My cat, Starlight, just passed away. She died on New Year’s Day, stretched out on my chest. Her faint, final, heartbeat mingled with my heartbeats, my husband’s hand on her head.
She was a stray, all my animals are. Someone dumped her in the front yard of my home. I heard the car door slam. A few minutes later Pirate, my husky male cat, wouldn’t come away from the window. When I looked out, I saw a little silver head stick up like a periscope from the middle of the lirope that filled my planter box. Pirate would not come to dinner. I ended up bringing the silver cat in. That was late October of 1995. I would like to thank those folks. They gave me a great gift.
She had six toes and a vestigial seventh on each front paw. The sixth toe was so prominent, it looked like a thumb, and that’s how she used it. I had her fixed immediately, and she almost died from a congenital condition. Took a few weeks of feeding her pap, sometimes by rubbing it in her mouth, to save her. For the rest of her life, she was an easy keeper. Never sick a day. Until last month. Her passion was lobster and shrimp. I gave her shrimp for New Year’s Eve. I’m glad I did. It was her last meal. I’m convinced she wanted to see her twentieth New Year’s Eve. It was a milestone. She made it.
In the almost twenty years we were together Star taught me a lot. We’d been through a lot. She is tied in with my memories of a number of dates (good and bad), relationships (good and bad), and jobs (good and bad), you get the picture. She never complained when we moved her from Florida to Maine. In fact, she really loved Maine. She didn’t complain when we moved back to Florida. Except she missed Maine. She was at my side when I married, through breast cancer, and its treatment. She never questioned what I was doing, and she always gave me a soft and fuzzy side when I needed comfort. She told the story of her love affair with Pirate in A Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers. She served as the model for Paddy Whack in the Catherine Swope Series.
Everything I need to know I learned from my cat? Maybe. She taught me that sometimes you may not get what you want, but you definitely get what you need. You have to roll with the punches of life (even when it means three days in a cage in the back of a car traveling the length of the United States). Home is wherever your loved ones are. The future is always ahead of you, so there’s no need to dwell on the past. If another cat explodes the top of your litter box, while you’re in it, barf in his food dish. Take time to lie in front of the fireplace. When the fire goes out, sleep on the warm bricks. A little ash never hurt anyone. Always live life on your own terms. Eventually, everyone else will come around.
I miss my Starlight. I value her lessons. She will always be a part of my heart.
How about you? What have you learned from your critters?