Chase, when he picked me at the Lawrence Humane Society: long limbs, long tail, slim head, ribs showing, vertebrae painfully obvious through the fur on his back. He reached his paws through the bars of his cage, encircled my neck as I walked past. I turned to look at him and we were eye to eye. Lightning to the heart: I knew that we knew each other, had always known each other, would always know each other. He was 15, ancient for a cat, skin and bones, arthritic. An ulcer covered one entire cornea, so that he squinted and wept at all times.It was the Fall of 2006; I didn’t want him to die in a cage.
I brought him home, and when I climbed into bed that night it took perhaps 30 seconds for him to jump up onto the bed to join me. He stalked from the foot of the mattress up to my face, sniffed me thoroughly, and then threw himself down beside me – as though he had waited, in misery, in a cage, and this right here was his reward. He stretched out full-length, pressed firmly against my side, with his head on my shoulder and his arm thrown across my neck.
We slept that way every night for five years, with very few exceptions. I learned to sleep on my back, to be motionless, because sharing my immediate physical world with Chase was worth far more than comfort or uninterrupted sleep.
He was, in many ways, the love of my life. He was my teacher, my constant companion. He bore the indignities of old age with grace and patience. He took joy in the small things. He taught me to focus not on all the years that we did not get to spend together, but to instead be grateful for the fact that our paths aligned in his waning years.
He died on Easter Sunday, 2011. It seemed a proper ending: the magnificent man cat, returning to the void on a day when choirs gathered and people raised their voices to the sky.
I have never felt so lost.