It was a couple of hours later when we discovered that she was missing from the concealed spot where she'd been sleeping. After checking all the other spots indoors where she might have hidden herself, we looked outdoors and found her lying alongside the garage, already turning cold.
She had apparently been making for a gap in the neighbor's fence, which she has often used to pass through their yard and get to the open area behind this block without climbing any fences. From back there, she could have returned to our yard through a convenient gap in our own back fence, or she might have simply vanished into the woody landscape. I don't know which she intended.
But she must have paused to rest in the soft dirt alongside the garage and then lacked the strength to continue her journey. Thus we found her and were able to bury her near the other cats in a small terrace in the back yard. She took many afternoon naps in that terrace over the years—it was a favorite spot of all our cats, being well shaded most of the day during summer and catching lots of sunlight on the short afternoons of fall and winter.
But it was often difficult to see Sugar napping there because, with her tan and marmalade coloring, she blended so perfectly into the reddish brown soil to which she will now return. She always enjoyed rolling in the dirt there, too. Maybe she was even headed to that spot when she died. Though she didn't reach it, at least she got to die outdoors and in her own territory instead of in a strange room full of the smell of strangers, or even in the stuffy confines of our familiar house. Her last view was of known ground under brightening sky on a mild late summer morning. I don't know if that makes up for the last few miserable days she endured, but she's out of her misery now, and in her own earth.