Earth Loses One Sweet Kitty
I wish I had a better photo of Sable, my cat companion for the past 18 years. She was black, elusive and given to cat ways -- meaning when the camera was pointed in her general direction, one minute she would be there and the next minute, not.
I've known for quite some time that Sable was slowly exiting my world. After a crisis a few months ago in which I thought she wouldn't make it another day, she has faded away by degrees. Once again I am struck -- as I was with my mother's recent death -- with how much time it can take to die, if the organism is healthy to begin with and doesn't experience trauma. Life is so powerful, so strong and tenacious, that it releases its embrace in slow motion, function by function, system by system.
And then, just like that, it's over. One minute she was there, the other she was not. Poof. I had a sweet black kitty and now I do not.
I'm so honored to have shared my life with her. She was one of the good ones. Never bratty, always gentle and companionable. The photo shows just how good-natured she was. She actually liked -- or else patiently endured -- my scratching her tummy as she hung upside down on my legs. Bob Dog always ended up spoiling the game because he couldn't imagine that this wasn't prelude to a rumble and would start gnawing on her head. Even at this affront, she would give him a few warning meows and only as a last resort, if he remained insensitive to her needs, would she bring out those switchblade claws and give him a painful warning that, no, really, she meant that she didn't want her head gnawed upon.
For 18 years that sweet, spunky cat being has been part of my life. She came to us when she was so tiny I couldn't imagine that she would even survive. My daughter found her under a car on a street in Oklahoma City and, although having a cat wasn't in my life plan at that particular moment, one look at her and my heart invented a different future. She was Ariel's cat while Ariel was still at home. Her purring presence witnessed Ariel's adolescence and evolution into college student and young woman on her own. Sable was a fixture on Ariel's twin bed during those long stretches holed up in her room with the music loud and the drama dripping off the walls. Eventually, when Ariel would call from college, it was always, "How's Sable?" before we got down to other business, like, "Got money?"
She was my son's cat, too, even when the dark moods of his black tee-shirt days pulled him away from much that was sweet and gentle. I always knew Austin was still reachable, despite how hard he tried not to be, when I spied him sitting in the rocking chair cradling Sable and talking low and rumbly, gentle as a lamb.
For the past several years, however, Sable has been my girl. All cat, all the time, of course, but still my girl. Her place of honor was in her own little two-foot square of my bed, up by the pillows but never oppressively close. She liked her space as much as I like mine.
She had insisted, these last few nights, on going outside. This wasn't unusual, but what was out of character was her immediate disappearance. The first night, I panicked and spent half the night calling for her and then she suddenly appeared from The Alternative Cat Universe (which I'm convinced is where they go when they simply cannot be found). The next night, I suddenly felt that she had to be outside. I don't know how I knew this, but I'm fairly certain that Sable told me. Her spirit told mine that this is how she needed it to be. And who could blame her? If I had the choice of dying outdoors, surrounded by cricket rasp and bird twitter, wouldn't I want to go that way, too?
But I had my needs, too. And the next time I had the opportunity to hold her, I told her that I needed for her not to just crawl away and disappear. I needed to be able to say goodbye, regardless of when it happened.
Last night, the rains came, and with them, thunder and lightning. This meant that Bob Dog needed to be on my bed, shivering and whining his insane fear of the weather. So as I lay there, trying to settle him down, I again knew that if I went out on the porch, I would find Sable.
She had crawled out from under the porch and, barely able to walk, was trying to make it back to the steps. I scooped her up as the rain pelted us, brought her in to my rocking chair and held her as the gentle spirit I had come to know as Sable simply ebbed away. A few rattly breaths and pffft ... I was holding a bundle of inanimate fur. Sable had disappeared forever into Alternative Cat Universe.
And once again, I am left with mysteries to ponder. What is this spirit that has us be beings one second and simply matter the next? Where does it go when it leaves? And how long does it remain discretely that being? Is there a Sable cat spirit out there prowling the underbrush in some celestial garden? Or is cat spirit like helium that was once contained in a balloon? Once it's out of the fur and sinew that enclosed it, does it dissipate into ether? Do we?
Mysteries I'm too limited to answer. But I can tell you this: Whatever that is -- that life, that animation, that amazing juice -- it is miraculous and utterly worth honoring. I stand in gratitude and awe.
Hallelujah. Holy cats.