Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On Losing a Pet: Pay Attention to the Cracks. It’s How the Light Gets In ~ Leonard Cohen (A post from Cleo Coyle)

“The birds they sang at the break of day. 
Start again I heard them say. 
Don't dwell on what has passed away… 

Ring the bells that still can ring. 
Forget your perfect offering. 
There is a crack in everything. 
That's how the light gets in…” 

~ lyrics from Anthem by
songwriter and poet
Leonard Cohen 

Inspiration for the annual
"How the Light Gets In"
Festival, taking place next week.
Click here to learn more.

Caring for an animal, making it part of your home or family is an act of courage. We outlive them, and we know we will, which means we commit to witnessing the arc of their lives. No mean feat. 

We watch as they move from puppies or kittens through their active prime years. We play with them, laugh with them, and eventually suffer with them as they decline. 

It’s hard to see those you love in pain, even harder to say goodbye, and real grief follows a beloved pet’s death. 

Why do we do this? 

Those who have never owned a cat or dog or opened their homes to a sentient animal may wonder why pet owners take on the cost and pain and trouble. Everyone has their own answers. Here are mine:

We do it because the joy
outshines the heartbreak...

We do it because cost 
is part of living
(and should be)...

We do it because 
when we experience pain, 
we crack a little, and 
whether we see it or not, 
the cracks in our darkest hours 
are how the light gets in.

Of course, I borrowed that last line from the gifted songwriter Leonard Cohen, who wrote a set of lyrics that helped me through this past week after I lost my little long-haired stray cat to cancer.

(Like me) she was a misfit from the start, a sickly little flea-bitten thing who my husband and I nursed back to health. The health stayed with her for ten very happy years until she died of a fast-moving cancer last week.

Subjects of this nature are usually reserved for great cathedrals, where they are preached with great profundity (and footnotes), but (for me) real understanding truly come during weeks like this. 

I loved my Fluffy-Bunny very much—and she loved me, which I saw (almost miraculously) in those big blue eyes, even at the very end, as I stayed with her while she was put to sleep. It’s something that will always stay with me...

When the pain and fear are over, when the grief begins to fade, one thing is left, in the mind and heart, and that is love. The love is what lasts—and that is what matters.

Who is Cleo Coyle? 
~ Alice Alfonsi,
...who writes as Cleo Coyle
in collaboration with her husband,
Marc Cerasini

Because this is a blog where we always share recipes, I’ve chosen an old favorite--Roasted Chicken with Lime and Rosemary

Our cat Fluffy always stayed close by the kitchen when we cooked this recipe. She enjoyed the aromas--and, at the end of our evening meal, we would share a few warm, juicy pieces with her in a ritual we called "Fluffy-Chicken" treats. If you make it, I hope you (and maybe your own sweet cat or dog) will eat it with the joy that we did.


To download a PDF copy of the above recipe 
for Roasted Chicken with Lime and Rosemary 
that you can print, save, or share, click here
To see the original blog post, click here, and...

Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries 

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Learn about my books here.

P.S.  "How the Light Gets In" is also an annual festival of philosophy and music in England's beautiful town of Hay-on-Wye (the internationally famous "town of books"). Learn more about attending (wish I could!) by clicking the link below. The festival begins next week.

Click here for more info on this year's
"How the Light Gets In" festival.


  1. Oh, I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing that thoughtful post, especially at this time.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope that happy memories can help during this difficult time. I have several elderly animals at home now, but I wouldn't change a thing-aside from curing them of their many ills.

  3. Hugs, Alice and Marc. My heart aches with your loss, memories of my own, and with a glance at my own darling, exasperating Sarah. Looking forward to seeing what light this new crack lets into your lives.

    And I'll honor Fluffy by making this lime-rosemary chicken. She had great taste - this chicken is brilliantly good. And it combines the comfort of an old familiar favorite with the spark of creativity. Great choice.

    Love to your other furbabies.

  4. Hi Alice and Marc, I am so sorry for your loss. It is incredibly hard to lose a pet - a part of your family. We had to put our dog to sleep last Monday, also because of a fast moving cancer. It is so hard but at least the suffering is over. What a blessing to have shared our lives with those wonderful, furry, beings.

  5. So sorry for your loss. I lost my beautiful tuxedo last year to a saddle thrombus. My vet sent me a card that said (not exact words but the gist) Our pets give us unreservedly their love and devotion - when the time comes, give them their dignity. ((Hugs))

  6. Oh Alice, Mark, and Cleo, so sorry about losing that lovely kitty. You are so right about how we know this moment is coming when we bring a pet into our lives. But the joy outshines the pain, except for times like this. I know we're all sending your our love!

  7. I'm so sorry. Losing a pet (and that word doesn't do the relationship justice) is always hard, and yet we continue to take them into our lives. My sister took the easy way out when she lost her last cat, declaring that she'd never have another one because it hurt too much to lose one. I still think she's wrong.

