Vanilla whole wheat bread, and my cat is dying

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.

Bread1That 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?


19 thoughts on “Vanilla whole wheat bread, and my cat is dying

  1. Dearest Cinthia, my heart comes toward yours as I read your post ~ your words describing the process of living, loving, letting go, life transitions, death and comfort. Your sentence in particular about maybe us all really wanting someone to be be close to us and offer us comfort and solace at the end of our life. Man ~ that has me in the heart. You are reached right in and touched the core of yearning. I send you love and empathy for your heart’s pain.


  2. Beautiful post and a great insight. I often feel connections to all the strong women that came before us, and baking bread is a great way to experience that.

    And condolences on your cat. It is a difficult thing to lose a pet you love.


  3. I must admit, I saw the first few sentences of this post when it first went up, but waited for later, till now, to read it. I knew the tears were coming before I even got started, and boy did they. I am very sad for your loss. (And the ones it reminds me of.) It’s a hard thing, losing a pet, one of the hardest. I am glad you are finding some comfort in baking. Your bread looks delicious. I love this post! Hugs and love. –K

    “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.” -Irving Townsend


    1. Ah, Kristi, thanks so, so much. Losing a pet is a hard thing, which I am sure you know. Why do they have to live such short lives? But their lives are so full, so round and whole and complete, that in a way I envy them. Cheers and happy New Year. P.S. I’m still baking bread. Perhaps I shall send you some.


  4. So sorry to hear about your lil buddy. When we stop to think how much 15 years represents in the scope of life, it really is a meaningful loss. Yet, they stay with us, and we never forget them.

    I’m glad you have something you can do with your hands. I’m sure it helps.

    Take good care.


    1. Thanks, Kev! I actually used the emotions to finish my novel (spoiler alert: the dog dies at the end of my book) and wow, was the writing beautiful and true and honest. Funny how that happens, but sad and horrible, too. Cheers and happy writing.


    1. Thanks, Jill. I read your blog and saw that you used to live up here. Bet you don’t miss the long, dark winters. Or maybe you do. The moody beauty does get to a person. Sorry about your dog. It is so hard, isn’t it? My pets are my family and my friends. I know that sounds corny, but they are. I’ll think of you next time I bake bread. Heck, I’ll eat a few slices for you too. Cheers and take care.


      1. It’s trying to sleep during the long bright days that I don’t miss. We didn’t really have a problem with winter. In those days I worked in the basement of the 4th Ave Theater. That’s where KTUU was so I never knew if it was day or night most of the time. It was a great experience living there and I do miss it sometimes.

        Our pets are our family too. If you read my Buddy post, you saw a picture of his predecessor who we got at the pound in Anchorage. I made a re-con trip to the pound this weekend but no one clicked. Hopefully one day soon we will have a new family member. Of course I will post pics.

        Take care. It’s only weeks before you are back to gaining 5 minutes of daylight a day…and then there’s break-up and skeeters all over again! 😃


  5. What a beautiful blog post, Cinthia. I cried reading it because my 17.5-year-old cat, River, died Christmas morning, just a few days before you lost your beloved friend. In the way that you focused on making bread to help you cope, I focused on gifts at Christmastime. Not the material value of the gifts – but the concept of gifts and giving. I focused my thoughts on the gift of life, and oddly, the gift of death, too.


    1. Oh, Julie, so sorry about River. It sounds as if you two had happy times together. Why do pets live such short lives? I loved my cat madly and horribly. He died in my arms three days after Christmas. He had been sick for months and the strangest thing is I kept telling him, “Just make it to Christmas, just make it to Christmas.” It’s as if he understood because Christmas Eve he went downhill. The saddest thing is that my other cat doesn’t understand. She keeps sniffing the furniture and crying, over and over. It’s heartbreaking. They were together all of their lives. Cheers and big hugs.


  6. So sorry to hear about your beloved feline friend. What a soothing environment you provided him. Warmth, comfort, love, and finally, a gentle letting go. My favorite line in this is: “Maybe that’s all we ever really want, someone beside us offering us comfort and solace.” This packs a punch in its raw truth. I have witnessed several times how animals – even those who were typically aloof/independent when healthy – long to be close to someone they know loves them when they grow old and weak. My heart breaks for those (animals and humans) who don’t have this in the end.


    1. Thanks so much. I got a bit weepy reading your comment, which is great–I so love to cry, to let it out all, you know? I am so glad I got to be with my cat at the end. It was such an honor, and it may sound silly and New Agey, but there was such energy coming off of him as he died. It was beautiful in a horrible sort of way. Looking forward to keeping up with you and your writing life on your blog. P.S. I’m also a Gemini (!!).


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