Brachtune, a love letter

In the wee hours before dawn, many, many, many years ago, friends and I were sitting in the courtyard of their apartment building, quietly talking. Across the way, a single light was on in a building that backed to my friends’. The walls of the lighted room were painted red and there was an American flag and a Nine Inch Nails poster hanging on the wall. On the window sill there sat a cat. It was too far and too dark for me to make out anything but a cat-shaped silhouette, but I felt comforted someone else was up as late as us and that they had a cat, and I wondered aloud what the “flag people” were like.

About a year after that night, my roommate, Lisa, and I moved into the apartment complex across the street from my other friends. Tigger, still a kitten, moved with us. As we were moving things in, some guys came around and invited us to a party later that night across the way. So we went to the party, happy to already be making friend with our neighbors. As I was standing around the dining room, marveling that all four walls were lined with beer cans, floor to ceiling, Lisa came racing up to me from a hallway and told me I had to go into one of the bedrooms, where the “most beautiful cat” was hiding from the party. So I followed Lisa to the bedroom and you guessed it: red walls, a flag, and a NIN poster. And the most beautiful cat in the world sitting in the middle of the bed, seeming a little put out by the party but accepting pets from me and Lisa.

Some months later, the owner of the cat announced he was getting rid of her. I couldn’t figure out why, but begged him not to take her to the pound and instead took her myself, planning to find her a home. I quickly realized part of the reason he didn’t want her was probably because she was in heat, which was really pretty annoying. I also quickly found her to be very aggressive: she tried to kill our senior citizen cat, Eishel, and sparred with Tigger. This also made it hard to find someone to take her in, so I called some no-kill shelters, but I have this condition where it’s near impossible for me to tell a lie, and when I admitted she was aggressive, the no-kill shelters refused to take her. Eventually, although we didn’t want three cats, especially three that couldn’t get along, it became clear we were stuck with this beautiful but somewhat annoying cat, and I made an appointment to get her spayed.

I’ve often joked that the animal hospital got it mixed up and gave her a lobotomy when she went in for her spay, because Brachtune (by the way, the origin of her name is in this post) returned home a completely different cat. She was sweet and loving and not aggressive at all. Eishel was sort of ousted by Tigger and Brachtune and went to live with my parents, and I went on to spend 15 more years with Tigger and 16 with Brachtune, convinced I had the two most perfect cats in the world.

Regular readers know Brachtune’s been sick for a while. Like many cats, her kidneys started to fail, and she was hyperthyroid and anemic on top of it. She hadn’t been herself for a week or so and had stopped eating, so I took her in to the vet on Wednesday. After simply examining her, the doctor gave her only a couple of days to live, and after doing some bloodwork, urged me to delay no more than a day or two putting an end to her suffering, warning me her body was going to start to drastically fail very soon. So I took off work today and am spending all day with her, and am indeed watching her body shut down. She and Mark and I have to go to animal hospital at 7. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Part of the reason I loved Tigger so much was probably because I identified with him. Of the two cats I’ve had in my adult life, I think I am most like Tigger; our personalities were similar: independent, feisty, suspicious of strangers but fiercely loyal to loved ones, loud and gregarious at times but introspective at others. Convinced we’re always right. Proud, perhaps to a fault. Uncaring and largely unaware what other people think of us. A bit dual natured. Adventurous. Risk taking. Brachtune, on the other hand, is who I strive to be. It sounds corny, but I learned a lot from Brachtune, and it was mostly this: calm down and enjoy yourself. Love everyone. Tigger had a hard time making friends outside me and Mark, but everyone that met Brachtune loved her. She is just sweetness personified. Friendly, laid back, loving, affectionate, warm, caring…if everyone were like Brachtune, or even half as sweet as her, we’d have no wars. Tigger judged you. Brachtune only judges you on your propensity for petting her.

