We find them, fall in love with them and bring them home. Often they only just fit in our hands when we do and seem so fragile. They become such a part of our lives that we can't imagine not having them around. They forgive us for our bad days, neglectful moments and times when we're just too busy, without expecting anything in return...they never hold a grudge.
Yesterday morning, my stepdaughter woke and, being the first one up, went downstairs to feed our cats. Wendell had his breakfast, laid down on his favorite doormat and went to sleep. When I came downstairs, 30-45 minutes later, he was gone. Just like that. Peacefully in his sleep. No warning, no suffering, no illness. Completely unexpected. He'd played with my stepson the night before and our other little cat, Widget (who follows him like a shadow) in the afternoon. He made his usual rounds, in his usual routine, giving us all a snuggle, sleeping in his favorite spots and verbally letting me know when it was dinner time...like clockwork. He was as regimented as I can be. There was absolutely no indication that it was his time to go. I'm glad to know he wasn't ill or suffering. I'm grateful I didn't have to make the choice to put him down. He's been with me for almost 11 years...longer than I've known my husband. People who don't like cats loved Wendell. Thank God my stepchildren are with me right now. They were 8 and 6 when they met him...now 17 and 15. He's been a part of their life for nine years, since they were little kids. They're shattered too, but have been so supportive. My husband's away. I would have been even more of a mess without them here.
So...go now and give your dog a treat and take him for a walk or a ride in the car (Wendell actually loved road trips, believe it or not). Give your cat a stroke, a snuggle, and hug your family. Say I love you before you go to bed at night or leave to run an errand. You never know what tomorrow might bring. As I write, it's now 1:30 in the morning. Wendell won't be here when I wake. He won't be sleeping outside our door on his pillow, waiting for me to rise (he greeted me every morning without fail). He won't be sitting in the open doorway of my bedroom while I check my e-mail and have my tea in he morning. He's not allowed in the bedroom, but dutifully would always sit or lie at the threshold, and was happy to do so, as long as he was able to see me. He's always started purring the second I opened the door.
That's true unconditional love, offered in innocence and trust with no preconceived notions. No expectations. Just happy to be nearby, in each others' presence, nothing else needed....a true friend.
Thanks, Wendell, for teaching me every day how we should treat each other and how to be a better person.
I love you, buddy. You're the best cat ever.