I’m watching your light grow dim, beautiful girl.
I noticed last summer that you’d given up your fierce hunts through the brush, that you were resting at night on the sun-warmed pavers by the front step as they released their heat. But you still refused to come inside and it was as if maybe you knew.
This is my last summer, your amber-green eyes pled, let me watch the stars and listen to the tree frogs in the banana leaves, let me keep the raccoons out of the yard as long as I still can, and so I laughed and closed the door and let you stay out all night until you meowed to come back in.
You looked different when I came back from vacation—angular. Your jaw was more defined. I pet the sharp ridges on your spine and noticed your coat had lost some luster, but clear-eyed, you still trilled good morning and danced around the tiles while I filled your dish with ice and fresh water.
I can’t keep the water bowl filled. Your thirst is insatiable lately and of course I knew this day would come and I thought I was ready because at least I was prepared, but I’m not. Fifteen is old for a cat and they said with one kidney you probably wouldn’t make it past 12. I knew better.
We’re tenacious, the two of us. We like to beat the odds, and we did, but now you’re on your way home and I’ll walk beside you until we reach the bridge you’ll cross without me.
As our time together grows shorter, you’re teaching me to let you go with grace.
I could say, it’s fine. I gave my cat a full, good life. She’s ready to go and she’s old but the truth is that, you, dear cat, gave me a good life.
It’s amazing that such a small, silent creature could have been such a wise teacher.
When I found you in the parking lot, a sick, tick-ridden kitten, I was lonely and heartbroken and you came to show me that often, the way out of our darkest moments is to care for someone or something else even more wounded and helpless than we are.
You demonstrated to me how to stand up to bullies by always putting the snarling dogs in their place. The tiniest among us can also be the strongest. Always root for the underdog, or in this case, the under-cat.
We are all connected. Not just humans. You showed me that animals are part of this equation too. I always joke that you’re the longest, stable relationship I’ve ever had with anyone. There’s been real meaning in our time together, real love. It’s not the same love I have for my family or my daughter.
It’s its own kind of love: valuable, unique and incomparable.
There were so many hard nights these past 15 years, so many times I cried on the bathroom floor only to lift my head to find you beside me. Sometimes the grieving need nothing more than a calm, silent presence, a soft warmth pressing against the pain. You gave me that and showed me how to give it to others.
Your purr ticks weaker now, but there is life in you still. Grateful for each moment left, I’ll make your last days peaceful and comfortable and when your time comes I will never let you suffer, not for a moment. And until that moment comes, I’ll give you ice and tuna water and fresh catnip. I’ll lift you on and off my bed so you can sleep on the fleece blanket in the patch of sun that slants through the window. I will revel in your simple pleasures.
Thank you for everything, sweet kitty. Thank you for coming to me, for choosing to stay, for being my companion, for allowing me to be your caretaker.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Victoria Fedden
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own