I just keep thinking a single thought: She’s too nice to die. I need her, true, but the world needs her. The world is a better place with her in it and will be missing something without her. She may have been small – by the end, tiny – but her value as a living being is so much bigger than her physical size. Sometimes it’s hard to see the good in the world around you, but Brachtune radiates goodness. I think it’s so hard for me to deal with because she was so happy, all the time, to be alive. I hate seeing life extinguished from someone who just enjoyed it so much.

Mark and I would constantly joke with Brachtune as she wedged herself between the two of us while we were watching TV or something: “Brachtune, cheer up. Why are you so depressed all the time? Why must you hold all your emotions in?” As she sat there purring like a machine and pawing at us if we stopped petting her for a single moment. Brachtune always seemed ecstactic. I think she may have had an MDMA problem. Except Brachtune didn’t need chemical bliss. It is just her nature to eminate – and soak up – love.

I have a favorite reading chair – regular readers have seen it in numerous photographs because Brachtune liked to share it with me – and I can be found in it almost every evening. When entering the sunroom where my chair is located, from the doorway at the opposite end of the room, Brachtune would saunter into the room, make eye contact with me, and start walking towards me, then start trotting, finally racing toward me at full gallop, holding my gaze the entire time, until she reached my chair and leapt onto my lap. I’ve tried and I can not think of a single more endearing thing in the world than the thought of Brachtune picking up speed as she got closer and closer to me. Every time.

A few years ago, Brachtune got underfoot and I stepped on her, breaking her leg. I felt terrible. The day I brought her home following her surgery, she was hopped up on painkillers and had to learn to walk with a pin in her leg, which had to hurt. I had to take her kitty carrier apart and lift her out of it because she couldn’t walk out of it. I did so and sat on the floor a few feet from her, feeling upset and hideously guilty. Brachtune looked me in the eye and dragged herself over to me, unable to use her hind legs, until she got to my lap, which she collapsed in, purring. I’ll never forget that. It’s rare you feel that loved.

But as much as she loves me, no matter how comfortable she was on my lap, or how fast asleep she was, or how long or short a time she’d been cuddled up with me, the second Mark walked into the room and sat on the floor, she’d bound up off my lap and race to him. Brachtune liked everyone, but she loved us, so much my heart bursts thinking of it.

Brachtune. Brachtunavitch. B-tune. The Toonse. Toonsie. Sweetheart. Sugarplum. Sweetpea. Dollface. Sweetness and Light. Lovebug. Purrbot. I love you and I miss you.

36 Comments »

  1. Meg Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

    Oh no, I’m so sorry. That’s all I can think to say, really. 🙁

  2. Lisa G/K Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 2:27 pm

    With tears in my eyes and a heavy heart I wish you blessings and fond memories. Hugs from Utah. Lisa

  3. Jes Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

    Oh Renae, I was dreading the post when I saw the title pop up in my google feed–my thoughts & love are with you and Mark. Brach was such an important part of your life and I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to watch her go. Much love and hugs.

  4. Josiane Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

    What a wonderful love letter to your beautiful, and clearly cherished, Brachtune! It brought back memories of my dear old Maman Chat; I remember how hard it was to see her go. You’re in my thoughts.
    {hugs}

  5. Maria Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

    Devastated for you. Thank you for writing such a beautiful piece, about your wonderful Brachtune.
    I had to make the same horrendous decision about 6 weeks ago, and have one of my cats put to sleep – it was, as you say, the hardest thing to do. But on the other hand, it was the only decision *to* make, as I couldn’t bear to see my cat suffering – and I’m sure it was exactly the same for you.
    You have fantastic memories of her, and they’ll always be with you. As well as all the gorgeous photos (and my, wasn’t she a beauty??).
    Thinking of you.
    Maria xx

  6. kibbles Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

    That post was so beautiful and heartbreaking! It’s easy to see, simply through your blog, that Tigger and Brachtune were utterly happy and lived long (long!) comfortable lives in your care. Any animal that may be welcomed into your home in the future will be just as lucky to spend their years with you!

