The Priestess of Bast comes downstairs crying.
“I think it’s time”, she says, her voice breaking.
I’m merely the consort of the Priestess of Bast but I know enough to know that she’s talking about the boss of the house. The elder who adopted her 10 years ago and who had us take care of his offspring and uncle and who kept everything and everybody in line.
The elder’s age has caught up with him this time. Normally, after the winter passes, he regains a spring in his step and his naps fall away but he’s been napping between meals, napping between visits to the litter box, napping between receiving brushes.
“Come with me upstairs. We’re going to spend time with him.” She’s still crying.
We go upstairs and he’s sitting on a warm and fuzzy blanket and we talk about his arthritis, his cancer, and how he purrs and is pleased when he sees us… but how he walks with pain, how he seems to get confused, how his kidneys are failing, how he no longer makes decisions around the house but defers to the other ones who have adopted us.
He used to be burly and barrel-chested. Now he’s paper thin. Skin and bones.
She holds him and pets him and talks to him. “Who is a good kitty?” He softens his eyes and blinks. “You are”, she says. She is still crying. He softens his eyes and blinks.
I begin to tell the story of the earliest days from when he decided to adopt us. “Remember how he ran inside?”, I ask. “Oh, stop. You’ll make me cry harder.” She starts to cry harder and she picks up the story of his earliest days. “Remember how he talked through the window to his nephew?”, she asks me.
We retell the story together between talking about the logistics of getting the Priestesses of Anubis to come over and help the elder’s transition from here to there, ease his pain, let him sleep uninterrupted.
Our focus becomes spending time with him in earnest, rather than spending time with him incidentally. We discuss how we will now change his diet… we no longer wish to worry about how his kidneys will process the rich food he loves rather than the blander food that is better for him. The horizon is different. It’s best to let him eat enthusiastically.
The Priestess says that she will be taking the elder into her library. The cats are not usually allowed in this particular sanctum. Too many things that she wants unsullied by cat hair… sewing, drawings, books, blankets. She wants to spend time with the elder, though, and the elder always (without exception) wishes to be close to the Priestess.
We go into the Priestess’s library and set her up on her divan, with her special soft blankets and the elder cat walks onto the blanket and softens his eyes and blinks and starts making fists with his front paws in the pleasing texture of the blanket. “He’s making biscuits”, the Priestess coos, still crying.
She asks me to get a book off one of her shelves, a book of poems and stories, and tells me that she will be reading to the elder. “He loves my voice”, she tells me, needlessly. Of course he does. We all do.
I’m pleased that she adopted me, the way that the elder adopted us. I go to make some preparations, I know that she’ll be making others, including the ones involving the Priestesses of Anubis.
The all-too-short days pass and the evening comes where we sit at our table with the Priestesses of Anubis and we both cry and retell the story of the elder deciding to adopt us. “He talked to his kittens through the screen window. He ran inside. He pretty much started to run the house.” Our voice breaks. The Priestesses of Anubis smile kindly at our stories and escort him through the gate.
We say goodbye to the elder.
One of the priestesses listens for his heart through her stethoscope. “The heart of his soul is lighter than a feather”, the Priestess assures us, after he is gone. Of course it is.
We give the elder’s body to the Priestesses, who will take it to be burned and who will then return to us with a small jar of ash. We will mix half of his ashes with half the ashes of his best friend and then sprinkle these under their favorite tree in the backyard… where they lay in the sun before the both of them adopted us properly and that they may lay in the sun again. The other half will be kept with the ashes of all his friends who have passed before him and who, presumably, have been waiting for him.
We go to bed and cry. The Priestess of Bast is hit hardest by this passing. I am just the consort of the Priestess and only have enough perspective to see such things as his arthritis, his cancer, his kidneys. The Priestess still sees him, softening his eyes and blinking as he is told he is a good cat in his new place. Sleeping under his favorite tree with his best friend.
I just see the Priestess. We cry and talk and I fall asleep listening to her murmur her memories of the elder.
I love her voice.