A friend died yesterday.
In many ways he was an alien, but equally, he was also very human. And he was a good friend.
I’m speaking of Tyson, our cat and companion of sixteen years. He came into our lives at the beginning of the journey of my wife and I, and now that he’s gone it feels like we’ve entered an alternate future.
We met him a few weeks after he was born. Runt of the litter, he was blind for many weeks longer than most kittens and had been left to fend for himself on the streets of Israel by his mother. He survived because he was being fed by a friend who worked at the same university campus as us. He joined our family when she asked us to watch him for a few weeks while she visited family abroad and we fell in love with him, adopting him with her blessing upon her return.
It was in this period he earned his first nickname, SpiderCat, for his love of climbing up the backs of sofa chairs… and me. And he earned his name ‘Tyson’ when he developed a taste for nibbling ear lobes. And I’ll always remember his attempts to wake me in the mornings by climbing along my chest and swatting me, with a soft paw, in on the cheek. If I didn’t get up fast enough, he continued swatting.
For a cat he’s had an amazing life, living in three different countries and a half dozen different cities and houses. Through it all he always valued his independence and we gave it to him as much as possible. And no matter where he roamed, he always returned to us.
Sadly, last year something happened while we were on vacation, and we’re still unsure what. But it resulted in a lot of leg pain and a slow deterioration with eventual blindness. We did all we could over the next ten months to make him feel happy, comfortable and loved while we tried to figure out how we could medically help him. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful and he went fully blind several months ago and his leg pain became worse.
During the period, he went through several cycles of improvement followed by worsening, until a few weeks ago he stopped eating or drinking. In the last few days, during the periods he was able to walk well, he began trying to climb up walls and onto ledges, and ended up hurtinghimself even worse when he fell badly or had items fall on top of him. His only peace was when he was sleeping. At that point we all knew that the only option was for the eternal sleep. In reality, despite a year of preparation for us, Tyson appeared more ready than we were and was serene on the trip to the vet.
We buried him last night, in the garden, and we can see his grave outside the kitchen window. It was a very emotional event where we each said our ‘goodbyes’ and thanked Tyson for blessing our lives with his company.
And now, we have to move on. And it all feels different.
While we always knew we’d outlive Tyson, we were not really ready for the finality of such an ending. In a very real sense, we are now living in an alternate future. One without Tyson. One we had thought, hoped, would not come for several more years.
Our friend is gone and, while we fully believe it was the best for him, this alternate future we find ourselves in seems emptier than we had expected. A sad reminder that we never know which twists and turns our path through time will take, so we should value those we meet along our journey as much as possible.
I was glad that I had the opportunity to spend the last morning with him and, more than that, glad that he entered our lives. It’s never easy to say ‘goodbye’, especially the final one.
R.I.P. Tyson (2002 – 2018).
You were a wonderful companion and I’m richer for having known you.
Edwin H Rydberg