We’re a decade and four years together, but he is fifteen. After the founding cats of The Whiskers’ Syndicate, came Degas. Came as a wee kitten sitting in the middle of the road under the rain. He made sure I will never miss him.
He always sits at the back, hidden on one shelf, or sits under the table. He is out of sight, but when the others have their share, I will find him by my feet with head up high, eyes fixed on the last plate I saved just for him.
I’d wait until he looks at me and meows. He would, but just once, then he wants his feast served in a spot he chooses.
He never fights. Cat fights annoyed him. He’d irritatingly find another spot, and then he’d curl his barrel body into a puffy dough, trying to catch up on his long lost sleep.
He never quarrels, he is always in peace. Just give him his spot, and he’d be out of the way. If he needs anything, he’d see if everyone is asleep, then he’d have the world for himself. Chasing with imaginary friend(s), chatting with what must be an old sage who passed him on his way back to the world. Drinking from the fresh water as if it’s the fountain of life, sniffing the flowers, whispers to the wind, staring at the fog ascending back to heaven as the sun rises.
My mother calls him an old soul. I called him Bodhisattva. When I am distracted or disturbed I’d talk to him, even if it annoyed the heck out of him, even if it changed his face into crumples and crinkles. Only he sees my tears, only he hears my sighs, and curses, and psalms, and laughter. He is like a young-looking old pastor in the chamber of confession. Those pastors made us confess with extra zest, and accept whatever train of punishment we have to pray without complain.
Degas is the best laundry detector. If I walk pass him and one of the towels on any of the shelves is dirty, he’d sit on it, looked at me with clear chagrin, and meow. Just once, just short. When I accidentally skip another towel, another meow. Once, short; enough to keep me on my toes.
Yesterday he closed an era. With his passing, the last of the first generation of Whiskers’ Syndicate have become Eternals, saints, angels, whichever they choose.
But today I am going to call his name first: Degas.
And then I am going to call Amazing Grace, Kaitou, Kansai, Ainu, Hokkaido and Kantou. The names that slip, sneak, walk, jump, barge into my life, and lay the foundation for The Whiskers’ Syndicate. They are the spirit that keeps me young. They are my reason of being, my courage to begin, my grace to accept mistakes and failure. They are the stars that light my path when only darkness all around. They are the strength that bounce me back to my feet even though I don’t want to bounce back. They are the power that light my engine even when I myself don’t want to restart. They ignite my spirit even when I had enough and want to call it quits. They are the hope that keeps me going: a decade and four years.
They paved the better future for the hundreds of neglected, abused and stray cats who otherwise will never have had that chance. They are the chance and hope for the hundreds I have TNR-ed, or nurtured back to health and released. They are the gateway to a kind death for the others who got stuck on their way climbing stairway to heaven and need a little company just until they reach their final destination.
Today I am going to call his name first: Degas.
And tell him I am grateful for teaching me his patience. That I don’t need to run fast and furious all the time. Sometimes, it’s nice to wait until everyone is asleep because then that clean, fresh water is all ours.
And tell him I am grateful for the life so much enriched by his being for the whole decade and four years.
And tell him I am grateful for the hope he left as a heritage, so that when I look back at the long quiet road we traveled together, I have the confidence to turn around and keep walking.
And tell him I will be grateful if he’d be waiting for me when that road ends.
Help me pay it forward on behalf of all the cats who have blessed our lives: