We found her wandering in a busy parking lot. She approached my brood of rough and tumble boys as if she had been waiting for us. My children mauled her with affection.
She leaned into their sticky fingers with her entire weight, purring.
As my children discussed what to name her, my heart softened at the possibility of rescuing this abandoned pet. After a quick stop at an animal clinic where they could not find a microchip, it became clear that she was coming home with us.
I intended for her to be an outdoor cat. She came into the house one day when it was raining. Before I knew it, she was sleeping in my bed and following me as I cooked in the kitchen.
We were new cat owners who didn't understand the dangers or pleasures of an indoor/ outdoor cat. We dealt with neighbors who were unhappy with her arrival and the joy of watching children pet her in our driveway. She had secret rendezvous with devotees who gave her treats on their daily walks. She came and went as she pleased, sometimes spending the night outdoors.
The ease of a pampered life grew her belly, just as it did our comfort with one another. She chose to be with us and we were privileged to accept her affection and call her our own.
Weeks turned into months and before we noticed, she had been with us a year. She took regular walks with us, rushed to greet us when our van came in view of the driveway, and even rode in the car with me to pick up the children from school. I adored her. She was my sweet and faithful friend.
On November 2nd, I drove into the garage and heard a bump. I thought I had run over a shoe that my son had kicked out of the car. I stepped out and walked to the passenger side of the van to assess the situation.
There she was. My beautiful furry friend. She looked perfect, except for the small pool of blood surrounding her nose.
It wasn't like the movies. I wasn't expecting it. The emotions didn't come immediately. I felt outside of myself, floating above the scene like a specter.
I knew that I didn't need to rush her to the vet's office. There wasn't anyone who could save her. Her head had been crushed.
I called my husband at work. When he answered, reality hit like a freight train. I was suddenly sobbing.
"I killed her... I killed her. I killed her!" I was wailing.
He tried to calm me down and told me he was on his way home. I covered her lower body with a towel while we waited. I didn't want her to be cold while she slipped away. I was afraid she was still alive and suffering.
I carefully caressed her whispering, "I'm sorry" and "I love you" over and over and over. She grew damp from my tears.
When my husband arrived, we took her to a local veterinarian. I couldn't bear the uncertainty. I wanted official confirmation from someone that she was gone. The technicians quickly handed her back, shaking their heads and telling me how sorry they were.
We buried her in the backyard with a makeshift grave marker made of sticks. We prayed over her and told her why we were thankful she shared her life with us. I told her I was sorry. I begged for forgiveness from my children.
Life is tender and fragile. It was so easy. I didn't mean to do it, and yet I did.
I wasn't prepared to lose her. She was here one moment, and the next, she was gone to an unknown place where I can not follow.
I look at my children and wonder how easy it would be to inflict the same type of tragedy on them. I now envision myself capable of atrocities that I never dreamed possible.
Our days are tenuous and uncertain, yet we treat them as if they are a right and will continue to perpetuity. My world is shaken with the tangible knowledge that I am not in control.
She was with us for a little over a year, but her legacy is clear. She cracked open a hidden section of my heart that I never knew existed. The loss of her has left a desolate space, echoing with her memory.
She haunts me. I see her at least a half dozen times a day, tucked into the shadows of my home. I see her waiting at the sliding glass door, in the corners of the garage, and in the folds of my bed linens. She is ephemeral smoke. Her image dissipates like vapor and I am left with the heavy weight of guilt, knowing I am the one who killed her.
I feel a string tied from my heart to hers, connecting us through the veil of death into the next life. Through the fog, I am searching for her forgiveness. Only one thing from her is clear. I must save another.
We have a warm house, I have an empty heart, and I am still grieving. The Egyptians carved into stone the secrets of this truth, screaming from antiquity that these creatures are companions to be loved and revered.
Every cat should have a home, and every home should have a cat.
Time has passed. Now, we have a new cat. His name is Mordecai. He looks eerily similar to her... and I think she planned that.
Also, just in case you are wondering, he's an indoor cat.