The words come fast, but not as fast as the tears…
The memories pour out – all of the many good times and great times – and pain cruelly attaches itself to each of them as they fly through my head and my heart. I can’t stop them and, even though each of them come with complete agony, I would never want them to stop. Because now there are no more new memories that are going to be made.
Because at approximately 11:45am on June 19th, Graham passed away…
I knew absolutely nothing about cats before I adopted that tiny little orange 6-week-old kitten with fur that stuck up in every direction like he’d been rubbing up against a balloon. As soon as I met him, he climbed up on my shoulder (my right shoulder, the same one he always climbed onto for the rest of his life) as he picked me as his person, and I was the one who was terrified. I didn’t even know that his foster was expecting me to take him home that day. I simply thought that I was meeting him to gain enough information to make a decision at a later date. But, once he’d made his decision, that was it. I was his, he was mine and it was time to go home.
He was named Punky at the time, but obviously that couldn’t last. He had the look for that name perhaps, but it wasn’t good enough to do him justice. On the half hour drive home, as he paced around in a cardboard box set on the passenger seat he howled, the only time I ended up hearing his voice for the first couple of years. He lived his life interacting with everyone around him simply with looks and gestures that accomplished everything that he needed. A tilt of his head, a little push on the ankle to guide someone in the right direction, an extended gaze directed toward the top of the refrigerator where his treats were stored, those were all he needed.
When he arrived at his forever home and hopped out of the box, he searched through every inch of the place with complete confidence and I never saw him scared another day in his life. He only (intentionally) scratched two people in his eleven years. One was a four-year-old boy who had chased him into a corner behind a couch and proceeded to drop toys onto his head, wanting him to play with them. The other was a vet technician on the day before he died when she attempted to prepare him for an X-ray. He was a complete sweetheart, but he had fight, all the way to the end. And he won everyone over. Even that little boy who had been scratched let me know a few weeks ago that he was praying for Graham ever since he’d heard that he was sick. You couldn’t stay mad at that little guy.
He couldn’t stand other cats and chased all of the strays out of the yard without fail. He seemed so small to me, but he ran the neighborhood and no one stood up to him, cats and dogs alike. He played with the moles that dug up the mulch, got along with the family of groundhogs that lived down the hill, and caught moths and flies in his mouth, only to spit them back out unharmed to watch them fly away again. He killed one bird in his life, a moment that completely surprised him. He launched himself into the air as it flew by and he landed on top of it as they came down, stopping its terrified little heart. And, after that moment, all of the birds in the area knew him well and harassed him. Because they feared him. It was amazing to see the change in him when he went outside and transformed from the great cuddler into the great hunter. Though, in his last days, he preferred to sleep in the mulch between the bushes and simply listen to the breeze.
Beside me as I type this now, I have a box containing 3 plaster cast footprints that were made after his death, and a lock of his fur – containing both the orange and the white. And I hold the memory of holding his little body as he took his last breath, tears and snot dripping down onto the top of his head as I kissed him and told him that I loved him one more time. I knew nothing about cats when I met him, but he taught me. And so much more.
Below is a link to a video I took just a couple of days before he died. When he wandered around outside, he liked to stop in the gravel lane and gesture for me to come over and give him a belly rub. This time, there was a bird yelling at him and, in this video he tells that bird that he doesn’t have time to mess with him because he’s too busy enjoying the moment. I’ve probably watched it a hundred times since he died, because I think it sums Graham up so well. His loving nature, his toughness, and his desire for great quality time with the human he picked to be his companion throughout his life.
Goodbye Graham. I’ll always miss you and I’m looking forward to getting that big Grahamie welcome home hug the next time I see you…