By Sally Rosenthal
Clutching the plastic bag containing Pocus's collar and clippings of her black and white fur, my husband I sat numbly in the car in the veterinary hospital's parking lot. Two days earlier, we had rushed Pocus to this clinic and discovered that she had severe, sudden-onset
restrictive cardiomyopathy. After two days in intensive care, our beloved feisty cat lay in our arms one last time as she was
As Sandy backed the car out onto the street, I thought back to the early morning phone conversation I had had with the night-duty veterinarian following Pocus's admission. Cardiomyopathy was
nothing new to us; Ziggy, one of the four cats who shared our home and hearts, had a four-year history of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and was doing very well on medication. I was less prepared to hear Pocus's prognosis. At best, even if she could be stabilized, she might relapse immediately or linger for three months.
As the hours passed and we learned that Pocus still could not breathe outside the incubator, Sandy and I knew that the kindest thing we could do for the ten-year-old cat who had begun her life as an abandoned feral kitten would be the most difficult act for us. We had to let her go, but we both needed to be with her at the end.
After the vet had assured me that Pocus would be comfortable until we could both get to the clinic in the evening, I sat staring at the phone and wishing I could be there to comfort her. But, clinic intensive care units are not places for people who might be in the way and compromise care for all the animals there. Still, I felt bereft that Pocus, who had given us such unconditional love, would spend her last day frightened and surrounded by strangers.
Suddenly, I received two images. The first was of a feline matriarchal spirit who appeared to be sharing the incubator with Pocus. As this picture formed in my mind, I saw Pocus relax as the cat spirit inclined toward her. Almost simultaneously, the image of a scrawny black and white feral cat I understood to be Pocus's mother (who was found dead with her litter of wriggling kittens) appeared. I knew that the cat who had come to comfort Pocus and me was the spirit of Pocus's mother.
Although all of these images and thoughts came to me in a flash, that was not the aspect that truly amazed me as I sat by the phone. The fact that anything had occurred at all was what I found most unbelievable - and yet utterly believable. I am not a person prone to visitations by angels, spirits and the like, no matter how much I might like it to be otherwise. No overt magic has happened to me in forty-seven years, but Pocus and her imminent death seemed to be changing that. I am a practical, pragmatic person who believes in magic for others but not for myself. And yet I could not even begin to think of these visions as grief-induced delusions. I knew, in the marrow of my bones, that they were real, and I was immensely thankful for them.
All might have been well with Pocus, but all was not well with the family she had left behind. As the first week following her euthanasia drew to a close, we began to think that the awful winter that had seen the deaths of my father and Pocus was almost over. Later that week, Sandy almost died in a freak parking garage accident.
After coming home from the hospital and beginning a long recovery process in a
hospital bed in our living room, Sandy slept fitfully through the night. From the sofa I now called my bed (although sleep more often than not eluded me), I sat nursing cups of tea throughout the night. On one particularly difficult night, the other three cats huddled around us, never leaving the living room. As comforting as they were, I wished for the additional comfort of Pocus. Although she had a few annoying habits such as pulling out all the bottom bureau drawers in the bedroom in order to wake us up on weekends, she was, by nature, a supreme comforter, especially through sleepless nights.
I put my tea mug into the dishwasher and decided to let Sandy enjoy the sleep he had finally fallen into while I took a shower. Walking into the bedroom and turning on the light, I froze with my hand on the switch. All the bottom bureau drawers were pulled open. Standing in the early morning and looking at Pocus's comfort made visible, I knew I had, through the grace of a black and white cat, joined the ranks of people whose lives were touched by the magical.