Friday, August 6, 2010

Goodbye, Max

Our beloved cat Max was hit and killed by a car on Monday, while we were away visiting my parents. Since then, I’ve been breaking down into sobs every few hours. Max was an amazing creature, a very special cat, and his death came far too soon.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you already knew Max. He was always doing funny and silly things, begging to be photographed; you can see some of these photos in this post, and a video of him taking pins out of my pincushion here. Most recently, I featured him in this piece I made for Quilting Arts magazine.

My husband, Rob, is a gifted, eloquent writer, and yesterday, he penned this tribute to Max for our local paper, The Mooresville Tribune: 

He barreled into our lives eight years ago as an impossibly blue-eyed kitten, brought to our front door by a solemn-faced neighbor girl whose pitch was more a threat than an offer. “If you don’t want him,” she said mournfully, “I'm going to have to take him to the shelter.”

And so we wanted him. Our oldest daughter was going into kindergarten, and we decided she was ready for a pet. She named him Max.

His fur was a mix of black, gray and white — stripes and solids — that gave his face a distinctive, serious look, but he had touches of golden brown that added warmth. He grew into a strikingly handsome cat, and we called him our Beautiful Boy.

Max never doubted it, either. His confidence in himself seemed unshakable. He did not hide beneath furniture, run from strangers or shy away from direct eye contact. He never walked into a room that he didn’t immediately own. We liked to joke that “Max” was short for “maximum” because he had the maximum amount of personality that you could cram into a cat.

When Max lay on our daughter’s bed at night, his purrs reverberated through the back of the house. But he could be a different beast with the rest of us. He was aggressive, running around at full speed, stopping only when he would sprint up to one of us and sink his teeth into an ankle. He would hiss and dart for the door when we went outside.

We decided that Max was an outside cat, and told our daughter that forcing him to live indoors was probably responsible for his surliness. We warned that an outside life carried with it some dangers — hungry predators, speeding cars, malicious humans. She decided that if outside was where Max would be most happy, outside was where he needed to be.

Max quickly went from stressed out to blissed out. He still spent time inside, sometimes snoozing beneath the lamp in my wife's quilting studio while she worked, and occasionally emptying her pincushion (you can watch him in action at YouTube; search for “Max” and “pincushion”). She eventually made him the subject of a small art quilt that appeared in Quilting Arts magazine in June.

More often, he ruled the yard. He provided the audience for football and soccer games. He crouched beneath the little dogwood tree, preparing to sprint after squirrels he probably knew in his heart he couldn’t catch. He oversaw yard work.

Soon he discovered life beyond our yard, sauntering across the street to spend time with our neighbors. I sometimes called him the Mayor, but I’m sure he thought of himself more as a king and of us as his subjects.

We grew accustomed to his being out and about, so much so that when we left town near the end of July for a few days, we did so without even a goodbye. We were far away when he was struck and killed near our house Aug. 2.

We weren’t there for him, but Max’s loyal “subjects” were. One of our good neighbors collected the body and brought it to our house. Another called and gave us the heartbreaking news, and then with two more put the body in a cooler, to give us time to get home so that we could give Max the burial that a cat of his stature deserved.

The next day, when my wife gently lifted him off the ice, and carefully took him out of the plastic bag, we saw that the fatal blow had left few marks. Even in death, he was our Beautiful Boy.

We dug a hole, and with our two girls we buried him in his beloved yard.

No one saw who or what hit Max, though it’s a reasonable bet that the driver was going too fast, not paying attention, or maybe both. But it’s hard for me to reduce eight years with Max to a safe-driving public service announcement.

Max reminded me that people and cats have got to do what they’ve got to do. We knew the risks involved in letting him out the door, but we knew that's where he had to be. He knew it too, and he made sure we figured it out and followed through.

The outdoors cut short Max’s time with us, but that’s where I will choose to remember him: lying contentedly beneath the little dogwood tree, happy with his kingdom, living his life the only way he could.

– Rob Knapp

 Goodbye, Max. Love you, boy.


  1. I am sorry Max..Just read how you affected everyone who loved you. It is a sad thing to loose you for sure. RIP from all the Muldoon cats. Susan...I am sending good wishes your way. Diane

  2. Susan, Rob and the kids,

    During the last several years Max was not only your cat but in a way the neighborhoods. Or should I say the neighborhood belonged to Max! Many times I would come out on the back porch to find Max sleeping in his hammock AKA my Jeep top. He would just look at me stretch and kind of look like do you really have to go somewhere, I was just getting comfy...
    Whenever I would walk my dog and Max was out he would give her a body swipe and just go on. He was very confident in that way.
    He also served as my "supervisor" many times when I would be in the yard or the drive working on a project. Even if the solution to the problem I was working on escaped me, I somehow think he new the solution, he just wasn't telling.
    He was also the mouser extraordinaire, keeping my garage rodent free.
    I too will miss him and am truly sorry for your loss. He was always a fixture in the neighborhood and will remain a fixture in my memories. He lived a great life taking on the world on his terms, and was as you said an extraordinary cat.


