…would lie on the warm earth around my growing vegetables
Our black and white cat Jess died today.
Death comes in many guises and for Jess it came neither brutally, in the way in which he caught mice and even small rabbits nor did it creep into the bones and sinews stealthily, but peacefully lying the warm sunshine minutes after his last feed. Mid-afternoon, he had entered through the open patio glass door and whined his usual miouw which said, ‘I want food.’ I fed him and resumed reading outside in the warm spring sun. The grandchildren came home from school to granny’s treat, a Malteasers cookie, and then they ran outside to play. Four-year-old Ivy loved to stroke Jess. His smooth black coat was irresistible to her. Normally, she would stalk the cat and, occasionally, it would yield to her gentle touch as she had learned from an early age to be gentle. ‘Nanny, Jess is not moving.’
I looked up; Marjorie came out from the kitchen. ‘It’s dead.’
I could see his body laying diagonally across two wooden sleepers which led down to the garden, but his ribcage looked oddly distorted and limp.
He was dead; I needed no second glance. I approached. He was dead, yet he looked so lifelike and Ivy continued to play with him. Marjorie moved his eyelids, but there was no reaction. Nothing.
Jess was dead.
Death gives no second chance. I could not believe that it had stolen away the life from our cat which would sleep on the bed next to Marjorie, or on our stony drive, would lap up the excess milk from my bowl of Weetabix, would arrive from down the garden to greet us on our late evening return from the pub or seeing friends, would bring in a dead mouse with a special miouw, would lie on the floorboards of the play-fort balcony next to me like a guardian as I read or write, would be a nuisance and hover over a dinner plate advancing surreptitiously a paw to the edge of the plate in the hope of stealing some food and even after being shoved away would return like a nail to magnet to try again.
At least his death was peaceful, quick and visible. On this final occasion, we had no need to go searching only to find we’d inadvertently locked him in the garage or barn.
Fifteen. It’s a good age for a cat. He had a good life, better than many children in the war-ravaged countries I see on television from the comfort of my armchair. Strange really that we can value a close animal’s life above a distant child’s. In the human mind, the immediate always wins over the distant.
Tonight, there’ll be no final putting out of food for his night time feed, no more ‘Come on, Jess.’ when he arrives by my bedside hoping to hop up onto the duvet and nestle beside Marjorie.
He has gone and I feel so sad.