Fernando's Last Mission

Last week, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my cat on the porch rail, his fluffy black tail curled around his legs as he stared through the window at me. It used to be a common sight but not recently. My cat, officially named Fernando and nicknamed The Brat, died last February.

I wanted to bury him in his favorite shady spot under the peach tree in the front yard but the frozen ground made me reconsider after a friend recounted his story of a shallow grave and a raiding coyote who returned after a second burial to finish the meal. So I decided to lay him to rest in his favorite sunny spot in the fenced back yard where he’d be safe from grave robbers.

I waited until night because it seemed more appropriate. The dogs kept me company. The hard earth made the heartbreaking task even more difficult. When I’d managed to dig just deep enough, I wrapped Fernando in his favorite fleece blanket and placed him in the grave.

Ripley immediately moved to intervene. She continually prodded Fernando gently with her nose, her signal for “C’mon, let’s play!”, an enterprise which generally consisted of her having lots of fun at the cat’s expense. She seemed confused when he didn’t respond. Her reaction saddened me but I was more concerned about Kevvie.

When she was four years old, Kevvie excitedly traded her collection of stuffed animal “babies” for the little bundle of black fur that purred. She raised him as if he were her own puppy. She shared her food and her bed until the gloomy day when he preferred solitary meals and naps. He’d grown up. He was a cat. She was still maternal, greeting him every morning with a lick and a wag. He always responded by rubbing against her face. He trusted her and they were friends but their relationship had changed. Kevvie found comfort in a stuffed buffalo.

That night in the yard, Kevvie stepped into Fernando’s grave and nestled up against his body. She seemed to want to warm him. She licked him once and then looked at me before laying her head next to his. I didn’t know how to explain it to her so I sat on the ground near her. Even Ripley understood the seriousness of the moment and was still. We were all waiting for the impossible – for Fernando to awaken, or for understanding and acceptance.

The former was a fairy tale. The latter came more quickly for Kevvie. Her mothering instinct told her that her kitty was gone. Ripley and I were not as pragmatic.

Ripley checked the windows several times each day and often pushed through the door to the cellar to look for Fernando in his secret napping place. I saw him or heard his bell every day for a month, then more and more infrequently. Eventually, we both realized what Kevvie knew. Time has its way of treating those wounds.

Kevvie turned twelve in May. Her eyes are failing, her mind is wandering, her legs can barely support her weight, and she sleeps most of the time. She spends many sunny days sleeping on Fernando’s grave. But she still eats heartily. She still follows me from room to room despite the obvious discomfort. She still greets visitors with gusto. And she still laughs at herself when she falls on the tile like Bambi on the ice.

She doesn’t know that her time in the sun is limited. But I do.

I try to repay the gifts of love that Kevvie has selflessly given me for twelve years. I forgive her when she doesn’t wake up in time to make it to the yard to relieve herself. I forgive her when she bites my fingers in her haste to get the cookies she has trouble seeing. I sit on the floor and massage her tired, old legs. I ask her for kisses even though her breath stinks. I feed her first at mealtimes and pet her last at bedtime. I tell her I love her.

But all my efforts don’t keep the cat away. Kevvie hasn’t noticed him yet but I have. He’s helping me prepare for the day when he’ll come back for her.

And I have no choice.

I’ll have to let her go with him.

Jill Wragg is a retired police officer in Massachusetts.
She can be reached at JKWragg@yahoo.com

1 comment:

Carin said...

Wow. That's sweet. And that's a lot of dogs.

Woohoo, I have another blog to read! Smiles.