I had to say goodbye this weekend, a goodbye I was not expecting, and was not prepared for. The orange-and-white fur-ball, the cat who could have shed for Canada if shedding was an Olympic sport, has passed on. His achievements were unique, and largely unnoticed. He survived for a decade and a half on the edge of an urban forest frequented by coyotes and raccoons. He survived being kidnapped by small, warm-hearted children who found him in that forest and assumed he was lost or abandoned, instead of knowing he was just lying on a bed of leaves admiring the sunlight. And shedding. He shed the way few cats can shed. Hundreds of baby birds have enjoyed soft, warm nests thanks to Hobbes' ability to send out fluff. He was a master of lying in the path of traffic - driveways, roadways, pathways, hallways. That he survived so long was a miracle.
We don't know what caught him, in the end. On a perfect September morning he was not at the door, shouting for his breakfast, and despite an emotional search for him he eventually showed up, on his own time, lying in the driveway. But he wasn't himself, and it was evident something was wrong, and a very kind vet confirmed what I suspected. None of our compassion, or our money, or our love, could change the truth. It was time for him to go.
So I did what I thought was right, and I brought him home one last time. The vet issued painkillers, and did a lot of expensive rehydration and heat restoration, and I didn't bat an eyelash. What do you do, when you find your cat huddled behind the hot water heater trying the best way he has figured out to get his failing body temperature up? If necessary, I guess you cash in an RRSP.
He was already long past the kitten stage when he came to us, a reject from a house that had too many pets, and victim of a decree by a fed-up husband to his pet-acquiring wife that some of them had to go. I think the ad said something like "Two lovebirds, one cockatiel, three rabbits, and free to a good home, one orange-and-white cat." I had always wanted an orange cat, and, not thinking too clearly at the time, drove all the way to Chilliwack, collected him, and brought him home without consulting anyone in my family. He came in hissing and fighting, and carved out a niche for himself in the hearts of most of us. My son adored him, my husband tolerated him, the dog put the run on him and was surprised to get whacked solidly across the nose and put firmly into the place cats think puppies belong.
And then suddenly, he's gone. And having shed a lot of tears, and arranged for the pet cremation, I have to look at what they call closure. He had a good life with us. I cared for him well, despite being massively allergic to him. And of all the comforting words, I think my sister Susan said it best. "Jane," she said. "Who knows what happened to him that night. But thank God he made it home to you."
And she's right. We all pass through a storm. Hobbes may have been hit by a car, may have had a bad fall, who knows the secret lives of cats? But he didn't have to lie down to a lonely end in the forest, or on the edge of a road. He came home to his own driveway, and his last day on this beautiful planet was filled with love, and cuddles. Was free of pain and fear. He came home, to a place of love and warmth and respect, and he will be remembered in that way.
Maybe the life of a cat isn't much, in the big scheme of things. Maybe "All Things Bright and Beautiful" is not the favourite hymn of all of us. But if we accept Christ as our saviour, and if we turn our lives over to God, we do get to come home at the end to our own place of safety and love, and we do find after challenges and hardship a welcoming warmth and comfort.
Written by Jane Emson