This post is mostly for my kids. I needed to write it.
Under the Christmas tree was a wrapped can of cat food, the parent’s way of breaking to the kids it was time for us to get a cat again. Hope was not yet 2 and we were concerned about very young children around a tiny cat, but we decided the time was right.
Christmas is not really the time of year when people stand outside Safeway with excess kittens in a box; we had to make inquiries several times before we found a rescued pair of kittens and dashed to the feed store before anyone else could get them. Purebred they were not; mostly gray, but mottled with some brown, orange and white. We thought we liked one, but the other one proved more friendly and we plunked down the money to adopt our new family member.
We had planned on naming the cat Ezekiel, as we had been studying Old Testament prophets and liked the name, but a problem arose when the store owner informed us this was a girl. We mulled it over and decided on Esther, also from the Old Testament and reportedly a beautiful queen. The store owners thought, based on her size, that her birthday was [insert date, which I can’t remember here], so we calculated out her 6 months to be spayed. By 5 1/2 months she was hugely pregnant. Ah, not young, just small. She was small all her life, disguised by a lot of fluff.
Early on she went missing. We were heartbroken, putting up signs, walking the neighborhood. 3 days later, a neighbor brought her back. She said she had been sitting at the top of a power pole and apparently got hungry and thirsty enough to figure out a way back down. She always found her way back. We would worry slightly when she wasn’t by the door in the morning – the cat door allowed her to go out, but not back in, but would show up shortly thereafter, usually when you called.
She was a good hunter. The cat door used to allow her both out and in, until we grew tired of her “gifts” being left in the living room, sometimes not always dead. We would have to collect them and put them into the specially designated can in the freezer till they died of hypothermia rather than suffering through the cat wounds. We called them ratsicles. After we blocked her bringing them back in, she would leave them for us outside the doors, dead but uneaten. She never cared for them as snacks – they were her love gifts to us and she would make sure we saw them and told her how awesome she was.
She moved with us to Bellevue, not really happy having to invade the established territory of 3 other cats, but they eventually made a wary peace. We eventually began letting her go outside, although not overnight because of the coyotes on the hill. She always managed to find her way back, even in the strange neighborhood.
When Daniel came back from the Army and moved into the Shoreline house, we thought it fitting, and he agreed, if she went home. He said her joy at being in the place again was marvelous. She took him on an entire house tour, ending up at Matt’s old room where her tail got all fluffy and she started purring loudly. Daniel enjoyed her company, having her snuggling on his lap as he plonked on the computer, and she seemed to be doing fine.
About 3 weeks ago he called, concerned she was not eating, not cleaning herself and losing weight. We decided it might be best to bring her here where there were more eyes to care for her. She was not in a good state, but we began force feeding her and giving her medication, and were greatly heartened by an improvement and weight gain. Over the last 2 days, she had relapsed into not eating so we began feeding her by syringe again. She seemed to be doing OK, even going outside for a bit.
This morning James woke me to say that Esther was seizing or something. I knew right away what was happening — Steve had described it to me when Angel died. I walked into James room and she was still.
Scripture does not tell us what happens to animals when they die. As parents we tell our children they went to heaven, mostly for comfort. However in Revelations there are references to the birds and beasts feasting, so I think there is leeway in theology on the subject and I think that as always, Esther has found her way home.
This morning I looked on the deck and there was a dead mouse. I didn’t notice it yesterday because the curtains were closed, and there is a small possibility that one of the other cats left it there, although they have never done so before. I think more likely, Esther was wise, like the queen of old, knew her end was coming, and left us one last small gift of love.