I said the words I’d been dreading for days to my husband. Kneeling by the couch, my darling girl curled up in the nest of sweaters and blankets we’d built for her, I knew Brandy’s old, sick body was no longer her cage. I no longer feared that she was in pain.
My girl was gone. As I had promised her, Brandy’s indomitable spirit had left this world while she was in the safety and love of my arms, with my voice whispering to her, “It’s okay, my love, it’s okay. You can go, be free, I love you.”
In typical Brandy fashion, she chose to slip away quietly on her own terms, before the vet could get to our home to help her on her way. I was so relieved she was free from the failing body that had held her hostage for so long — but oh, her loss took my breath away. I still haven’t quite caught my breath.
I held her in my arms, savoring the remaining warmth in her body, inhaling her scent, trying to commit everything about her to sense memory. My husband cradled her head in his hands, and we wept. We allowed the reality of her death to engulf us. It was gut-wrenching and precious.
We stayed with her for the remainder of the afternoon — arranging her body, stroking her, talking to her, telling her we’d always be a family. I felt so lucky that she was in her home, that we could take our time with her.
We gave Brandy the best death we could
Every death is different. We offered Brandy palliative care (with our vet’s supervision) leading to an at-home death. It was the right choice for us. She was kept comfortable in her home, with her couch, with her smells, and her people (though I admit our home looked like a cat hospital for her remaining days).
After spending the afternoon with Brandy, my husband and I called the pet crematorium we had selected. I love the company we worked with, I felt so taken care of. The company was appropriately transparent and straightforward on matters including Brandy’s pickup at our apartment, how she would be stored, and our choices in the cremation process.
A representative arrived within 45 minutes, carrying a small basket with a pillow and a blanket. He gently asked whether we would like to place Brandy (he called her by name) in the bed. My husband and I did so, and he gently tucked her in, covering her head with care.
Efficiently, but with sensitivity, he asked us how we would like to proceed. Would we like to be present for her cremation? Would we like to view her body before the cremation? Did we have any special requests?
He also explained how Brandy would be transported to the facility, and that she would “need to be refrigerated” until the day of her cremation. He said this carefully; I could see in his manner that this step probably upsets some clients. We told him we understood, and he said reassuringly, “We will take good care of your Brandy.”
It was Wednesday. We arranged to attend Brandy’s cremation that Saturday in a rural part of Hong Kong. We were told a car would pick us up at the train station and take us to the facility.
After we signed some papers, the man thanked us and asked if he could take Brandy. My husband and I kissed her face one more time, I squeezed her paw, and then he carefully lifted up her basket and carried her from our home.
Watching her leave was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but knowing that she was in good, respectful hands was a great comfort.
Thirty minutes later, the representative called to let us know Brandy was safely at the crematory. For what seemed like the hundredth time that day, I felt overwhelming gratitude mixed with grief.
The day of Brandy’s cremation
We took the train to Yuen Long, where the same representative met us and quietly drove us to the crematory. Upon arriving at the small, low building in a Hong Kong village, he went over the day’s schedule with us.
First we would see Brandy in the “family room,” where we could spend as much time with her as we wanted. Then she would be taken to the crematory, where we could choose to press the button to cremate her, watch from a viewing room, or wait in another room. I told him I wasn’t sure yet, and he nodded and said he understood.
We were guided into a small room painted in pastel colors with a cushy leather couch, pastoral art on the walls, and soft music playing. It looked like my grandma’s living room. By the couch, in a small pet bed, partially covered in a fuzzy white blanket, lay Brandy.
“Let me know when you’re ready,” the man said, closing the door behind him.
I knew I would see Brandy one more time before the cremation, but I did not expect to see her looking so normal, so peaceful. Knowing what I know about post-death pet care and having seen deceased pets before, I (foolishly) did not expect to be overcome with such emotion. My head said, “This is just her body,” but my heart cried out, “It’s her!” Forget being logical or “rational” in this moment, I was nothing but a live wire of sadness and joy and pain and longing. And that was just fine.
My husband and I sat with Brandy for about 15 minutes, holding her paws, stroking her face, saying our goodbyes to the little tortoiseshell cat who had shared the entire course of our 10-year relationship.
When we were ready, we knocked on the door to the adjoining office, and the man came back in.
He showed us to the cremation furnace room and asked how we would like to proceed. Having said my goodbyes to Brandy’s body, I said I’d like to go outside while she was being placed in the furnace. My husband opted to observe the beginning of her cremation.
Once the process had begun, another man told us that her cremated remains would be ready in about 90 minutes. He told us approximately how much her remains would weigh, asking whether we’d like to choose an urn for her. We chose a simple blue ceramic one.
Rather than leave and have her cremains delivered to us, we chose to wait. We went for a long walk through “country” Hong Kong and dried our eyes on good memories about Brandy. It felt so good to laugh again about the time she tipped a lamp onto my husband’s head, almost giving him a concussion, or the time(s) she stole my dinner.
Eventually we went back to the facility, where before her cremated remains were placed in her urn, they asked to show us the remains we were receiving. Admittedly, that was a rather jarring presentation, but it was all in the name of ensuring that we were getting Brandy’s remains and nobody else’s.
Brandy’s cremated remains now sit in front of our TV, the same spot where she liked to sit so we would have to watch HER instead of our stories. I miss her every day. Sometimes between waking and sleep, I still feel her snuggled up next to me in bed. Who knows; maybe she is there.
Though her loss continues to be painful, I see sweetness in the sadness. I got to love another being so entirely that her life and her death were precious. I would do it all again without hesitation.
So that is how Brandy moved on to that Great Tuna Buffet in the Sky. Thank you Catster community for reading about her, asking about her, and caring about her for all these years. All your kind words and well wishes never went unnoticed. Catster is a chronicle of Brandy’s life. Thank you for sharing in it.