Time expands and contracts in the presence of someone you love deeply.
Expands: How has Adelaide only been with us a year and a half, when clearly it was all our lives?
Contracts: How could we only have days left?
I’m sorry this post comes a day after the terrible fact. I simply couldn’t string words together last night, and crying jags shook me over and over. Every loss is unspeakable, but some…
I took a long walk in the late-autumn sun before sitting down to write today. I hoped or prayed that God would give me some words, and God did, though I don’t presume to imagine I could ever do a post that would do justice to her.
The details of Addy’s swift decline are all too ordinary: kidney disease, weight loss, refusal to eat, eyes searching for the door to a better kingdom.
But the cat… Well, “extraordinary” would be such an understatement as to be offensive.
Not that Adelaide would take offense. Eight pounds at her highest, our aging sprite was a cat who leapt lightly upon the earth and took herself with a full shaker of salt. Playfulness was never far from her gigantic green eyes, which seemed to crinkle with a smile as soon as she saw you (whoever you may have been).
Equally likely to dream in your lap or leap upon your shoulders for a ride (especially if you were attempting to medicate other cats — big fun), Adelaide was entirely at home in the world. Solarium? YES! Suite? AWESOME! Lunch? SO RAD! Party Mix treats? PRAISE THE LORD AND PASS THE AMMUNITION!
The sweet Sheriff of Suite FIV was not without her spurs, of course. Addy never inflicted her authoritarian side on humans, but cats were fair game. The day she first landed in her suite, she skittered from cat to cat, promptly popping them upon the noggins. This is how it’s going to be. Respect my authority, and life will be sweeter than pudding. Just don’t underestimate me. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE ME.
No one did, at least not twice.
So I hope I’ll be forgiven for, upon hearing that her kidneys were “really bad,” interpreting this through the filter of Adelaide’s essence. OK, her kidneys were bad — shot, even. OK, she was barely scraping the south side of five pounds. To see this as a sign that she was planning her exit would be underestimating the life force of one Adelaide.
She was the cat who had made her intake exam — injections and restraint and all — a New Orleans-style party of purrs, merrily marching in place and swaying her head, eyes all splendorous at the bliss of being touched.
She was the cat who kidded around with us about her “almost definitely aggressive skin cancer:” Psych! It’s a sunburn!
She was the cat whose meow had Ariana Grande range and bullhorn volume, always expelled with elation. YOU! ARE! HERE! YES!
She was the cat who would always have pride of place in my lap. Adelaide.
Adelaide’s death was not permitted on my radar.
No one would contest that we’d met her in the November of her life, already elderly, medically frail and fighting a fistful of diagnoses. No one would argue that, if Adelaide was a dandelion, she was already at puffball point, delicate and in danger of disintegrating at the slightest breeze.
Everyone just hoped to shield our power puffball in our arms, indefinitely.
Adelaide, always in control, had other plans. Her kidney values took a turn for the catastrophic this week, and days of IV fluids and heroic ministrations from Dr. C and Jess H. took no effect. I held her and wept into her fur and begged her to eat even one speck of Party Mix for me.
Addy’s infinite eyes, as always, told the story. I’ve got a God to meet, Ang. Don’t break my stride.
And so our tiniest calico, equal parts angel, sheriff and comedian, left this earth yesterday.
When we gather to say our goodbyes at Tabby’s Place, I have the terrible habit of talking too much. I tell myself I won’t, but then my word-hoard goes all rogue and it’s off to the races. I am grateful to the rest of the staff for not giving me the smackdown for my inability to shut up. I think I blither because narrative has always been the only way I know to make sense of an impossible situation. Somehow words make it survivable, if not understandable, which it simply can’t be.
Jess T. (lovingly also known as “German Jess,” not to be confused with Jess H., or “American Jess”) actually asked me this time, “Angela, tell Adelaide’s story. Tell how she came to us.” I was grateful for the opportunity to relive the way Addy had taken the long way to us, right on her own good time.
As we marveled over the stories and serendipities that brought Addy to us, we knew we were releasing her into another chapter. I can’t presume to speak for the whole staff, much less Adelaide’s wider world of adorers, but I am convinced to the depths of my mind, heart, spirit and soul that there is life after death, and that it is glorious.
I am also convinced that Addy won’t need to pop every cat on the noggin over there…but she might do it anyway, just in case.
Until we meet again, eternal Adelaide, I will miss you from my essence and weep for you at unexpected moments for the rest of my life. I thank God for seeing fit to give us the joy of your final season.
We will see you in the season of endless joy.
Note: Adelaide would definitely not want us to sing dirges. Scrappy and celebratory all her life, she’d want a rejoicing rip-snorter of a funeral. In honor of our ebullient beauty and where she’s headed…