I have an ailing cat. She keeps losing weight but on most days will still climb the fence to go exploring. My godmother has a beloved older dog who is undergoing one thing after another. She hurts her wrist and her shoulder grinding up Annie’s pills. She’s been through this before. My friend Audrey has a friend who may be heading into the last stretch of a long debilitating illness. She isn’t eating enough, so Audrey brings her to her home and cooks her an omelette. She thinks she’ll only eat a few bites, but her friend polishes off the whole thing. Another friend falls apart when one of her sisters calls to let her know their mother has broken her hip. It stirs everything up, sinister foreshadowing, the beginning of the end. I think the unknown is the hardest part. She feels the death of her parents looming, then makes the jump to the ailments and death of all her friends. “It all looks pretty bleak,” she says. Wait, I think later. Come back. We may have decades of healthy lives ahead of us. I buy organic liver cat food, and my Sofia licks the bowl clean. The next day she won’t touch it. I worry when she leaves the courtyard and doesn’t reappear for six hours. When she comes back in the late afternoon, I fall in a heap and cry, the sun spilling across me on the kitchen floor. We all know this, are on one side of the equation or the other. We’ve been through this before. Our hearts sink and soar. Our courage, our hope, ebb and flow. Life becomes moments. Savor the taste of the cheese omelette in our mouths. Thrill at the sight of the red glass bowl on the floor licked clean. Rejoice in watching your too-thin friend enjoying the breakfast you made her. Lick the last piece of liver off your paw. Bury again and again the part of you who wilts inside at the way the ribs show through the woman’s skin, the cat’s gray fur. Breathe. Lean into laughter when you can. Kiss them on the forehead every chance you get.