The king has loved us.
The king has crossed the river.
Long live the king.
Gentle Arthur, you were not the world’s version of royalty.
You arrived already ancient. Your crown was heavy with that most-feared disease, feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Your eyes, once gold as champagne, blinked beneath cloud cover.
You were dressed for a gala, always believing your invitation would arrive. “It’s not too late!” you told yourself through the lonely years. Impatient beings would have grown discouraged, retreating to sweatpants and skepticism. But you were a king, and so you believed and believed and believed.
Your muddy white paws held no saber. Whoever and whatever had abandoned you, you waived your right to anger. Your bony legs brandished no shield. If life had wounded you once, you welcomed a second and third and thousandth shot. Heart open, you centered yourself in the crosshairs of love. You were a king, and so you trusted and trusted and trusted.
Your trust tumbled into Tabby’s Place, and the kingdom changed forever. In your hazy eyes, we saw clearly: we were in the presence of majesty. You adored instantly and without caution. You forgot your age and your title.
You outlived our caution, pulling rank on your own poor health. You had not come to Quinn’s Corner, castle of orange windows and neon sweetness, for just a fortnight. You would not leave without leaving us different, dubbing us your knights of best-friendship. You turned us into a light brigade. You spilled sun on every surface.
Watching you bask, we learned the reason for summer days. Holding you close, we discovered the highest calling of our humble arms. You were several degrees too dignified for hoodlum jesters like Oram and Tucker, so we whisked you to the Adoptions Office, where you reigned in radiance. You celebrated everyone’s good news, feline and otherwise. This is what kings do.
You accepted a chariot, gently disguised as a green cat stroller. Through the strong arms and stalwart love of your subjects, you surveyed your gardens and declared the whole world a garden. Your mood was stuck on “wonderstruck,” the backyard butterflies and the back-skritches equally likely to astonish you.
You were never healthy, but you never permitted us to think about this. Every time we worried, you took your throne and looked us in the eyes. You always seemed to be asking, insisting, “but how are you?” You waited for an answer.
You let us serve you, on the stern condition that you out-give us at every turn. The only title you allowed was He Who Loves Most.
We convinced ourselves that the clouds in your eyes spelled He Who Lives Forever. We convinced you to lick ham baby food from our spoons and fingers. We thought we could convince death that it had no dominion here.
You bandaged our hearts even as you were fading. Your weary organs played codas, but you sang over all the obstructions. You comforted us as earth’s comforts left you. We drained fluid from your abdomen. You let our tears flow but would not permit us to drown.
You bade us to go on in gentleness, Arthurian in trust and love.
You commanded us, from behind cloudy eyes, to continue your reign.
You promised us, even as you were leaving, that you would not leave us behind.
This is what kings do.
Until we meet again, beloved Arthur, you have taught us the meaning of royalty. Long live the king.