Even 20 minutes after she “went to sleep,” Lucinda was still purring. It was ever so faint but nonetheless there was an unmistakable rattling deep in her sunken chest. At 20 years, 4 months, Lucinda had had a good, long, happy life for a cat.
Deemed my younger son, Zachary’s, “Mom” due to the fact we got her and her litter mate before he was born and she appointed herself his Nanny from day one, she was ever a caregiver. She and her sister never were given the opportunity to bear kittens themselves, but Lucinda couldn’t have proven more motherly. Always in the boy’s crib, under his swing or bouncy seat, she carefully monitored his first steps when he headed out into the yard.
Countless family photos show her always within sight of him. But her caring didn’t stop there. Before Zachary was born, she frolicked happily with his older brother, Miles. Just a kitten, she acted accordingly. But, even by 7 months, her attitude began to develop. We held a birthing class at my house for three of us expectant couples. One couple brought their son along, only 1 year old. Lucinda checked him out thoroughly and then plopped down in front of Ryan. He would squish her and practically pick her up by her hair. She would just smile lovingly at him. When the time came she’d had enough or someone stopped the kid, she’d simply walk out of his reach.
That pattern held all her life. Oreo, her sister, was busy guarding the house from stray cats that may enter the yard while Lucinda monitored kids, especially babies. If you were ever sick, Lucinda would hover anxiously at your feet, in your lap, up against your back in bed. Even a young Japanese student who came to stay on a cultural homestay program years ago, got homesick as well as nervous sick, I think, benefitted from her attention. She would not leave his side all day. He smiled and said in his very limited English, “She good nurse!”
Obnoxiously affectionate, really, well, Oreo only when you got to know her, but Lucinda, any time, they were truly cosmic kitties. For a good deal of their lives, the two fought like sisters sometimes do.
However, as they got older, things changed. No longer the great gopher/bat/lizard/bird/hydrangea leaf hunters they once were, they would merely cast jaundiced looks at the creatures that ventured into their territory. They preferred napping. Sometimes even together. Once our little Jack Russell Terrier was put down, 4 years ago, Lucinda’s love-hate partner, the kitties took it easy.
Lucinda was always fatter than Oreo by several pounds (“Is she pregnant?”) This last few months, her hips began protruding quite unfashionably. I say that humorously because she was quite the princess in her day. Oreo, who suffers from facial cancer, was run over by a Ford Van, attacked by a dog, etc, is suddenly picking up the food bowl slack. Lucinda’s condition continued to deteriorate. “I don’t know if I should put her out of her misery. Is she in misery?” My honey said I would know.
This weekend, I knew. Her sunken eyes, her stagger, her almost inaudible “meow” broke my heart for the last time. I called a friend, a vet, who agreed to come out and send her painlessly into the next life. John was so incredibly kind and respectful, and generous for he would take no compensation- “This is how I do it. It’s my agreement with Lucinda to get her ‘there.” He gave her something to send her into a twilight stage, gave us time to sit and let it take effect.
Out on the front porch of the house she’d lived in since she was a frisky little whisker of a fur ball, we sat and waited. Oreo, seeing me sitting at her level, attention level, came up for petting. She then, as she’d not done since their childhood days, tried to crawl on top of Lucinda in my lap! Purring and calmly talking (mind you, neither of the old girls can hear a lick- stone deaf), I had to move her away when it was time to let Lucinda go the rest of the journey.
My friend gently picked up her limp body and put her on the ping pong table out there in the yard on my new pink “Disney Princess” towel (hey, I needed a towel on our last trip and this was the only one I liked at the supermarket!) and gave her her last shot. We talked to her (on deaf ears, I know…), petted her, continued to pet her sister on the ground (she’s too old to jump up on tables any more) and gave the drugs a few minutes to work. He carefully listened for her heart beat and breathing a couple of times.
Finally, “Okay. Go find Willow, Lucinda!”, his dog whom he’d put down last year. “I usually say that for human souls I know who leave us but ‘Go find my mom! She’ll help you!” I told him. Mom will look out for Lucinda, too, I know. Heaven knows she spoiled those cats whenever she’d come over to visit.
Sierra, the terrier, is buried in the yard. I think, now that they no longer need the cat door to taunt each other through, no Thanksgiving turkey bits to fight over, no sun spots in the living room to crowd each other out of, Lucinda shall be planted right next to her. There’s just enough room left in that corner for Oreo, too, when the time comes.
Thanks everyone for your support. Thank you John. Thank you, Lucinda.