(This post is 600 words, a five-minute read)
I loved the image… I’d credit its creator if I knew where it came from; but there it was in my in-tray. The cool black cat with the importantly steaming mug of coffee, and an engrossing book with covers in my favourite colour… all of it pushing back the awfulness of an English February.
There’s a certain involved-detachment about the cat. I’ve always been a sucker for cats – and that attitude. We have one: a beautiful rag-doll that emerged from a large bush and followed my mother and her dog home one day, then refused to leave. It turned out that the cat was close to starving and had been living in the bush for who knows how long, just a few streets from where my mother lives… lived.
Taking it back to the bush twice didn’t work. It kept following her and the Pomeranian dog, knowing, beyond knowledge, that her cat future lay with this unlikely twosome. The faith of a centurion, perhaps…
In her mid-eighties at the time, Mum was a due to go with a group of her life-long friends on a river cruise in Germany the following week. We stepped in, of course. Driving down to Bolton to collect the cat, who bounced out of her front door and literally, into my arms.
You can’t argue with fate like that… She obviously ‘knew things’. By that time, it was obvious that she would have a better time here in Kendal, rather than sharing a home with a jealous Pomeranian. I took her to our local vets and they gave me strict instructions to check out every vet and animal shelter in Bolton to see if she had been reported missing. Only then would they look at letting us adopt her. It took me a full day of increasingly tense phone calls to verify that even if someone knew of her, no-one was telling. Later, we came up with a plausible reason for at least one of the silences…
“You’ve landed on your feet,” the lady vet said to the cat, but grinning at me, on the next visit. We had duly and officially adopted the cat Misti… Rag Doll, formerly of Bolton, Lancashire.
Since then, she’s shared our lives here in Cumbria. She and her Collie ‘sister’ have the life of Riley, whoever he was. One of the likely reasons she was dumped was her cat-flu. It’s viral and you can’t shift it. It comes back every few weeks and she snots over everything as she fights for breath and life. We hold her, boost her cat-vitamins and make sure she’s warm. Eventually it passes. Life can be messy when you love something fragile. Something bursting with love but physically flawed.
Now, fate has arranged that Mum, an increasingly frail ninety-one year old, with vascular demential, no lower intestine, and a newly-fractured spinal injury, has also followed us home… She obviously knew something, too. She’s offered to go into a home, but, Covid-wise, it’s not a good time for care homes at the moment. For now, she’s the latest Bolton resident in Kendal.
Our life is a recurring cycle of caring, learning patience beyond patients, and holding on to the interwoven gold that always accompanies such a task. There is a specialness about accompanying someone you love dearly to the end of their lives. You have to keep holding on to that, pushing back the grind and the sometimes near despair.
You have to know things…
So… I thought an occasional series of blogs about the lighter side of all this would be an idea. I’m not interested in writing up the grind. I’m interested in the moments filled with irony and the gold of that soul-to-soul contact that flowers briefly at the end of life and is gone. Thereafter, held only with a smile, in the memory… and perhaps, here in the words.
Opening image taken from Peedeel’s blog, an eclectic mix of poetry, art and other stuff.
©Stephen Tanham, 2021.
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, A journey through the forest of personality to the sunrise of Being.