Digging holes is hard work.
I've spent the last two weeks working in the garden. I dug out the compost heap to add to the soil. The chickens love that hole: they've decided that every time they catch sight of me with a shovel, they ought to come see what I'm up to.
Anyhow, I got the beds slowly planted, and for the first time that I can remember, I got everything in before anything died. Eleven tomatoes, thirteen peppers, marigolds, zucchini, cukes, cantaloupe, and then all the seeds: sweet corn, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, more cukes...
Digging the holes in my garden beds wasn't too bad. Several tomatoes were a little bigger than I liked them, but I just clipped the lower stems and sank the plants in some pretty deep holes. The other plants? Not so deep.
The marigolds...I actually had about 60 little plants to begin my border (I'll add seeds later). For them, I used my tulip planter to dig about 60 little holes and that was that.
So, Sunday, I thought I would lay down the straw for weed/erosion control, and also do the spring cleaning in the chicken coop to prepare for the chicks arriving this week. I thought I was done digging for the weekend.
But, there was a really important hole that I still had to dig.
Sunday afternoon, Katt finally lost control of her bowels and bladder. She staggered, and could hardly move. I called the emergency vet and got an appointment. There were a flurry of emails and texts...and one useless attempt at an international call.
We had an hour with her at home, the three of us. We still hoped somehow for good news, but we all said goodbye before I took her to her appointment.
Have you ever been in a bereavement room at a vet's office? This one was nice and big. Couch, comfy chairs, a pretty carpet. Katt began her stalking immediately. We waited for the vet. Katt got herself stuck behind the couch, and I grumbled about how silly she was for not just turning around, even though I was pretty sure she couldn't do it. I moved the whole couch for her. She slowly made her way over for some petting and scratching, but she wouldn't settle. I was sitting on the floor with her when the vet came.
The vet asked lots of questions, consulted Katt's chart, and examined her. The list of issues was long: severe lower back pain, neurological issues, a sizable heart murmur, high blood pressure, loss of sight... the list got too long. I stopped listening when she said that the treatments for any one of those things could be too hard on her heart.
It was time.
I kept it together. It needed to be about Katt. I'd have time later. The vet explained that Katt would get a big sedative, and her pain would stop. After that had taken effect, the last medication.
I sat there on the floor with Katt as they gave her the sedative. She growled and got fussy, and I was so glad to see that fleeting spark of personality. They left, and I kept petting her and she kept hitting me with her irritated tail.
I knew the moment the sedative started to work. The tail stopped, and the purring began. And for the first time in months, I saw a relaxed Katt. A Katt that wasn't twisted with stiffness and pain. A Katt that could just lay there, purring to have me at her side as I talked to her, thanking her for being part of our family, giving her a last goodbye from Country Kitty, and apologizing for not understanding just how bad it had gotten for her.
And then the purring faded away, and she was just breathing, utterly relaxed. The vet came back to check, and I asked for five more minutes. I continued petting Katt for a bit, and then I sat back, just watching her. And then I climbed up to sit on the couch, and kept it together. And I watched her until they came and took Katt away.
Later, they brought her back in a white cardboard "coffin", sealed with packing tape. The attendant asked if I needed help, since there was no way I could carry both the cat carrier and the coffin. She asked which I wanted her to carry. I kept it together, and I asked her to get the coffin.
I drove home. I changed clothes, got my boots and gloves, and found the shovel. I was going to bury Katt in the woodland garden, near the previous cat's grave. The vet had warned me to bury her deep. I wandered around, searching and finally finding the perfect spot.
I dug. I dug the deepest hole I've ever dug. I moved soil and roots and rocks and more rocks. The Boy came out and kept me company for awhile. He asked me if he could help, and I asked him to find a nice big stone for Katt, and to bring me the potted lily I'd been wondering where to plant.
I dug until I didn't think it was possible to dig anymore. I opened the box, and saw Katt laying there, still wrapped in the blue towel I'd brought to the vet. I kept it together as I lifted her out and placed her into a paper bag, which seemed like a more environmentally sound idea than the cardboard box wrapped in tape. The Husband placed her at the bottom of the hole. I kept it together.
The Boy wanted to shovel some of the earth back. He and his father wound up filling the grave together. I went back to the big garden and filled two big planters with the rocks I'd collected the last few weeks.
We covered her grave with lots of pretty rocks. I planted the tulips at the edge of her grave. They had already peaked, so I went and cut some pretty blooming flowers. It only seemed fitting, and I kept it together.
I've been keeping it together. Maybe only just, but I've done it. Never mind that cleaning her food dish was a physical pain in my chest. Never mind that her not greeting me when I got downstairs this morning left a ghostly wake that has followed me all day long, as I walked the farm, worked in the chicken coop, and struggled to keep focused.
There is a hole inside me right now. But nothing is getting in right now because I'm keeping it together.
A few years back, Country Kitty's parents died, and we had offered to get her a white lilac in memory. Well, for a variety of reasons, it took a long time to track one down, but we finally did, and it arrived last week.
So, today, I dug one last hole. I planted that white lilac in the front yard. I feel like I may never dig another hole without thinking about her. But I'm keeping it together.