I am not very sentimental about death. To those of you who know me personally, this may come as a surprise, or maybe it doesn’t. But I’m not afraid of dying. In fact, I probably should be more afraid of dying, but that is another story, entirely. And so, last week, when my 15-year old cat lay down on the cool bathroom floor, stretched out and expelled her last breath, I was unprepared for the flood of tears that followed.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved that cat, but she also represented many of the worst years of my life and so as sweet as she was – and she was by far the sweetest cat I’ve ever known – I believe I always kept her at a slight distance from my heart. Which was, of course, unfair to her. I tried to be a good kitty-mommy regardless, but I will not deny that a part of me held on to bad memories that we’d shared.
Perhaps my tears were just that, a final release of those years spent living in fear when I was married to a deeply disturbed man. A man who would, several years and a divorce later, be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and who spun off into rages that sent both me and the cat hiding for hours on a regular basis.
I first met Saphir when she was just a week or two old and her eyes were still blue – hence her name, Saphir (French for Sapphire) – and later saw her through the delivery of her first litter of kittens. I watched as she searched each room after we gave those kittens away. I watched her mature to a full-grown cat. I dodged the bats that flew around the house after she’d bring them in from the yard and release them and then, I swear, giggle-purr in a corner as her humans tried to capture her winged prizes and release them back into the night. I watched as she appeared on the outside ledge of the second floor window, knowing that she could only have gotten there by scaling the old, uneven, paving stones that made up the wall to our 300-year old house, to which she earned the title “Spider Cat.”
In 2003 we both ended up in a ground floor apartment in Manhattan, down on East 11th Street, where she had a tiny garden to roam and along with my other cat – the one I’d adopted in 1997 in Geneva – they caught birds, mice and who knows what to show me they were still good hunters, despite having been forced into an urban existence.
In June of 2006, Ruby – the Swiss cat – passed on and Saphir cried for days looking for her companion, the male who had acted as protector and feline friend. I got a kitten for her – Sangha – and watched as Saphir nurtured and loved her, even when the half-Siamese got older and feistier and wanted to be the only cat in the house. In 2008 we all moved to Brooklyn together – Saphir, Sangha and I – and eventually even learned to trust and love again.
Today she and I are both in a better place; safe from the crazy and uncertainty of the life I’d been living when we’d first met. Saphir is in that great catnip patch in the sky and I am living a creative life pursuing what I love. And so, with her passing, comes the bitter end of a twisted chapter.
I thank her for her companionship and hope she finds an endless supply of yummy treats. I will miss you, my sweet Saphir.