  8. Cleo, Marc, I am so very sorry to hear of the loss of your sweet little kitty. It is indeed a very painful thing to lose a pet. I just went though it on Labor Day last year and it still hurt. But each day it lessens although I know I will never forget, I know it will hurt less. I hope you both feel peace and the love of your sweet furbaby and celebrate her life and the love you have for her. You are both in my heart and prayers. Sue from Iowa.

  9. Cleo and Marc, what a lovely tribute to your sweet kitty. My heart breaks for you. I know your pain as I've suffered the same with the loss of my doggies. Thank you for sharing the "light" and letting us all know how you have dealt with the sorrow.

    Love and hugs and prayers

    Daryl aka Avery

  10. I am so sorry for your loss. We love our dogs with all our hearts as well. Please know I am thinking of you and hope you and your family are doing ok.

  11. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful kitty. I am so sorry for your loss, Alice and Marc. Our pets are so important to us and this is a very tough time for you.

    I have been thinking about you during this difficult week.



  12. Typing through tears.
    Our fur children help us to be better people. As Rachel said: "Our pets give us unreservedly their love and devotion - when the time comes, give them their dignity." They teach us what unconditional love looks like. We gain from their being with us and we do, indeed, owe them their final dignity.

  13. (I'm typing through tears, too, Libby). Marc and I are deeply touched by these comments.

    Thank you, thank you, to everyone for sharing your heartfelt thoughts. I hope these comments also help those of you out there who have loved and lost a pet. (You're right, Sheila, the simple word "pet" doesn't begin to represent what they are to us.)

    Whether you are feeling fresh pain, as we are, from a recent loss or you have lingering sadness from a long-lost friend who can never be replaced, we sincerely hope this post and these comments can help you at this time.

    We also find that remembering the happy times helps a great deal. We've been trying to recall the antics and the funny moments that we shared together; we look at the pictures and try to smile again. We hope this lightens your heart, as it has ours, and reminds you not to dwell on what you've lost, but to hear those birds at break of day and start again...

    Thanks again, everyone,


    ~ Alice (Cleo Coyle)
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  14. I thank you for the terrific recipe. And I wanted to say, I have had a lot of pets. And more than once, I have had to deal with the loss. But, you know that kind of love is so precious and valuable that the price we must pay is the loss when that love is gone.

  15. I am always amazed when people who have just lost a pet say "I'll never have another cat/dog because I can't stand it when they die". I want to say "If you are feeling that much grief at the loss of your fur baby, then you must have learned to love with a full heart from your pet. Pay it forward and share that love with another fur baby who needs you."
    I smiled about your story about the chicken. Our first Siamese, Cleo, would sit in front of the stove every Thanksgiving while the turkey cooked. The first piece, the tail, would go to her. That was our holiday tradition for 16 years. When she passed, it took me 2 1/2 years to "pay it forward" and get another Siamese, Cleo the Second. It's funny, though. There are times when I am in bed and I swear I feel a small weight jump on the bed and walk to my pillow. I think I may have 2 Cleos.

  16. I am so very sorry to hear about the passing of your fluffy kitty. I have had to put three doggies to sleep and it never ever gets easier. I know I'll outlive them and right now we have two chocolate labs, the mom 8 and son 6 and we've never had a lab live past 11 years. So, I'm already afraid but I give them both so much loving. They are worth having no matter how short their lives.

  17. I am so sorry for your loss...it is so true that we open our hearts to our beloved pets knowing full well that someday we will have them broken when they die. But I can't imagine life without the unconditional love of my furry companions (dogs in my case) and I pray that I am as much a blessing to Reagan and Mamie as they are to me. Thinking of you.

  18. I know how deeply this loss resonates in both of your hearts...and as a result into my heart, as well. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Fluffy lived a life of exceesive love and respect...the loss is so real and so very pain filled.

    You are both spirits of generosity and giving...his little life was not in vain and I know that another furbaby will occupy, not Fluffy's spot in your heart but make a new one.

    The dog girls are sending their own brand of love your way...you know, unexplained barks, slobbery kisses, clumps of shedding fur all with much love!

    G.I. Jane

  19. Such a hard moment. I am grateful that a friend shared a link to your piece, as we said goodbye to our beloved dog Holly in April. Here is my own blog about my last morning with her: http://thequalityoftheday.com/2013/04/06/rest-well-old-girl/

  20. Your Fluffy was adorable. What a precious girl. May her memory be a blessing to you and Marc.

    I agree completely with you that the pain of saying goodbye to our beloved pets is part of the cost of living with them. As excruciating as that pain can be, it'll always be worth it to me. Always.

    In memory of Bridget, Daisy, Miss Kitty, Rufus, Spot, Gracie, Willy, TJ, Olivia, Dashiell and Mick, and in honor of Maren, Spenser and Keith.

  21. Anonymous