When you are a tortoiseshell of vast dignity, you are entitled to your secrets.
Roxy gave me permission to tell you one: she loved Neil Young.
If Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s coolest friend had any sense, he would have hurried his heart of gold to Ringoes. Old man Neil was a special inspiration to our cinnamon girl.
Meanwhile, Roxy inspired us all. A Snickers bar of curlicues and curiosity, she was breathtaking but humble, thoughtfulness in technicolor.
She carried all of her fourteen years with poise. Neither diabetes nor gastrointestinal festivities could dim her dignity. She was a one-cat gold rush. We were rich in Roxy.
Like the aurora borealis of her coat, Roxy’s life swirled with colors sweet and pungent. To pluck out the pain would risk the radiance. Roxy was a feline in full, at home in her skin and her story.
But just as spring returned, Roxy’s body became uninhabitable.
It was as though little foxes set the thousand ends of Roxy’s hair on fire. All at once, she faced a four-alarm blaze: GI infection, pleural effusion, diabetic ketoacidosis (dastardly, deadly “DKA”), and the specter of leukemia.
The odds were grim. But the moon is darkest when it’s new, and hope is newborn nightly at Tabby’s Place.
A pack of oddballs with no stomach for “odds,” we rushed Roxy to Dr. Fantastic. Things proceeded to get worse, light constricting to a crescent. Roxy’s ketones raged, her appetite flagged, and the fluid around her heart prevented the most promising path: a feeding tube.
Roxy’s body was not her friend.
But Roxy had many friends making many forms of music.
There were the miracle workers at the specialty vet. We collectively refer to them as “Dr. Fantastic” for a reason, for their skills and compassion are second to none.
There were our staff and volunteers, heartsick rebels refusing to despair. Prayers and good thoughts, fields of golden love and songs in the night, fringed our shaggy girl with graces that can’t be weighed.
There was our vet team, ferociously collaborating with the specialists, turning down the volume of their own heartache to stay calm for the rest of us, relaying information and surrendering sleep.
And there was Neil Young.
Like Roxy, Neil has diabetes. Like Roxy, Neil has been ogled by long odds, with polio and epilepsy circling him like buzzards at an early age. Like Roxy, Neil has suffered greatly.
Like Roxy, Neil has kept on rocking in the free world.
Roxy leaned into that feisty music in intensive care.
She whispered to herself: somewhere out there, Neil is getting through nights with DKA, too. Neil is adjusting his insulin. Neil is adjusting his sails to the wild winds of age.
Neil and I, we have the same heart of gold.
In the moonless hour, something shifted. Roxy’s deep music surged, her infection retreated, and plural signs of hope replaced her pleural effusion.
Biopsies revealed inflammation, not cancer. Dr. Fantastic was able to place the feeding tube, swashbuckle the DKA, and send our girl home.
We all glowed like stars, welcoming our queen.
Roxy faced difficult days of tube-feeding. We applied a continuous glucose monitor to efficiently determine her insulin requirements. We were anxious, impatient for her life to be cinnamon again.
But golden light was calling.
Beyond the horizon, where the harvest moon and the aurora swirl in colors too bright for this world, Roxy’s song gathered strength. Hers would not be the victory we would choose.
Neither would it be a defeat.
My words come up empty in hours like this, gazing helplessly into the black sky. I will never be able to say that death is “good” or “natural” or anything in the universe of “okay.”
But in the mystery of invincible music, we have all won.
We have split like apricots for a cherry-chocolate cat who taught us sweetness.
We have learned that, if you think you’ve seen love’s last gasp, you are still as newborn as hope.
We have found that this free, feral world will rob us and ravel our hearts, only to leave us emptied but rich, grieving but golden, scarred but certain it was all worth it.
We have been rocked and Roxied. We would never return the pain at the price of the love.
This is the music we make, that makes us.
Beloved Roxy, until we meet again, keep on rocking in the freedom of the angels.