  7. Tiana Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

    This was a heartbreaking post.. I’m sorry you lost a member of the family =(

  8. Nikki Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 5:01 pm

    Thank-you for sharing. I know exactly what you’ve been through too: my family’s sweetheart, Lilac, had to be put down two Christmases ago due to liver failure. Lilac was quite like your Branchtune- she had the biggest heart I’ve ever seen in an animal. She even tried her best to care for us when we were sick or when we cried. She took in our second cat, Merlin, as her own kitten essentially, and he was perhaps the most heartbroken of all when she left us. I know it isn’t an easy thing to watch as they fade away from you, but we are so blessed for the time that they do spend in our lives. Your post made me cry for both Branchtune and Lilac, but also made me smile when I thought of what wonderful beings they are.

  9. susan Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

    My heart goes out to you…what a beautiful and touching letter…the unconditional love they give us is amazing…

  10. jamie Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

    hugs to you…

  11. Renee Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 9:17 pm

    A beautiful tribute to a precious, never-to-be-forgotten friend. I grieve with you.

  12. Lily Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 10:25 pm

    This was such a beautiful tribute to the Toonse. I loved reading all your posts and the gorgeous photos you always shared of her. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  13. Ivy Said,

    May 28, 2010 @ 10:30 pm

    My thoughts are with you.

  14. Alex Said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 1:32 am

    You made me cry.

  15. Ksenia Said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 3:22 am

    Animals are wonderful. They can give us their unconditional love, demanding just some caresses in exchange; and sometimes even not that. Our little Boston Terrier, called Betty, loved everytone as Brachtune did. We always joked about the fact that she was a terribe as a guard dog
    : if a thief entered at home, she would not try to bite but welcome him.

    Once, while walking, she got rid of her lead and run to a man. She only wanted to lick him (like she did with everyone) but the man was so afraid (although Betty was a little dog) that he kicked her. She resulted injured, but even after that she went on licking and welcoming everybody, like if nothing happened.

    We got so used to her presence, that it took us a long time to undestand that we would never had to throw her out of inside the duvels again (she loved to sleep not under, but inside them. Usually she was not able to find the way out, so what greeted us when coming at come was not a dog but a walking duvel)

    Deciding to put end to her life one a hard decision, but we knew we had to do it because she was suffering too much. She was only seven years old but had cancer and could barely walk.

    If Brachtune could read, I’m sure she would loved this letter. And I’m sure I’m not the one who cried with it. I know there is nothing I can say to make you feel better, but at least you know that she enjoyed a long and happy life next to you and Mark.

  16. Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets Said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 3:50 am

    What a beautiful and heart-wrenching letter. Thank you for sharing this with us. I’m so sorry for your loss but am happy as well to know she loved and was loved so fully during her life.

  17. Lou Said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 7:44 am

    I’m so sorry, Renae. Wonderful post, I cried big, fat tears in the library, I empathise so much. Be extra super good to yourself & live by her example, by what she taught you, seek out love and joy and spread it wherever you can.

    A friend sent me this the other day & it just came into my head for you, it might help:

    Breathing in, I notice the joy in me, breathing out, I smile. Breathing in, I nurture joy in others, breathing out, I smile. Breathing in, I notice this moment, breathing out, wonderful moment!

    It’s very calming, you can do it anywhere, in the car at a red light, in a shopping queue, whenever you need a little peace. Big hugs to you, I’ll always remember her even though I only knew her such a short time through your blog. Some personalities shine so much brighter, huh?

    Love,

    Lou

  18. radioactivegan Said,

    May 29, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

    I’m so sorry. I know your life is better for having Brachtune in your life; I’m only sad I didn’t get to meet her.

  19. Carolyn Said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 12:32 am

    You lucky duck. Brachtune had you, and you her, for that many years- there are so many (two and four legged) who never have that gift. Bless you both, and Brachtune, and all the kitties/whoevers who come to share your life in the future.

  20. Ms. Veganorama Said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 10:58 am

    I’m really sorry for your loss but glad that you both were able to share your lives together.

