Perhaps, he didn’t mean to leave us. Maybe, there wasn’t some higher purpose he had to fulfill. How burdensome, after all.
He just, went away.
It is easy to endlessly conjecture about why he had gone, or why he had been with us at all, in retrospect. Many times, we make the meaning we want to have, after the fact, not before it.
I want to believe that the cat we had just lost served us in some, divine sort of way, beyond comprehension. As if he were merely passing through, with a simple but necessary mission of unconditionally-loving his owners, offering them boundless joy, and inducing the most satisfying level of comfort they could ever ask for.
If so, then, mission accomplished. He left with the highest marks.
And yet, I can’t help but wonder the less rosy alternative – the ever-growing elephant in the quickly shrinking room – that, perhaps there was none of that, at all.
Only the reality, written in his eyes, that in what would be his final moments, he actually wanted to come back, too soon.
I struggle to write this, after having previously arrived at a far less bleak conclusion. Surely, this isn’t the alternative I want to believe. Not as the sort of person who believes in some kind of after-life, and some kind of Higher Being that knows ultimately more than we ever will. Being that sort of person, makes me, in turn, the same sort of desperate, finite figure in search for meaning, craving the truth of knowledge like a certain, tragic, being in a Garden, once did.
Perhaps if I knew the answers to the questions I keep asking, I wouldn’t actually want the truth. The version of Miles’ story in my mind, is good enough. In fact, all the details I have to work with, are more than what I could have ever expected.
It is fact that we never learned of Miles’ actual origins – only that he and his sister Madu were found in a box in a Starbucks by a German expatriate family, who then proceeded to leave the country and needed new owners for their newfound pets.
it is fact that Miles was always a clumsy cat (and much to our delight early on), never accounting properly for his own weight (and by weight, I mean belly) before pouncing upon, or jumping from, or leaping towards, anything.
It is fact that Miles stole his sister’s food, both secretly and blatantly. His appetite was insatiable.
it is fact that Miles slept, belly up, about as often as he did the way regular cats do, with limbs tucked in underneath and slight shoulder blades, protruding. Apparently, such a vulnerable posture from cats implies that they trust us completely.
That last fact might be my favorite thing about him, and in part, why all this hurts, too damn much.
I never would have imagined a cat be so, at ease. It was as if he had already, intimately known that precious lesson that eludes so many of us who are searching constantly for the next, best thing.
The best thing, is right now. This very moment. The present is the greatest of gifts.
Again, I project. I don’t mean to, but I do.
I have to make some sense of this senseless loss. I still just don’t understand why he had to go, so quickly.
Chances are, he doesn’t understand either. Life was pretty good for that cat. He lived on the 15th floor, in an ocean view apartment, and ate raw chicken meat, cut into little bite-sized pieces by his loving, doting
She did it because we loved him, and he loved her back, and I never would have known why and how I’d ever love a cat as much as I did Miles, and I never would have known how a cat could possibly ever love us the way that he had.
There’s that old saying from Tennyson that comes to mind:
Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.
I hate latching onto cliches for the life of me, but this one, I hold onto, with every ounce of strength I’ve squeezed out of the fruit born from my grief.
I do so, because I don’t know if the meanings I’ve made of his loss, are as true as I’ve come to believe.
I don’t know the greater purpose he might have served beforehand, had he had one to begin with. I don’t know whether his “time was up” or he had done what he needed, and left when it was over.
And if I can’t find any solace from asking questions to which I’ll find no definitive answers, then I must look elsewhere to find the peace and comfort I need, now.
I mustn’t keep asking why he had to leave so suddenly. I mustn’t wonder why he had ever come at all.
I must only acknowledge how surprisingly wonderful, refreshing, and joyous it was to have such a lovable cat. I never would have imagined how much he’d mean to me, spanning the entirety of his life, before ever coming to terms with the finality of his death.
That’s the only meaning I can hold onto with the utmost certainty. I can’t afford to wonder what sort of purpose he had to have completed by the time he left us. It is enough to hold onto the pure innocence and goodness he exuded with the life he had actually lived.
It has to be enough, because he was blameless, all throughout.
I couldn’t possibly answer any of the questions that begin with “Why?” Frankly, I don’t really want to.
But I’m happy to return to the question with which my answer is sure.
“What was Miles, to me?”
For a season, much like a breeze. At times, sudden and wild; other times, soft and gentle, but almost always, arriving unexpectedly. I couldn’t have predicted that he’d come the way that he came, that he’d leave the way that he went, and that he’d last just long enough for us to know that surely, his sweet caress, no matter how fleeting, we would never, ever forget.