Last Friday, we packed up our bags and headed to California for a family vacation. Before taking off, we dropped off a very sick kitty at Murdo's parents' house, with instructions for how to administer his subcutaneous fluids and how much to feed him. We brought his scratch box and toy mice, his blanket and his treats. We set up a comfy spot for him in the closet of Murdo's old bedroom, with his water dish nearby. When I said goodbye to him right before we left, I was hoping it wouldn't be the last time. But I knew it was a possibility.
Tim had been suffering from chronic renal failure for more than two years. His kidneys were no longer working like they should've been, and after a week spent at the vet's office two summers ago hooked up to an IV and barely eating, we all thought he was going to die. Although he lived, and fought, and showed us just how strong of a cat he could be each day for the past 25 months, the last few have been very rough on him. Just a few weeks ago, he was diagnosed with anemia, making him very cold and weak. He wobbled when he walked. He didn't always make it to the litter box. There were good days and bad, and then, more bad days than good. When we left him last Friday, he was still getting worse.
We were supposed to be gone for nine days, and we knew it would be hard on him. We thought he would make it, that he would wait for us. After eight days, we knew he was hanging on by just a thread. Murdo took an early flight back to Chicago on Saturday afternoon, and Tim died in his arms that night. He was 15 years old.
We keep saying that he was waiting for Murdo. That he was waiting for him to come home. He was too weak to walk or even lift his head at that point, but when Murdo got there and picked him up, Tim started purring. Murdo packed up his things and brought him back to our apartment, and after carrying him through the door, Tim took a few sniffs and knew he was home. His head went limp, and he was gone.
He died in Murdo's arms. He knew he wasn't alone or abandoned. He was surrounded by familiar smells and wrapped up in a loving heartbeat. In the same arms that held him 15 years before during a near-death experience as a kitten, rushing to the emergency clinic due to an allergic reaction. He lived through that, too, and spent the rest of his life as Murdo's best friend, companion, family member, and for the last six years, mine as well. He was a well-loved cat, and he lived a good, long life. With warm blankets and long naps. Scraps of lunch meat in the kitchen and cat nip on his toys. Late-night hunts for packaged bread. Lazy afternoons in his favorite grassy spot. Lots of lap time, and chest time, and spooning time. He was the kind of cat who even cat-haters loved. Thinking about these things makes it easier.
The little things that he left behind, however, don't make it easy at all. I came home on Sunday night to an apartment that felt incomplete. His food dish is still sitting out by the hallway, and every time I look at it, I see him there, waiting to be fed. I see him sitting outside the bathroom door when I'm getting ready in the morning. I see his sweet face looking up from the floor next to me as I write this. He's still here with me, and while I never want him to leave, this presence he left behind makes my heart ache.
When I finish writing this, I will get up and clean his food dish. Tomorrow, I will gather up and wash the towels we kept on his chair when he could no longer control his bladder. We will return the remaining unopened cans of his kidney diet food to the vet. We will keep our ears and eyes open for a pair of kittens, a brother and a sister duo, who will help make our little family complete once again. We will move on, and we will always love him.
Tim is buried in his favorite spot in Murdo's old backyard. There is a mound of rocks covering his grave. Below, he sleeps curled with his toy mice -- one to lay with, and one to play with. And there is a jar, with a piece of paper on which Murdo wrote:
R.I.P. Tiny Tim Yahsuh MacKenzie (Yah) the Unblinking; Barn Born and Barely Housebroken, the Lord of the Back Yard, Converter of Cat Haters, Survivor of State College and Constant Companion, Him Who Was Not To Be Denied. Here lies the best cat that ever lived, and an even better friend. Loved by many, forgotten by none. We will meet again.
Two years ago, Death stared Tim in the face. He never blinked, but one day we all must close our eyes.