation we have to tend to every need of our animals, even the last one.
    This brought back so many visceral memories of putting down Chelsie, making it hard for me to believe that it hasn’t even been a year yet. But with a little bit of distance, I can say with certainty that what’s remained is all the wonderful memories we had with her, and I’m sure the same will be true for you and Bodhi.
    Rest in peace, big sweet cat.

  8. Sorry for your loss. Reading your beautiful memorial to him reminded me of my dog cat Charlie who died a couple years ago, and those reminders are always welcomed. Bodhi sounded like an awesome cat.

  9. Bodhi was such a sweet cat! And he was so lucky to have a nice long life with such affectionate humans. Many condolences!

  10. I so sorry for your loss. We have two aging cats who will both eventually need to be sent on to the next life and to say I don’t look forward to that time would be an understatement. Bohdi sounded like a real dam fine cat.

  11. Our personal animals know and understand so much more than we can imagine. The lucky life you and Bodhi shared showered blessings on every other person and creature in your life! Thank you for sharing that joy and triumph with me today, Meg. Tonight should be a night of many hugs for you — make it so.

  12. Ah, such a sad thing and such a beautiful tribute to a fine companion. May we all be so fortunate in our family and our farewell. My condolences to you all.

  13. What a thoughtful tribute to your boy. I recently said goodbye to my 20 year old cat companion, too. While I knew all along, it wasn’t until her day that I realized Betty was with me the whole time I was learning to be a grown-up. Goodbye, Bodhi.

  14. Cats seem to expand our hearts but when they leave us the heart just won’t contract. They hurt in equal measure to the joy they bring. I’d have it no other way.
    Thanks for sharing the tribute.

  15. Farewell true and faithful companion. You have lived long and well. And you will be remembered with love and fondness for many great memories that will live on.

  16. Sorry to hear it. Beautiful pictures, Meg. Looks like you all had a chance to say goodbye. I have some good memories of Bodhi in CA. He had a good, long life.

  17. Oh Meg… I’m so sorry. What a wonderful, long life he had! Wonderful photos! xxoo

  18. We lost our much loved cat last year in a very similar way. Deepest sympathy for your loss. You are lucky to have had each other.

  19. Sad Face. Meg, we remember Bohdi. He was a truly sweet cat. We feel you having lost our own Dexter last year. While we eventually moved on and adopted another, we still accidentally call him Dexter from time to time.

  20. I’m sorry that you lost such a wonderful part of your family. Yours was a touching tribute. A few tears were shed in Amherst, MA for Bodhi.

  21. I’m so sorry to hear that Bodhi is physically gone, but very happy to know and believe that he lives on in some way. Bodhi was a perfect name for him, and his buddha nature always shone through and put me in touch with my own. It was a joy to visit him and take care of him so many times in the last four years. I always looked forward to those visits. I had the privilege of visiting him many more times than any of the cats I visit from day to day. He was definitely one of my very favorite cats, perhaps tied for first place by only one or two others, and I came to love him dearly. Bodhi was my buddy, and I often addressed him as “My good buddy” or “Bodhi-buddy” when I was with him. Your written tribute to him is beautiful and moving. I admit that I shed a few tears as I read it, and I’m a little choked up as I write this and remember him. He was a very special cat, and I’ll miss him very much. Thank you so much for entrusting him to my care. It’s been an honor.

  22. Meg – I am so very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to Bodhi, and I love your final line so much –> To leave this world without pain, surrounded by love, is about as lucky as one can get. Several years ago we had a similar experience with a cat I had had owned for 14 years, and as we sat with him for the injection, I realized he had been the longest consistent companion as an adult that I had ever had. -Alexandra

  23. Beautiful tribute — to an amazing dog-cat and to your life together. (the Leaves of Grass reference wasn’t from one of Edelman’s classes, was it?)

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