My cat is dying, so I baked bread. I bake bread when I’m happy but rarely when I’m sad, and I was afraid that it wouldn’t rise, that the grief in my veins would cause it to sink down, a hard and ugly lump.
That didn’t happen. Instead, as I kneaded, my hands working the dough until it came to life and breathed, I had an epiphany or at least an insight: I thought of all the women who had come before me, and all the hours that they spent kneading dough, and all the deaths and sorrows and heartbreaks they suffered, and suddenly I felt lighter, as if the dough were taking away my pain. As if it were soothing me.
I made whole wheat vanilla bread from Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes, and I can’t begin to describe how the scent of vanilla filled the house, and how the smell drifted around my face when I opened the oven door, as warm and comforting as a hug.
After the loaf cooled, I slipped downstairs to my writing room, carrying my dying cat with me. I set him down on the loveseat (is there a better place to die than a loveseat surrounded by books?), curled up next to him and wrote.
My cat is 15-years-old and almost died three times before. This time is for real, it’s unmistakable, the way he so quickly weakened, and how he wants nothing but my company: My hand on his head, my voice near his ear. Maybe, in the end, this is what it comes down to: Someone soothing you as you die. Maybe that’s all we ever really want, to have someone beside us, offering both comfort and solace.
But here is the thing: My cat is dying and I’m baking bread. I can’t seem to stop. I need, you see, something to do with my hands.
Later: I’m curled on the couch with my cat. This is our last night together, our last few hours. Soon I will bundle him up in blankets and we’ll drive over to Pet Emergency and have him put to sleep. Soon. For now he’s lying beside me, breathing, his soft, warm weight against my leg.
Oh, before I forget: Here is the vanilla bread recipe from Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes. Eat a piece for me, okay?