I'm beginning to believe that cats, when left to end their lives naturally, do not die in the same way that other animals do. They rapture.
For the past few months, I have watched the health of my nineteen-year-old cat decline inexorably. He lost weight, his fur became increasingly ratty looking, and his teeth started falling out. Then he stopped eating. On Saturday, he was so weak and frail that he could barely walk. I held him in my lap and infused him with Reiki to ease the transition; I told him what a wonderful companion he had been and assured him that life would be even better on the other side. Then I put him in the shade of an azalea bush and gave him some time alone. When I came back to check on him, he was nowhere to be found. I searched the yard, checking all his favored spots. No cat. My husband searched the neighborhood even though it had been years since he had strayed from our vicinity. No cat. The neighbors, out walking their dogs, joined in the search. No cat. I can only conclude that he raptured -- and I know of two other cats that have done the same.
It's been several days now, but I keep checking the front door to see if he might have, after all, found his way home. I know it's irrational, but we are not rational beings for all that we believe ourselves to be. I've been surprised, too, at the depth of the emotional hole I've been thrown into. He was never a lap cat -- always too independent to want to be held -- but he was there, a serene, calm presence in the household -- a shadow who followed me around the yard, watching with curious, non-judgmental eyes, the activities of a human. And he is missed.
Today, I am thankful for nineteen years of cat.