Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Billy the Kit" - 2000-2012

by Salman Hameed

I have mentioned Billy the Kit (Urdu speakers should put an added emphasis on the two "Ls" in Billy) couple of times on Irtiqa. Just this past week we detected a big inoperable tumor under his tongue. He had always been healthy and led an active life. Now he is permanently a part of the White Rose Garden in Brattleboro, Vermont. I got him from an animal shelter in Las Cruces, New Mexico and, a few months later, drove across the US to western Massachusetts. He was my first pet and I just didn't realize how much these pets become a part of you. I know he was a cat - and that he didn't know anything about death. But I find it intriguing/perplexing that this loss has gone into a peculiar grief component (dedicated for non-humans) that I didn't really know that it existed. Well...almost all of the atoms in Billy's body were formed in the Big Bang and in the stars, and now they have been recycled back into our planet. So good bye to this celestial cat :)

Just this past December, the New Yorker published this fantastic poem by Franz Wright:

On the Death of a Cat
In life, death
was nothing
to you: I am

willing to wager
my soul that it
simply never occurrred

to your nightmareless
mind, while sleep
was everything

(see it raised
to an infinite
power and perfection)--no death

in you then, so now
how even less. Dear stealth
of innocence

licked polished
to an evil
luster, little

milk fang, whiskered


- Franz Wright


Anonymous said...

Rest in Peace

AntoherAnonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your loss Salman, RIP Billy! The energy and matter that once made up your cat has now returned back to the cosmos.

You may have already read this by Carl Sagan's wife, Ann Druyan but I'm still posting it here because it's really good:

"Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don't ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous - not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance… That pure chance could be so generous and so kind… That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time… That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it's much more meaningful…

The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don't think I'll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful"

AnotherAnonymous said...

I don't mean to double post. Missed the "Urdu speakers" part. You named your cat Billy, which means cat in Urdu although it has a different spelling and pronunciation. I see what you did there Salman! :D

Salman Hameed said...


And yes, Another Anonymous, I'm familiar with this piece by Ann Druyan. I also thought that Sagan's own chapter, "In the Valley of Shadows", in Billions and Billions was quite phenomenal and it goes well with this passage of Ann Druyan. Sagan wrote that chapter when he knew the advance stage of his Leukemia and knew that someone else will be editing his book. So - yes, death, of course, is the trickiest of subjects. This is the reason I really like the Franz Wright's poem about the death of a cat. They don't know death - and that is enviable... :)

Sean Keough said...

RIP Billy the Kit.

Quellspring said...

We'll all miss you, Billy. Primates can learn a lot from felines, eh?

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