There is much sadness in our hearts today, but most especially in that of my Grandma's. Yesterday, while visiting with my mom, her beloved cat Elvis had a seizure and died suddenly, right before them. One minute he was grooming himself and the next, he was gone.
Most of us have lost a pet at some time in our lives, so we know the sadness she feels in her heart right now, to a point. But Elvis was special. Really. He was. You see, Grandma had never before had a pet all of her own and if she had, she likely would not have chosen a cat.
But Elvis chose her.
About two years ago, a sleek black cat began showing himself outside the windows of her garden room. He had the loudest meow you've ever heard. Jungle-like even. He was not going to be ignored. Grandma started putting food out for him every day, and he obliged her by eating it. She'd done this before for other cats, too. But none of them would let her even get close when she'd open the door.
Elvis was different. He was wary, but he wasn't afraid. She'd let him in her garage, especially when it was cold outside. It was clear that he would be more than happy to make her home his. But she wasn't so sure.
She had kept our Baby for a few weeks, back when she was a kitten. Baby was waiting for her trip to the vet to be spayed and her sibling Boo, a male, was doing what male cats do. We wanted no kittens and Baby was too young and too small for such things anyway, so Grandma agreed to keep her until her appointment. We kind of hoped she'd fall in love with Baby and want to keep her, because being the cat lovers we were, we thought Baby might be good company for her. But she thought it was too much work and mess for a 92-year-old woman living alone, and Baby was a hypercat, flitting here and there and she worried she might trip over her. So Baby came back home with us after her vet's appointment.
Then we got a phone call a few months later, and Grandma asked me if I would make an appointment for 'this black cat that's been hanging around' because he was sneezing a lot and needed some medication. "And while you're at it, would you make an appointment for him to be neutered and declawed?"
In two weeks' time, the black cat had a nice, warm home and a name. He actually was named by her little neighbor boy, Eli. He was visiting her and she was telling him about the cat and that he needed a name, and Eli simply said, "Elvis." And so it was.
Elvis was the perfect choice of a name, because he had the softest black fur you've ever felt. I called him her "Black Velvet Elvis." And he could belt it out, too. We kind of joked that Elvis meowed so loudly because Grandma was a bit hard of hearing and he wanted to be sure she knew he was speaking. But within a week, the meows became much quieter and we never again heard his 'outside voice.'
Grandma lives somewhat formally and she only allowed Elvis to get up on two chairs and one bed. Fine with him; no problem. Litter box in the closet. Again, no problem. Elvis was the kindest, gentlest, calmest, most well-behaved cat you've ever seen. Perfect for Grandma.
Several years ago, I gave Grandma a book entitled, "When GOD Winks." It was a collection of stories in which small 'coincidences' changed a life. When Elvis came into Grandma's life, she said God winked at her.
The story of Grandma and Elvis is a love story of the purest kind. To anyone who saw them together, it was clear that the love between them was quite mutual. They were totally devoted to each other. Elvis truly was a blessing from God.
But yesterday, God took Elvis back. I don't know if I've ever questioned something more in my life. In the case of people that are taken away, it seems easier to explain most times, at least to me. They've either lived their life to its natural completion or an accident occurred as a result of human error or a bad choice. But Elvis...none of this could be explained. He was estimated by the vet to be a little less than a year old when Grandma first took him in, so he was a young cat. And his death occurred not because he got hit by a car or that he made a bad choice, or even that his humans made a bad choice. When Mom called Dr. Wilkin last night to tell him about Elvis and maybe get some answers, he said it was likely cardiomyopathy or heart worms. He was an inside cat, but he'd only lived inside for a relatively short time, and well, mosquitoes (the carriers of heart worm) do get in.
So why did Elvis die?
At 92, Grandma worried about what would happen to Elvis when she left this world. But we assured her that Elvis would be well taken care of. You know how we are about cats at our house, so Elvis would have a home with us, if necessary. That is, if we could finagle him away from my mom, which was doubtful. Even my dad, who in spite of liking cats has always said no to having one in the house, agreed that Elvis could come and live with them, if that time ever came. Who ever thought that Elvis would go first?
This morning, I talked to Grandma and she's requested that we come and take all of Elvis's things such as the extra boxes of litter she has, a bag of food, and the flea medication that she just bought last Thursday. She wants all reminders of him removed. Except for his red collar. She's kept that.
Dad buried Elvis outside the window of the room where she first saw him. We have already made arrangements for a small stone marker to be made to put on his grave. And while Grandma has a broken heart right now, and we ache for her, she feels that God sent Elvis to her to teach her to be a kinder, gentler person because there was never a more kind, gentle cat than he was. Elvis lived with her for a year and a half and though that was way too short of a time, it was long enough for him to give her profound joy and win a permanent place in her heart.
Good kitty, Elvis.
And the warmth of the fire seems hollow,
Remember the one who sought your comfort
In their younger, better days.
They would not have you grieve Nature's course.
If their place seems empty now
And their presence beyond your reach,
Find solace in the gift they have left in passing:
In truth, no creature can ever be said
To have passed entirely from the Earth,
For when Memory lives, Spirit endures.
~ Petrina Vecchio