When you are one of more than 100 pets in a family, it’s not always easy to figure out how to find your own “special time” in Mama’s hectic day, however, my old black cat, Cesario, was a clever boy. We allow the dogs to sleep in the bed with us, but we close the cats out of the room because for them, 3 a.m. is as good a time as any to tap Mama or Dad on the cheek and ask for a rub . . . not cool. Cesario, however, learned that early morning was when I would sit on our bed and drink coffee while editing copy or answering emails, and when Dad opened the door at 6 a.m. to being me coffee, he would be waiting just outside to race in, leap onto the bed, and curl up on the pillow to the right of my elbow. Then he’d have an entire of hour of my attention, and I’d rub his ears between letters or articles, and he’d purr the entire time.
A few months back, this 14-year old cat, who had never been the healthiest of our bunch, started to grow frail. I knew he had cancer, and I asked him what he wanted me to do. He replied that he was fine, and he wanted to deal with it on his own. So, instead of putting him out of the bedroom, most nights we let him stay in, and he politely slept under the bed, waiting until after 5 a.m. or so before he jumped up and snuggled with me, just to the right of my pillow.
Last week I realized he was getting near the end, and I asked again if he wanted help. He replied, no, he had it all figured out. And as it always is with cats, he’d let me in on the punch line on a need-to-know basis. Cats.
Two days ago, when his back legs began to wobble, I asked again, and he said, “I’m cool. Give me another day.”
So I found extra time to snuggle him and feed him everything he wanted . . . dog food, cheese . . . anything. His appetite never wavered.
Last night I knew we were almost there. I set him on a fluffy blanket on the kitchen floor, but he declined and stretched out on the cool, blue tile. I gave him a scoop of dog food, kissed him on top of his head, and went to bed.
My husband came upstairs this morning at 5:50 holding Cesario wrapped in a blanket.
“We’re losing our boy,” he said.
Cesario had been fine when my husband went downstairs at 4:45, but just moment earlier he’d noticed a change.
I held him and sat in the rocking chair, and for about 15 minutes, Cesario had a series of seizures. Then, he settled down and I told him stories . . . about the day my son’s friend, Glen Rosengrant, showed up at our house with the young cat and said, “I can’t keep him. I’ll find another home for him and be back to get him in a few days. Just hang onto him until then . . .” That was 1999. Tara LaDore, my children’s friend who was living with us at the time, fell in love with Cesario and begged me to keep him. Right. As if there was a chance he was leaving . . .
So I rocked him and told the story him about how when I first laid eyes on him I thought he was the most handsome little panther in the entire world, all sleek and shiny and so black . . . I told him he could have chosen a quiet house to live in where he would have been the only cat and been lavished with attention all day long, and I didn’t know why he wanted to be with me, the old woman “who had so many children she didn’t know what to do,” (although I was so glad he did!) He looked up and gave me the classic cat eye-roll. Even on his death-bed he had no trouble letting me know he thought I was “soooo stupid.”
I looked at the clock. It was almost 7, when on any ordinary day I would have to stop petting and editing and head out to feed our hordes of horses.
Cesario looked up at me with his failing eyes and said, “Just a few more minutes. I want to wait to get to your number.”
How funny. My number. I love numerology, and my birth number is a 6. It would be a little while longer before the numbers on the clock added up to a total of 6, but I told him it was OK, Dad would start feeding without me, take as long as he needed, and “my number” didn’t matter. Another eye roll. Sooooo stupid . . .
It was exactly 7:08, which totals 15, which, added together, makes a 6, when Cesario looked up at me, took one last deep breath, let it out, and was gone.
And that was it. August 15, 2012, on the Feast of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven at 7:08 a.m., my old black cat crossed over and left me. I carried him downstairs, all the while seeing a vision of him sitting just to the left of Mary, delicately licking a paw before raising it high and waving at me.
I could hear him say, “Thanks for the hour, Mama.”
You’re so very welcome, Cesario. And thank you.
Kathleen Schurman and her husband, David, live on Locket’s Meadow Farm in Bethany, Connecticut, where they attend to more than a hundred rescued farm animals, as well as a dozen cats. Kathleen is also journalist, author and animal communicator. Visit www.locketsmeadow.com to see some of their animals.
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