Your life was astounding, but you knew all the answers.
Your name meant “enlightened one,” but you wore it lightly.
Photini, you knew that we’d need you when the days were longest. June yawned, and so much sun came out that it made us squint. Summer can scorch and startle us all.
But along came an unassuming stray, a tiny square of toast painted with marmalade. Some beast had bitten you outdoors, but you bore no grudge. Your wounds were healing. You arrived hungry but exuberant. We loved you instantly, intensely. You returned the favor.
Love convinced you there was no need to look back. You did not live there anymore.
Life began under the skylight of the Tabby’s Place lobby. You were incandescent with questions. How fast could you make electrons spin? How many breakfasts can one cat pack into one morning? If the universe is rapidly expanding, how much time and space would we all have together?
Of all the answers to all the questions, “together” was your favorite. You lobbied for the Lobby to become a twenty-four-hour love fest. Even asleep, you radiated light.
A torbie of science, you shared your discoveries with delight. Look! A pail. Copernicus said it was meant for filling bowls, but you, golden-brown Galileo, knew that it was a gazing pool. Perched on the edge, proud as Polaris, you wondered if anyone had ever fully appreciated water.
Look! A plush artifact shaped like a psychedelic donut. A large piece of paper. A pair of human legs. A lavishment of laundry. The planet, you concluded, is 48% bed.
You did your best to awaken us, a wisp of a cat with celestial eyes. You did your best to un-wring our hands when the news was grim. So, you had catastrophic heart disease. So, the odds were that one of your fainting spells would line up the letters of loss.
But you, Photini, would not focus on fear.
You would not even focus on “forever,” not when “today” was a galloping miracle. You knew what you knew. You had been found by love that never goes dark. You knew you had nothing to lose.
You knew, so you made bad jokes at your own expense. While we gnawed our fingernails worrying over your heart, you slept in the lap of our plastic skeleton, “Ezekiel.” You declared death a dotard and made raspberries in its face.
Enlightened beings speak to their hearts, and you consulted yours constantly. You let it lead you into (living) laps and lively portals. Sunbeams were revelations. Your vocation was astonishment. For Halloween, you dressed naked as a photon, the smallest packet of electromagnetic energy.
The days were getting shorter, and you fluoresced against frustration. You fainted more and more. You reassured us that you were only “swooning” — your neighbor Hips is a handsome hippopotamus, after all — but you knew.
And today, scarcely a month from the darkest day of the year, you stepped into the sun.
Our vet team was your constant constellation, and they lit your path to the very end. You went from light to light under a canopy of kisses. I can’t stop crying, even though I know you have only just begun.
Photini, enlightened angel, you lit our days for five months. You were firelight and verve. You took nothing for granted, neither droplet nor sundrop, neither forehead kiss nor fish cookie. Your ear was crumpled with laughter, and your huge heart could scarcely bear the brilliance of this life.
On the darkest day of the year, I will sing — “through the years, we all will be together, if the fates allow” — and trust that we are together even now, even forever.
Until we will meet again under the grand skylight, thank you, beloved Photini.