Saying Goodbye

Two paintings by the English artist Mary Newcomb depict a woman and her dog in a rowboat just at dusk. In the first panel, the rowboat goes one way, and in the other, with dusk deepened, it returns. In Christopher Andreae’s book about Newcomb, he includes Newcomb’s words (and punctuation) about the scene:

“After half an hour when more light had gone she returned past us, rowing slowly, turning to talk to the dog. The dog sat on like a little black mountain Both were very peaceful and companionable to one another It was a perfect moment.”

Before we even moved to Washington, and the dog Bill and Frances the cat were so much a part of life, I painted an “after” from Newcomb’s painting, replacing the black dog with Frances and Bill. The little painting is tucked in a bookshelf, right by the nightlight we use to keep the stairs lit after dusk. So most days, twice a day, I see it. When Bill died, it was hard to look at it.

And now Frances is gone as well. Because so many of you have read about Frances since the very beginning of “Her spirits rose…,” I wanted you to know.

Frances was abandoned in an apartment with a litter of kittens, and lodged a long time in a vet’s office cage before living with us in Alaska for three years, and then 12 years here on the bluff (“arriving in a little soft-sided satchel and ending in command of all she surveyed” as our older son said). I’m thankful for all the good times she had – and there were many – she loved living on the bluff, patrolling her garden courtyard and sleeping in warm spots and with us.

A friend wrote afterwards to remark how willingly we enter into these arrangements with pets, knowing full well what we’re signing up for (and getting so much), but feeling such pain when we have to say goodbye.

It was time and it was peaceful, but the house is hollow and empty. Not so companionable.


16 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye

  1. Oh Katy, I will miss Frances too. There is nothing quite as painful as the death of a treasured pet. You honored Frances with such a loving life.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Dear Katy,

    Your little painting is a wonderful memorial to Bill and now Frances. I love her upright sentinel posture…you may be rowing the boat but she is scouting the way home.

    I am just so deeply sorry.

    As my Katie used to say when she was a little girl, “I’m hugging you in my heart.”


  3. This beautiful little painting just makes me tear up. But what lucky animals yours have been. To have had such love in their lives, and to live on in the art you’ve made in their honor. But, oh, that empty house feeling is so hard. Love and hugs to you both. xoxo

    • Thank you Carol. I will so miss having Frances as subject. Today I cleaned house and so very strange to have no irritated black and white glaring at me. We see her all around the house.

    • Kim – this made me laugh. Frances would be horrified at the thought of snuggles by with that dog. She tolerated him but felt herself so superior. Thank you for writing. You also knew Bill!

  4. Sweet tribute to both Bill & Frances…. they are off in the boat together now. It brought back such good memories of being your neighbor.

  5. Our pets are such loving (or independently aloof) spirits. I have had both. It is a grace to share our lives with animals, and since we almost always outlive them, they bring a big message of loving and letting go. I so enjoyed reading this, Katy, and think of you often. Especially when I am reading “The Bear Snores On.” It is one of Jack’s favorites, and mine. I think I read it exceptionally well. Thank you again!

  6. What a beautiful tribute to honor Frances. I know she will always hold a special place in your heart. jenifer

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  7. We’re so sorry to hear about Frances. She was such an important and comforting member of your family. Your painting of her and Bill is so poignant. Please know that we are thinking of you.
    Love, Carol and Dave

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