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Sunday, October 2, 2011

On Saints, Goddesses and a Very Fine Cat

I am blessed that I have very few regrets in my life. Of course, part of that is that I consider most of what most people would consider regrets, “Learning Experiences.”  At the time these events occur, they are huge, gaping, traumatizing suck holes, but when you look back on them with perspective, you realize you almost needed to endure them in order to get where you are now.
One of the regrets is for the end of life experience for my cat, Lucy. Let me introduce you to her:

For our first Christmas as a married couple, my husband asked me what I wanted. I looked him straight in the eye and since we promised honesty, said, “I want a kitty.”
“We’re not getting a kitty. What else would you like?” This from the man who told me his best friend in high school was Mr. Grey, who was of the feline variety.
“If we can’t get a kitty, I don’t want anything else.”
 It was the truth. It was also the first time I ever nagged. Oh, just the teasing kind of nagging, but I wanted to make sure he knew I was serious about it. Now, I’m not one to snoop and unwrap gifts before and re-wrap them, but when a rather large package appeared under the tree right before the holiday, I did gently poke at it. It was enough to determine the wrapping contained a kitty litter pan, a bag of litter and a couple cans of cat food.
I acted appropriately surprised and grateful and told him the truth, that he was the bestest husband ever. So, the day of New Year’s Eve, we went to the pet store. There, sitting alone in a cage, was the most beautiful tortie tabby kitten. It was love at first sight. As she was put in my arms, she stretched up to touch her nose to mine in a kiss, and then she cuddled close and started purring. I knew her name was Lucy, because in profile, her smile looked like Lucy Van Pelt from the “Peanuts” cartoons. Standing in line at the checkout, my husband, who’d been quiet up to then said, “I can’t believe we’re paying for a kitten.” When he found out the cost included the first veterinary visit and neutering, he felt a little better.
There are hundreds of Lucy stories. She was part Siamese and all Bitch, fierce, with the vocabulary of a precocious five year old. She fetched crumpled balls of paper, fiercely protected the Christmas tree from the interloper Sky Kitty, who was added to our family three years later and slept cuddled up next to me most every night. Did I mention she was leash trained? I would take Lucy on adventures with me, but she would only grumble if we were going to the vet. Her official name became Her Royal Luciness, The Petite Goddess, though said vet told us, “She’s not very petite.”

Right at what would have been her tenth birthday, she dramatically lost weight. She didn’t have the energy to grumble this time. While a different vet in the practice held out hope and offered exploratory surgery, I should have gone with my gut and taken my friend home to die in my arms. Instead, she died alone, in a cold cage and in pain on October 2, 1999.
While I am writing this through tears, some things did come out of that regret. Husband buried her in the back yard, under the window of what became my office. I see the leaves of the burning bush we planted for her turning red as I write. My friends saw how I was mourning and when we almost lost Sky Kitty, we decided to adopt our current tabby twins, Boris and Natasha for him and for us. I learned the lesson of dying at home and worked to get my father home from the hospital in 2001. But, I did feel guilt that I cried more for Lucy Cat, my near constant companion, than when either of my parents passed.
This is Heart in Hand’s Girlfriends Forever framed with a funny picture of my friend. She was trying to fit into a box and it burst open, with husband capturing the moment.

One of my human friends, who has also passed, gave me a Saint Lucy prayer card. St. Lucy was not only the patron saint of vision, she also protects cats. Another friend found a St. Lucy medal at a rummage sale.

The woman who would become St. Lucy was betrothed to marry a wealthy older merchant, but she wanted to enter a nunnery instead. Being as how this was at a time when that was not considered the thing to do, she was prosecuted. She was blinded and while the judgment was that she was to be taken to a whorehouse (much was made of her being a virgin), when the guards seized her, God “turned her to stone.” When she escaped to the nunnery, God restored her sight.
Now, I’m not Catholic, but I can say that memories and visions of Lucy Cat appeared at critical times. Like when we went to pick out the tabby twins. We let them out of their cage and they ran over to play for a couple of minutes, then came over, sat in front of us and said, “The audition’s over. It’s time to take us home.” Like when my glasses were damaged on a trip out of town and I was frustrated trying to drive and got waylaid by a detour. That passed right in front of an optometrist’s office where they fixed my glasses and wouldn’t take my money.
The back of the prayer card reads:
Oh God, our Creator and Redeemer, mercifully hear our prayers that as we venerate Thy servant, St. Lucy, for the light of faith Thou didst bestow upon her, Thou wouldst vouchsafe to increase and to preserve this same light in our souls, that we may be able to avoid evil, to do good and to abhor nothing so much as the blindness and the darkness of evil and of sin.
Relying on Thy goodness, O God, we humbly ask Thee, by the intercession of Thy servant, St. Lucy, that Thou wouldst give perfect vision to our eyes, that they may serve for Thy greater honor and glory, and for the salvation of our souls in this world, that we may come to the enjoyment of the unfailing light of the Lamb of God in paradise.
St. Lucy, virgin and martyr, hear our prayers and obtain our petitions.
Lucy was a very fine cat and I think those are very fine things to ask.


  1. What a beautiful tribute to Miss Lucy. My cherished feline was Celestine. She too died of cancer, in my arms at the overnight clinic. I couldn't afford exploratory surgery and couldn't bear to bring her home and watch her suffer, so I allowed her to be euthanized. I will always miss her.

  2. Thanks, Pam. Mom and Dad helped us with the vet bills and I should have had the courage to let Lucy go, as you did with your fur baby. While I would never consider one of my cats like a child, I did not have children, so the loss was especially painful. They are just really good friends and family members. Appreciate it.