  21. Chris Said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

    Tears. R.I.P. Brachtune.

  22. renae Said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

    Thank you for all the kind comments, especially those of you who shared stories of your own wonderful companions. It’s so comforting to know we have the support of so many people; it really does help.

  23. Kathy Said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

    So very sorry. My love for the animals in my life led me to your blog. Thank you. Brachtune is still with you and she will always be.

  24. Felicity Said,

    May 30, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about Brachtune. What a beautiful, moving tribute to her specialness.

  25. Zoé Said,

    May 31, 2010 @ 9:50 am

    I’m so sorry for Brachtune, you, Mark… What more could I say? My word fails.

  26. Danielle Said,

    May 31, 2010 @ 11:01 am

    Poor little kitty. I will miss seeing her face in photos.

  27. Bec Said,

    May 31, 2010 @ 9:50 pm

    Thank your for sharing all your memories and photos of Brachtune. I can tell she was very special. I lost my precious 17yr old cat in March. Still haven’t gotten another cat yet but I need to. They bring so much joy to your life. (If purrs are any indication and if pics could talk, I think you brought a lot of joy to her too.)

  28. Trinity Said,

    May 31, 2010 @ 11:32 pm

    Your love letter to Brachtune is beautiful. I wish I could have met her.

  29. kittee Said,

    June 1, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

    RIP Sweet Purrbot.
    So sorry for your loss.

    xo
    kittee

  30. jstnthrguy Said,

    June 1, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

    Renae,
    I’m so so sorry for your loss. I had a kitty who was the spittin image of Brachtune and lost her last year. Your compassion and love brought tears to my eyes. So many of the emotions you emulated thru your words made me think of the many good times I had with my kitty, albeit too short. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Mark. ” The difference between friends and pets is that friends we allow into our company, pets we allow into our solitude.” ~Robert Brault~

  31. whatiwore Said,

    June 3, 2010 @ 11:59 am

    I’m not sure I’ve ever commented on your blog before (tho I often read it for recipes), but I wanted to say I’m sorry.

    Two years ago, I also said good bye to an amazing cat, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I know–and she knew–that she died with people she loved, with her dignity intact, before her suffering overwhelmed her. I’m sure that all these things are true for Brachtune, too.

    Best wishes.

  32. Christine Said,

    June 5, 2010 @ 10:19 pm

    I’m so sorry. I went through that about 4 months ago when I had to have our kitty “Maxine” put down. She was 15 yrs old but it helps to know that when she was with us, she was happy. She had the run of the house, the best food, and all the love in the world. It hurts to think about her but it was for the best, she had been suffering so much.

  33. Katie Said,

    June 23, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

    What a lovely love letter. It made me get the vapors.

  34. Marisel Said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    Oh gosh, you did it again! I have not read your website in a while and when I saw these new cats, I thought oh no. I looked at the Brachtune post and again, I started bawling just like when I read about Tigger. No lie, I don’t know if it is that I adore cats so much or you just really know how to bring out this emotion in your writing. I’m so sorry about Brachtune…she always looked absolutely beautiful. I hope your new cats help with the loss…

  35. cyrell Said,

    January 21, 2011 @ 5:21 am

    God I love the photos of your cat.

    My cat died christmas 2009 with 18 years..similiar to yours because of kidney problems and some other stuff.

    The photos of your cat remindend me so strongly of her because she had the same eyes and ..the same look in them.

    She had no long fur and a totally different colour but there is something so smiliar when she lays rolled up in her basket or looking up with her greenish eyes..or looking a bit displeased on your arm, maybe because the snow is cold and wet and she does not want to get down.

    I know I will miss her forever, especially her purring meow which I imitated and we would talk to each other in a high pitched breeow

  36. renae Said,

    January 24, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

    Cyrell, thank you for your comments. My favorite part of Brachtune was her eyes; your cat must have been very beautiful as well. 18 years old is pretty amazing, though – obviously she was well-loved.

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