The Chairman is Dead, Long Live The Chairman.
Chairman, my grumpy ass calico cat died yesterday, on my mom's birthday. She was 13 years old. She had a bad night last Thursday, and I wasn't able to get her into the vet until Monday. After taking my mom for her Monday morning bloodwork, I took Chairman to see the vet. He said that he didn't want to stress her out with bloodwork or any sort of procedure, but he said if he had to guess, she more than likely had lymphoma, and we were working together to make her remaining time comfortable. She was given a shot of steroids and some fluids, and I brought her home. She seemed fine, so I went out to get lunch with my mom. When I came home, Chairman and Penny met me in the kitchen, begging for food. I fed them, and they both ate. About an hour later, Chairman stood up and immediately fell over, and she was gone.
My ex got the cat in 2006, shortly after he and I had met. Her name was originally Jinx, but I said drunkenly one night how hilarious it would be to name her Chairman Meow, and it stuck. A lady cat named Chairman. When we split, my ex told me that he was going to just let her go outside. But at that point, she had been an indoor cat most of her life. I wanted her to live an indoor life that didn't involve smelly teenage boys picking on her or my gruff voiced mean ass ex yelling at her, so I kept her. She and I have lived in five different places together. Over time, she warmed up a bit. She would cuddle up with Joy if I wasn't around. When we moved in with Kurt, she got full reign over an enormous apartment until Penny came to stay with us in late 2017. When we had shows or parties, Chairman would almost always come out and check on things. Chairman hated most people, kids, and Penny. You couldn't pick her up, and she would only cuddle on her own accord. Even then, you couldn't pet her too long, or she'd bite. She loved sitting in sunbeams, mushy food, and peeing on our stuff.
This was my first time having to deal with an animal's death as an adult. When I was a kid, my mom would always just dig a hole in the backyard, and we'd inter whatever dog/cat/bunny/turtle had expired. I live in an apartment, so that wasn't an option. I called around to a few funeral homes, to inquire about cremation for a 5 pound calico, who was now resting peacefully in a box, wrapped in a soft pillowcase, with her kid sister sniffing at her and rubbing on my legs.
Through all of my calls, I found out that cremation isn't expensive, it's all of the trinkets and knick knacks that they try to sell you in your moments of grief are what added up. I was quoted over $300 by one place, but that included a wooden urn with the pet's image laser-etched onto the front of it, a paw print, and a clipping of her hair. I decided to go with Hummel Pet Services, because they had cremated one of my mom's dogs years ago, and they were the only place to give me a quote for a very basic cremation.
Their crematory is located on Opportunity Parkway, a street name that the irony of it existing in a town like Akron is not lost on me. It was now time for her funeral procession, even though she hated riding in cars, and the crematory is only about two miles from the apartment. I carried her downstairs, and set the box on my front seat. Before I took off, I opened the box and kept her uncovered. Her body had started to cool down; I let the sun kept her warm, and the jams on the radio kept me from crying. Really, I kept myself from crying, because if there's anything I'm a champ at, it's hiding my emotions and compartmentalizing my grief.
I pulled in to the crematory, which was a very nondescript place, save for the sign and the potted plant by the door. I gave her a few last pets, said my goodbyes, covered her up and closed the box. I walked in, and was shown to a small meeting room. The room had a bunch of tiny urns, with photos of golden retrievers and fuzzy cats on them. There was also a small dog bed on top of a table, which I wasn't sure whether that is where they hold tiny funerals.
I filled out the paperwork. The lady at Hummel was so nice. She offered condolences, and didn't make me feel bad about the fact that I didn't want the ashes back. I've seen way too many urns at Goodwill. I'm a photographer and have approximately seventeen billion photos of Chairman, dating all the way back to when she first came to live with my ex, until shortly after she died and I had tucked her in. She ran my card, I signed everything, and that was that.
I spent the evening with my husband, looking through all of the photos we have of her and telling stories back and forth. We laughed, we cried, we snuggled with Penny, and we went to eat tacos.
Chairman was with me for a really long time. She was also with me through the last 10 years of my life, which started out hard, but have ended up being some of the safest and most satisfying years of my own life. I'll miss her dearly, even if she was a pain in the ass.