  3. I am so sorry to hear about Max, Susan. My heart goes out to you and your family for your loss of this Beautiful Boy!

  4. I feel so bad for you all. I have a cat that sounds a lot like Max. We don't let her out because we live in the city, but I know she'd be so happy out there, as Max was in his kingdom.

  5. Oh my, I'm crying as i write this--a lovely tribute. I am, like you, the owner of a cat who is indoors/outdoors. It's the risk both of us take for him to be a happy, balanced animal. Bye Max.

  6. I'm truly sorry about your loss. I remember well some posts from you with him - he always made me smile. Glad you could say Goodbye to him.

  7. Thank you for that unbelievable tribute to Max. Our pets bring us joy in ways we don't even realize and your words remind me of those nearly hidden moments. I am sorry for your loss.

  8. So sorry for your lost of Max
    Hugs Patsy

  9. What a beautiful tribute this was. Made me cry... And to all of us pet owners who know, like you, that they are more than accessories, it really leaves a huge hole in your life. First the tears, then the laughter...

  10. Susan, that made me cry.
    I am so sorry for your loss.
    It will be quite some time before you stop your occasional sobbing, i imagine.
    Just know that you're in my thoughts.
    Ans what a wonderful tribute your husband wrote... Max was quite the Cat.

  11. Max had quite a family to love. It is tough that a world of exploration may shorten the life but makes the heart glad. Indoor/outdoor cats have the best of both worlds.

    My heart goes out to you and your family in this time of loss. A pet has a special, almost unguarded place in our hearts. maybe that is why we feel their loss so deeply.

  12. Susan and family, our fur (and feather) family leave footprints on our heart as we remember the characters that they were when they lived among us.i lost both a 19 year old cat, peewee aka he who must be obeyed and a 5 year old rooster,peaches , both hand raised with me a "mom",within a month of each other this spring .they still catch my eye and heart at times of remembrance as they are part of a relationship not be repeated, only honored . may your beautiful boy continue to inspire your art and know he had the best possible life with you if even too short.
    aloha, Sonja

  13. What a beautiful way to remember your beloved Max.

  14. I just boo-hooed through your post. Your husband's article was really nice and very touching! I am so sorry for your loss! I can only imagine how it must be thinking about Max each day, and I hope it gets easier for you soon.

  15. Eloquent and beautiful. A fitting elegy for a cat of all things maximum. And that most assuredly includes maximum love in this lifetime. I know this pain and it is heartbreaking. It took us three days to find the body of our little beloved,Keira, and my sobs must have been like thunder in our household. My grief was too much to hold without expression and tribute, as well.I understand and I grieve anew, with you and your family. My tribute to my loss, and all losses:The Journey: Over the Rainbow Bridge

  16. So now I am sobbing along with you. Max will be missed each time I come to visit. RIP, Max. You were a very loved cat.

  17. Dang, I am in tears. So lovely. Thank you for sharing this, Susan.

  18. I am so sorry to hear about Max your Beautiful Boy. Your husband's loving Eulogy is amazing. To know that you have loved and cared for a pet as a family member with all your heart is important. It was especially nice to read what James H. wrote about Max and how he interacted in the neighborhood.

  19. I am so sorry to hear about Max and I understand how you feel. After I lost one kitty to coyotes, I decided no more outdoor kitties, but sometimes they sneak out and there is nothing we can do. My thoughts are with you.


  20. So sorry to hear about Max's fate, but so glad to see how much he touched your lives.

  21. Hi Susan & Family,
    I am a loyal follower of your blog and appreciate all that you share with us.
    Our animals bring us so much joy and ask for so little in return. Max was so deserving of your family and the life that he lead. Thank goodness you said "Yes" when the neighbor girl came knocking at your door trying to find a new home for Max!
    Max is also well deserving of the grief you are feeling for him at this time. I wish you and yours a time of healing and eventual recovery of the loss you are feeling now.
    Unfortunately in life, we must take the bitter with the sweet.
    Wishing you sweet memories of Max,
    LuAnn in Oregon

  22. Melinda SchwakhoferAugust 8, 2010 at 3:55 AM

    So sorry to hear about your loss. i remember Max from a few summers ago when I was in the US. Go gently through this time.

  23. Susan,
    Your work is amazing. I first saw Max in Quilting Arts magazine and I thought he was such a beautiful cat and looked so real it felt like I could pet him right out of the page. Your's and your husband's tribute we can tell Max was a great source of inspiration.
    I am sorry for your loss but I am sure that Max lived a full life thanks to the freedom and the love you provided him.

  24. just sitting here reading some blogs to get caught up and after crying through yours I wanted to say how sorry I am that you lost Max. I have 6 inside cats and we feed 7 strays outside so I understand cats and how they really like outside. I've not lost a cat yet but my beloved poodle died 9 years ago and someone sent me this poem. It gave me comfort and I hope it will for you.

    The Rainbow Bridge

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
    There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
    There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
    The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

    Author unknown...

  25. Sending condolences for you and your family. What a wonderful farewell to Max. I lost my beloved 12 yr old girl this week so I know exactly what you are feeling. I too cannot help but cry as I miss her so much, just as you miss your Max. Hold his memory and spirit close by your heart forever.

    Ani Wilmington, NC

  26. Ani, I am so very sorry for your loss. Many hugs.


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