She was born sometime in February on a farm outside of Gridley, IL. You would have thought that she was destined to be a barn cat – keeping the mouse population down – but fate had a different path for her.
That summer in Michigan on July 4th, my previous cat, Ali, lost her battle against cancer. Ali had been a dear companion to me through some tough times and I was devastated. I buried her myself and wasn’t sure if I would ever want another pet.
After a month or so of this, my parents decided that I needed a new cat. They were friends with the family that lived on the farm and knew that they had a kitten that seemed especially pretty and friendly. She was a gray and black tabby with white boots. And the black stripes on her forehead were in the shape of an “M”, so they were calling her “Emmie”. My parents picked her up from the farm, had her spayed, declawed and vaccinated. The intended plan was that she would come to Michigan with my parents on their annual Thanksgiving visit to my home.
However, that plan was changed not more than a couple of weeks later when my mother called me to let me know they were coming up to visit that very weekend because my Dad had said, “if we don’t get this cat to Mark soon, I’m not going to be able to give here away”. And who could blame him – how do you not fall in love with this.
I took one look at her, was immediately captivated by this little being, but decided that “Emmie” was too cute of a name and changed it to the more traditional sounding “Emma”.
Adjusting from farm life to house life seemed very easy for her. She loved all the soft chairs and beds and the food that you didn’t have to chase. And we bonded. She always greeted me at the door after work. I would go into the bedroom to change clothes and she would follow me in upon which I would put her on the bed and pet and play with her. It did not take long for that routine to change from her following me into the bedroom to me following her. For her entire life, she insisted that whenever I came home, we go to the bedroom and that I pay attention to her on the bed. If I picked her up before that, it was all well and good, but it did not substitute for time spent being petted on the bed. And she wouldn’t let me forget it. If I didn’t head for the bedroom in an appropriate amount of time, she would stand at the bedroom door (or the bottom of the stairs after we moved into the two-story house in California) and meow at me with increasing insistence.
It was also as a kitten that she started her other tradition with me of jumping onto the bed after I shut the lights off at night, walking up to me, flopping on her side, allowing me to put my arm around her to cuddle her to my chest and we would nuzzle. I have had many stressful days in my time, but I can vouch that a warm fuzzy cat purring against you is the best sleeping aid I have ever encountered. Sometimes she would stay like that the entire night (especially if it was cold), but often she would cuddle for ten or twenty minutes and then quickly get up with an “I’ve got nighttime cat things to do” purpose about her. As any cat owner will tell you, no one other than the cats know what they do at night and Emma was no different. Those cat secrets were ones that she never revealed even to me.
About four months after we became human-feline companions, two major events happened in her life. The first was becoming a little sister. My best friends met Emma and decided for me that she needed another cat to keep her company while I was at work. They knew of a family that had a two-year-old cat that they were looking to give to a good home. And thusly, Maceo joined our little family.
As the oldest cat in the household, Maceo was of course in charge of everything. Emma loved Maceo and tried to follow him around everywhere. The two of them were very close and they had their own special games and rules. Maceo liked to play fight. He would wait until Emma was asleep on the recliner, jump up on it, and growl to let Emma know that it was time to fight. Since Maceo was much bigger than Emma, he would only use his front paws to wrestle. Meanwhile, Emma would get on her back and position all four paws to defend herself. Despite that, Maceo would almost always get the upper hand (paw) and Emma would jump down. At that time, we had a coffee table with a shelf. Somehow Maceo and Emma decided that shelf was a safety zone. If Emma could reach the shelf, an invisible force field was activated and Maceo could not get at her.
Despite these periodic and frequent fights, the two of them spent more time like this:
The other big change in Emma’s life was that I started dating Scott. When Scott first started staying the night, Emma would still come to bed and cuddle with me, but Scott says that she would stick all four paws straight out to keep him away and let him know that this human belonged to her. Eventually, Emma came to feel differently about sleeping with Scott:
But I do believe that Emma believed that Scott and I have been together as long as we have because of her permission.
In 2007, Maceo developed cancer and passed away in November. Emma was very upset. She would wander around the house looking for him. So we decided that she needed another cat to keep her company. Enter Euclid.
Euclid was a shot of energy into the house. We remember having to play with him at bedtime to tire him out so that he would sleep at least some of the time at night that we were sleeping. Emma moved gracefully into the role of big sister. But as with all little brothers, he would occasionally do something really annoying:
The two of them were good siblings for each other when we upended their lives and moved to California. It was very important for them to be together to provide stability. However, Emma learned to love California, especially the sun:
and the ability to be outside on her own on the patio:
Emma aged gracefully with hardly any health problems, and keeping her beautiful fur and head shape. Indeed, even as I checked Emma out of the animal hospital for the last time, the receptionists commented on what a pretty cat she was – and they were absolutely right.
That’s why it was so alarming when she started losing weight about two weeks ago. When we noticed it, we took her to the vet to find out that her kidneys were failing, which isn’t unusual for a cat her age. The vet tried to flush her with fluids, but it was unsuccessful. The deterioration for Emma came very fast after that.
Tonight, with the help of a very kind vet, Emma passed from our lives. The vet cam to our home so that it was more comfortable for Emma and I got to hold her as she went away from us. While I don’t believe in an afterlife, it does give me comfort to think of Emma somewhere with a big chair, a window and a ray of sunshine perpetually through that window which is all reserved for her alone. Scott is a Buddhist, which believes in reincarnation. If that is true, then Emma will surely reappear as a sage or teacher as she left many lessons in love for us.
So yes, from her beginnings you may have expected her to be a farm cat, but she was destined for so much more.
Good night, my sweet girl.