"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Fallen friend

I have learned that it doesn't matter whether you are a "cat person" or not. It sort of all comes down to who comes into your life, on two legs or four, who can receive your love and maybe return it in far greater amounts than you thought you were entitled to. My friend Patti lost her best friend today, a cat named Jack, and I wanted to post a tribute to him here. He was a great soul in a small package. I'd like to share Patti's words because I'm inspired, reading some of these things I hadn't known about Jack, not only to try being a better human creature, but to adopt some of his creative (and effective!) strategies at getting what I want.

She writes:

"Jack was unique among cats, dogs, men or boys. He was easily smarter than me. And I've never before known an animal that had groupies at the vet's office.

When I brought him home he had actually belonged to the neighbor kids. They were horrible to him. He was this tiny little kitten and they used to kick him around the yard. When I "liberated" (stole) him, he had calicivirus (potentially deadly), laryngitis, a broken toe, swollen hip joints and a puncture wound to the eye. He slept nearly the clock round and when we got him better I discovered what a little hellion I had taken in. At one point I thought about naming him Hades because he really was the devil. He liked to jump on my hair and play with it while I was sleeping. He eventually stopped doing that - when I learned to tuck my hair under the covers at night. Two years later, when I took in pregnant strays and had all those kittens in the house, on his first introduction he calmly sniffed them then started washing their little heads. He was Uncle Jack from the very first. In fact, he was so loved by other cats, that on a couple different trips to the vets office when they had motherless kittens that needed attention, they would put them in with Jack and he would wash them and sleep with them close and nurture these young ones. The girls at the vet's office were so attached to him that while he was sick this week, they all made it a point to come by and speak with him, rub his head and give him love.

Jack could tell time. Yes, I swear, he could. There were times when he wanted something and I wasn't able to do it right away (open the bedroom door, turn on the water, etc.), that I could say to him "Ok, Jack. Give me 10 minutes." Or 20, whatever the time was I needed. And he would walk away and not bug me until the time was up. The exact time was up. Every time. He could also outsmart me. I know, not hard to do. But Jack was devious about it. When he was younger he would do this thing where he would sit out in the kitchen and cry and cry and cry until I finally got up from watching t.v. to see what he wanted. Then he would race past me down the hall and go sit in the chair I had just vacated. Then he'd look smugly at me and make himself comfortable in the good chair. We had an argument once. I lost. I was working on getting litter boxes emptied and he wanted me to turn on the bathroom faucet for his drinking pleasure. I told him no, he'd have to go drink out of the cat bowl like everybody else. He insisted. Loudly. I again told him no. Then, while I was in another room, he became very quiet. Then there was a thump. A pause. Another thump. I walked back to the bathroom to see what was going on. There was Jack, sitting calmly on the counter. Two of my bottles of lotion were on the floor. His front paw was wrapped around the next victim, an especially pricey face cream. I got the message. I turned on the water.

I know people think I'm crazy - but I could hold conversations with Jack. He understood everything I said. He answered me when I spoke to him, even up to the end, with a tube down his throat to help him breathe, he'd try to meow when I talked to him. If you'd ever met him, you'd know it was true. Jack would chat with people. Intelligently. I will miss having him around to converse with. None of my other cats can do that.

The request for "kisses" would bring his nose right up to sniff my proffered smooch. But by far my favorite thing about him was that when I held him he would lean over and rub his cheek against mine. He would purr in my ear as if telling me a secret and rub his little head against me like I was catnip. It was balm for the troubled soul. I will miss that most of all.

He was beautiful, my big man. He was caramel and chocolate and his fur was ticked with silver on the ends so it shimmered and danced when he moved. It was unbelievably soft to the touch and I loved to bury my face in it and just smell his chest and tummy. He smelled like sleep.

Although I frequently irritated him, and believe me, cats know how to show disdain, it's a born trait, he was kind and patient with me because he knew I was an inferior being just doing the best I could. And I loved him. And, thank heavens, he loved me back. It made me rich."


Ivylin said...

Thank you Emily for that beautiful tribute. I loved Jack. Of all Patti's four-legged friends, he was my personal favorite and a true King in any form. It's comforting to know that there are others who also knew and loved Jack.

Thank you,

Ivylin said...

Ode to Jack

While riding up the highway coast
the crest revealed that sight
so rare
2 dozen Humpback sailing north
and on the back and in the lead
me thinks I saw
the Jack-mon there.