Oh, my sweet, beautiful kitty-cat. Taffy, named after her brown spots on white fur. Taffy, whom I watched being born. Taffy, with her inconceivably soft fur and her neurotic habits, Taffy, who'd sleep by the heater in my bedroom.

Febuary 10, 2000. My mom, my stepdad Ken, and I were sitting about the living room, watching ER. Taffy was lying on the floor by the coffee table, lounging.

Suddenly, Taffy starts howling, the sort of sound a cat makes when you step on its tail, but much much longer. She's rolled onto her side, her front legs splayed out, paws clenched, claws extended. I run over to her and scream, "What's happening?" I think briefly that somehow the leg of the coffee table might have sat down on her and hurt her, but that is not the case. "Maybe she's having a heart attack," my mom says.

Meanwhile, Carter and Lucy are getting stabbed on the television.

I run and get a laundry basket and a blanket, while Ken gets an oven sheet, to scoop Taffy up and put her in the basket without squeezing her. My mother takes her through the rain out to the car and speeds away to the veterinary emergency room.

I waited. I watched on ER as loud birthday celebration music covered up Lucy and Carter's cries for help as they lay bleeding on the floor. I watched out the window for my mother.

Finally, she returned, empty laundry basket in hand. She told me that Taffy had died, of a heart attack caused by a congenital defect. I started bawling. I was screaming, I kept failing to believe that my cat had been so abruptly removed from my life.

Somehow her death affected me as drastically as the deaths of my father and grandfather did. She was not "just a cat". She was a family member, a part of my everyday life. Soon after I'd go to bed, she'd walk in circles around my bed, and I'd pet her as I read my book. There was always a pile of her white fur around the space heater, one that remained there for a month despite frantic vacuuming.

In an instant, a life that I had known since 1991 had vanished. I sat with my family, cried, and drank tea. I talked to my girlfriend on ICQ, and then she phoned me. I stayed home the next day and mourned.

I have since accepted her death, but I often have trouble understanding it. Slowly, I'm learning the transitory and ephemeral nature of life, realizing the passage of time. Things come, things go. Time is the human experience, and yet we keep trying, desperately grasping, to hold on to the past. Meanwhile, I still dream about Taffy sometimes, alive, wandering my house.