Monday, March 14, 2011

He sits like a lion in the sun

We lost a dear friend last week. Homework buddy, foot warmer, tea party guest, string chaser, snake killer, varmint catcher, sometimes nuisance, always friend – he will be missed. The sound of him padding up and down the stairs, calling from the door, purr-motor racing will forever echo in our home; every rustle of the wind reminding where his spirit now watches over us. Mr. Mistoffelees used all nine lives plus two; from dawn to dusk he lived and loved life.

My oldest daughter, Alex, wrote the title words of this chapter in a poem about her four footed friend when she was little. Even then he knew he was different - a majestic animal that graced us with his presence as he allowed us to feed and embrace him. And he was majestic, with his shiny dark black and white coat catching the sunlight streaming through the window; casting long shadows across the hardwood floor as he preened or just sat staring into the blue skies as if he knew something we did not.

He had the heart of a lion in every way. Whether skulking the tunnels of the drainage pipes or lying nestled in the monkey grass waiting for his prey to carelessly wander into range, he loved the pure adventure of it all. Summers were his favorite time to hunt, and there was seldom a week where a trophy did not grace our doorstep.

In his final days he was comforted by his two-legged relations. My son, Izy sacrificed his bed and nursed our fading Mistoffelees, my son relegating himself to the downstairs couch. It was amazing to see the transformation of Izy’s perception of his bedroom guest from general nuisance to one of God’s special creatures. The loving care which poured out was felt by everyone in the family – but most of all by Mr. Mistoffelees.

When the children arrived home from school Friday, I expected the worst for Isaac. He, however, was stolid in his reaction; already having come to terms with the inevitable. It was my youngest daughter, Darby, who surprised me with an overwhelming explosion of tears and angst. More often than not, Mister was to be found in the girls’ room curled up on their quilts or hiding under a bed. As she buried her face in my shoulder with great shuddering cries, I knew she would truly miss him.

In one of life's little twists, Alex was not in town for all of this. She had gone to the beach on her spring break from college. We had to share the news with her by phone, and her sadness streamed across the sky, relayed by the now all too familiar cellular network. Her heart and mind were as mass of mixed feelings as she debated what to do. In the end, she chose to stay at the beach amongst the comfort of friends rather than try to race home. Life is for the living, and I think Mistoffelees would agree she made the right choice.

We gently laid him in the car that afternoon; followed by a short journey to Papa’s. Izy and I set to work with the shovels we brought with us; a three by three by three foot space was soon excavated.The girls had gone to find a suitable marker; a tribute to our friend. They returned as we were completing his resting place and handed us a wreath of green to rest his head upon. Each had a final stroke, a lingering touch upon Mister’s forehead, a rub of an ear, and then Izy gently laid him down. Alex joined us over the airwaves as four handfuls of red clay were cast with emotion and loss; words followed about living life as he did, never holding back, and giving love without reserve. We paid final tribute with a heartfelt gesture of a living marker to always guide us back.

And every year from this time onward, the fiery yellow leaves will blaze bright as the sun, reminding us where he now lays; under the branches of the forsythia, circled by a white ring of stones - joining the menagerie of other friends, long since past.We will miss you Mister Mistoffelees, but we know that we will see you again. Happy hunting!

- Ken

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