He is lying down comfortably on my son’s lap. His once impossibly white paws are spread, sphinx-like before him.
My wife is close to his face. Inches away. Speaking gently to him. Looking into his eyes.
Our hands are stroking his soft fur and touching each other. Trying to reassure him. Trying to reassure each other.
Reaching for something tangible and secure in the fear and loneliness and wonder and mystery of death.
In a fog of sadness, we say goodbye to our beloved cat, Chips. The love in our living room is palpable as he very slowly closes his eyes for the last time. He drifts away like a sailboat over the horizon.
It is painful. It is beautiful.
Crying and laughing, we recount the stories of his life. A feisty rescue with the markings of a milk cow complete w one pinkish ear, he made an indelible mark on all our lives.
Flying out together with the aluminum screen from a second-floor window while we were eating dinner on the deck below.
Busting out yet another window screen and getting trapped on the roof on our first evening in our new home.
A soft, warm and enthusiastic nap and lap buddy.
The finest salesman I ever met. With zero command of the English language, he could get anything he wanted with his unmatched persistence.
I’m pretty certain he was smarter than me.
Last night, with tears still drying on my face, I was thinking about falling in love with a cat. I was thinking about the nature of love and how we experience this treasure of human emotion in this life.
Pets ask nothing of us. They love and accept us for exactly who we are.
I suppose most of us expect little of them. Less for sure than we expect of our fellow humans.
Is this unconditional love?
I realized that had Chips had been another cat, I would have loved him, or her too.
I loved him because he was in my life and we accepted each other.
Through chance, or fate or choice, we walked together for a time on this otherwise lonely path on a tiny rock in space.
People develop bonds of love with a young man they host as an exchange student that spans decades of loving connection.
New Yorkers after 9/11 spontaneously hugged one another and cried embracing strangers at makeshift shrines on street corners.
Soldiers develop deep bonds of love after facing impossible hardship together.
Perhaps the glue that holds the universe together is indeed love.
How many people do I pass on the road or the sidewalk or sitting at adjacent tables in restaurants would I love if we were thrown together in the right circumstances?
Maybe it’s true that underneath all our fear and busyness and isolation and judgements and perceived differences, we all truly love each other.
Perhaps Chips gave me one final, great gift last night…