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2:22 AM Pacific Time, two years ago.

by Nicholas Barnard on August 26th, 2021

It’s rare when you know exactly where you were and what you were doing years ago.

There are collective events when many know where they were and what they were doing. For instance, I know where I was when:

  • the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on lift off. (My Great Grandmother’s living room annoyed that my cartoons were being interrupted by the news.)
  • the United States was attacked on the morning of September 11, 2001. (Sleeping on the sofa bed at my mom’s house after an evening celebrating my friend’s wedding.)
  • when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up while re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. (Sleeping on the couch in a friend’s dorm room, after having an especially bad night the evening before.)

Then there are the personal events:

  • The death of my dog Louise. (In the vet’s office with Louise, my sister, and the veterinarian.)
  • The death of my maternal grandmother. (In the hospice room with grandma and family.)
  • August 26, 2019 at 2:22 a.m. Pacific Time. Sleeping on the couch. The cat who I lived with, Shaun, had just passed away. He peed on my bed before he died, and I couldn’t deal with cleaning the bed, so I was sleeping on the couch. I had transferred his body into the bottom of his carrying box, wrapped him in linens, and placed him in the highest place in my apartment, on top of the bookshelf. He’d always appreciated controlling “up” and looking down on everyone especially me. I figured I’d give him at least one last night of that.

I don’t know exactly where I was when Shaun died. I know he died on August 25, 2019, but I wasn’t home when he died. I came home, saw his unmoving corpse on the floor, and I collapsed on the floor next to him. My body melted into a puddle next to him. Gravity tripled its effect on me. I was pulled into the future that I did not want to enter, one that had been tugging at me as I futility braced myself against the smooth walls of inevitability.

Around that time I would have entertained any offer to delay Shaun’s inevitable death. Around that time, I entertained fantasies of some mysterious person offering to cure Shaun in exchange for killing someone with my bare hands. I’m haunted by the fact that I couldn’t count on myself to categorically say no to that offer.

I’ve never written a eulgy for Shaun. I’ve seen friends who have posted eulogies for loved feline family members promptly after they have died. I cannot fathom how someone can post a eulogy so quickly. “I felt that no matter what I said about him, I’d be leaving so much more out; and that didn’t seem right.” – Jake Sisko, in the episode The Visitor from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

After my maternal grandmother died, several of us went to Chili’s had a meal, and told stories about her. We laughed a lot, cried a little, and generally celebrated who she was.

I’ve known many cats in my life, and Shaun was a cat with an exceptional amount of character, curiosity, dignity, pride, and occasional humility. I’m going to try to share a story about him every day for a week to capture a few of those qualities here.

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