The Dowager Queen, so lonely in her old age made her wishes known: a friend, a companion, I must bring her, to share her last days. The shelter had none old like she, only rambunctious kittens and healthy young ones. No, these were not to be.
Keli needed one of her own, a cat with tired bones and wise heart, not wanting to chase and play. When they called me,
I suspected another mismatch.
But, there he was, a sad derelict rescued from the forest fire. Home unknown. No chip. No collar. No front tooth. A tired old man. But eyes full of life and some kind of rare understanding glowing there.
The shelter called him Charlie, but as soon as we came home he told me it wasn't his name. I had suspected as much. He said, Jeffery would do. Hard of hearing, that is the name he responded to.
Both a bit crotchety, Keli and he bonded as old folks do, tolerating personality quirks, respecting each other's space, and a riled spat or two.
They grew close enough to share the heater, the bed, the food bowl, but not me.
When the Dowager Queen died
Jeffery did the most remarkable thing. He sat shiva with her body.
In awe, I put my feelings aside and let him be with this mysterious cat ritual until he walked away. No one can ever tell me cats don't grieve, because that's what he did. The same as me.
It was only six months and five days after the Dowager Queen died when Jeffery went to join her. We left for a check up visit to the vet. On the highway, we drove past where the skeletal remains of thousands of trees stood testament to the fires from which Jeffery was rescued. Frantic in his carrier, he seized.
He sleeps forever beneath the big pine where he sat many an evening, perhaps missing his old forest home.
I look at his pictures and wonder. How could a cat with me so short a time make such a big hole in my heart?