by Alice Folkart
We found Oliver, our black and white rescue cat, still warm, behind the sofa two days ago. His death was sudden and unexplained. We miss him. Stan, our other cat, misses him too.
But, like the good friend he was, Oliver came to say goodbye. Last night a semi-transparent, weightless cloud of black and white jumped up on my bed, climbed onto my chest and settled down, paws just so, and stared into my eyes as he had always liked to do.
If my eyes hadn't been open, I wouldn't have known that he was there. Still, I didn't realize that he was more than a comforting apparition until he spoke.
"Awake?" he whispered in a softly sibilant voice.
"Oliver," I whispered back and reached out to stroke him. My hand passed through a band of slightly-warm, electrically-charged air, but touched nothing solid.
"I come to wish you goodbye."
"Oh. I miss you, Oliver. It was a shock. The vet said it was your heart, something you picked up when you lived wild."
"Ahhhh, what is 'heart?'"
I put aside all thought of couching my answer in terms of chicken gizzards and such that he might understand, and just said, "It's what lets us love."
"Yes. Let me see. Oh, you love tuna. I love you," I said, hoping that this was an explanation that a cat could understand.
I don't know whether he did. He changed the subject. "I just lay down and stopped. You came, but I had left that body," he stated flatly.
"You were still warm."
"You dropped salty water."
"Tears, Oliver dear. I was so sad."
"I sad also. Odd for cat--feeling. Your sadness brought me here. When it is gone, I can go."
"Then you'll have to stay a long time, Oliver." Out of habit I reached out again. Nothing. "You were so young."
He narrowed his eyes in thought, "Don't know age, time. Is only 'now' with cats. This day. Sleep. Eat. Play."
"You are so wise, cat."
He blinked at me, "Wise? What is wise?"
"I don't think I can explain," I said. "But were you afraid?"
"Dying? You mean 'stopping?'"
"Didn't know I would stop. No fear. Will you stop? Will Stan-cat?"
"I'm afraid so. All living things stop eventually. Humans know that it will happen, but not when or why. Some of us think about it a lot."
"You'll excuse my saying so, please, but that is silly."
"I think that's the price we pay for being human, Oliver."
He made a deep, growly purring sound, "Hmmmmm, I think price you pay for being human is having two cats."
I laughed, and he was gone.