Apparently you can’t say the Mourner’s Kaddish for a pet. A few brave souls have attempted to adapt the prayer, but according to my very official Google search—Rabbis frown upon this practice. Soooooo…what to do?
My beloved brute of a cat Jett Jagger, died yesterday and I am grieving. His life had meaning for me and for those thinking—“Chriss, he’s just a cat,” I urge you to continue reading.
My adult life hasn’t been grounded in the “traditional” ways. I am 37 years old and I’m not married, although have had a series of casual and serious partners–all of whom knew Jett. I don’t have human children. I’m not a home owner and like many New Yorkers have lived as sort of a gypsy apartment tenant (I moved at least a dozen times in the 15 years I lived in New York City). Home was anchored in Jett Jagger’s geography. I was 24 years old and he a mere 5 weeks, when we met. One application pledging my devotion to his well-being and a $100 in cash given to the clerks of NYC Animal Care & Control in Manhattan later, cemented our beginning. Jett was for all intents and purposes a relationship starter “kid’ as he was adopted by me and my first serious partner. After the relationship ended, I retained sole cat custody. Since then it was me and Jett finding our way in the world together.
Jett was present at my first stand-up comedy show in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He needed to be bottle-fed every few hours so I made sure that he was close by. He travelled to the Hamptons where I worked weekends as a nanny and lived in every single place I inhabited in New York City. He was there in tumultuous times, celebratory times and everything in between. As he and his “brother” Boboh couldn’t move to the Harvard grad dorm with me, they stayed in Brooklyn with my brother until I found suitable accommodations.
Jett died yesterday at the age of 13 years and 4 months. It was sudden and I didn’t have the means to be physically with him when passed away. I’m the one person he trusted and the one person in the world that loved him for everything he was…which at times included being an a–hole.
He and his “brother” Boboh have been the subjects of silly songs, stoned & sober conversations, college papers and the recipients of a few postcards. As I watched Jett take his final breaths, I sang one last silly song hoping that hearing the familiar tune and voice via FaceTime would give warmth to the sterile, cold veterinarian’s office he ended his life inside.
Where do I look for comfort? I wrote out his obituary to post on social media and what seemed like a bottomless bag of Halloween candy is now empty. I’m ready to turn to the tribal texts that have guided and comforted me before but am finding they are not set up for this type of counseling.
Writing this post has brought me to a moment of clarity—this is a Mourner’s Kaddish for Jett.
For those interested…
Jett Jagger (“Jaggernauts,” “J”) began life in the backyard of a private residence in Harlem, NYC, the summer of 2004. 5 weeks later he found his forever home with his “mom” Chriss who bestowed the name “Jett” after a chance bar encounter with the famed musician Joan Jett. The next 13 years they sampled the Brooklyn apartment market— Park Slope, Williamsburg, Borough Park, Crown Heights and Flatbush. He liked the concept of travel however after a traumatic vacation in the Hamptons he stopped vacationing and instead preferred the comforts of his own home. His commanding presence was well-known in his household —-turning his morning wake-up calls into a well developed art form. Throughout his life he enjoyed the simple things— sitting in the sun & atop coats & laptops, playing with toys (and pushing them under the oven) and curling up with his brothers Gus, Boboh & Oliver. He greeted all visitors at the front door by flipping on to his back…a trademark move known as “flippies.” He hated leaving the house, having his nails clipped, being picked up for more than 12.5 seconds and battled an addiction to catnip. He is survived by his best-friend, brother and lover Boboh, his mother Chriss, uncle Zachary and friends AOD and Hayley. He was surrounded by loved ones as he crossed over the rainbow bridge. Thank you G-d for this time with him and may his memory always bring a tear, a chuckle and be a blessing.