You chose us.
Almost eighteen years ago, you chose us. You had been separated from your mother far too early, just to be abandoned a few weeks later because you would use a litter box instead of using the people toilet. I guess your previous owners were at least decent enough to bring you to an animal shelter, instead of abandoning you in the wild. It at least gave you a fighting chance.
When my parents walked into that room, intent on adopting a cat as my sister and I had been asking for one for a long time, they had not yet settled on any one cat. And while the other cats stared at them with mistrust in their eyes, you just trotted to them, a little ball of black and white fur, and without a second doubt, you climbed up my father’s leg, all the way to his shoulders. You started purring then, rubbing your face against his. Not an hour later, my parents were walking out of the animal shelter, with you. There was no way they were going to pick another cat and leave you behind. It felt too much like destiny. You crafty cat.
As soon as they got home though, you turned into a demon. You were the devil incarnate. You were defying the laws of physics in a way I have yet to see again, climbing and running up and against walls, accomplishing prowesses. There were even times, I think, when we almost regretted picking you. But we hadn’t picked you so much as you had picked us, and there was just no way we were going to give up on you. You were not very patient then, often suddenly biting us with little to no warning when you didn’t want to be petted any more. But you loved us. And you gave us the most fantastic times.
I remember how I would play hide and seek with you; I would hide, call out your name, and you would come looking for me. We would spend hours playing with just a ball of aluminium foil, or with a plush toy tied to a long string. Anything that could be turned into a makeshift toy.
I remember how you would often hunt and proudly bring back trophies: I’ll never forget the time you brought a living one-meter long snake to us as we were playing in the yard. And you did it a few more times. You would bring us birds, and mice, and you would sit by the corpse of your prey, high and mighty, purring with contentment and pride. I would congratulate you then, for I did not have it in my heart to take away your happiness. I would wait until you were not looking to get rid of your “gifts”, for you would be sad if you saw me do it.
I remember how you would climb trees while we were nearby, and look at us until you were sure we could see you; you would then spring into action and climb as high and fast as possible, performing impossible feats, and wait for us to cheer you on. And the more we would clap and congratulate you, the more daring you would be. You were so proud.
I remember of you would roll in our lavender bushes every time you were about to go see our neighbour’s cat, who barely even tolerated you. We would laugh at how you seemingly perfumed yourself before courting your princess.
I remember the first time you saw a spider. You curiously approached it, wondering if it were something you could hunt. And when it moved towards you, you jumped high in the air, your coat and tail puffy with fright, before running away. I can’t say that I blame you. I run away from spiders too.
I remember how chatty you were, always meowing and rumbling, and how I would meow back at you, sometimes for hours, until one of us would tire and give up. We were both so very stubborn it could take a long time.
I remember how you would drool all over when you were happy, and how loudly you would purr. So loudly that one of our closest family friends, your “uncle”, would jokingly call you “Moteur d’avion”, which translates as “Plane engine”.
I remember how you would greet the people that had come to be your family: the family friend who nicknamed you Plane Engine, and who would care for you whenever we couldn’t, and how you would run to greet him as soon as you heard his car pulling in the driveway; our grand-mother, whom you would happily greet every time, in a manner that only grew kinder and calmer as she grew older; the people who had come by our house enough time to have become friends in your book.
I remember when you got lost for a week. I remember the terror of not knowing were you were, the hurt that you might be dead, and the sorrow that you might have gone on your own, with no one by your side. And, worst of all, the dread of not knowing for sure. Of wondering. It was only for a week. I also remember the fierce hope, that lit like a fire in me, when I came by my former neighbour in the school bus, and he said he had seen you, even though I had not tell him you had gone missing. I can still feel my heart pounding in my chest as I heard his words. The hope, burning so hot it hurt. Counting the seconds as the bus made its way to my city. I ran home that day faster than I had ever ran, grabbed your cage, and ran back to our old house, screaming your name, begging entities I didn’t believe in to find you safe and sound. I remember the small meowing sound you made, how I froze when I heard you. How surprised you sounded, as if you couldn’t believe that I was finally here, finally back. How I hugged you, and laughed, and cried, because I didn’t know what to feel any more.
I remember how you laid on the patio table for a week straight after that, taking in the sun, because you were so happy to be back with us. You had never been allowed on that table, but it soon became yours. It didn’t matter. You were back.
I remember how you changed after that. How much kinder you became. How much more time you would spend with us. You were so afraid to have lost us. We were so afraid to have lost you. It brought us even closer together.
I remember how you slapped Ullan, our dog, the first time you met him. How you slapped him so many more times, when he would come running to save you from other cats, because of how vexed you were that you had needed his help. I remember how you would follow me when I would walk him, from a distance, at a nonchalant pace, and how you would suddenly start running when we would turn a corner because you wanted to keep us in your line of sight. I remember how you would lie down by Ullan, groom him, hug him, and how tensed it would make him sometimes because he was afraid you might slap him. How you would sometimes share his dog bed by the fireplace in the winter. How you kept each other company. How you loved each other.
And I think that’s when you really got old. When Ullan died. When you lost your companion of 14 years, who would be with you during the day when we couldn’t. You were already old of course, and plagued by the diseases that plague old cats, but you did not act or seem old. All your years caught up to you all of a sudden, and they weighted heavily on you. You started becoming picky with your food. Arthritis was slowing you down, hurting your hips. But you were still happy to be. Until you weren’t.
We tried. We really did. To make you better, to help you, to save you. I think it was just too much for you. You never complained, not once. You tried to stay with us, for as long as you could, because you loved us so. But it was just too much. My mother and sister brought you to the vet to try some more, and the vet told them there was nothing more that anyone could do. That the humane thing to do was to let you go. So they did. Like I had done for Alex, and then Ullan before you, they did it for you. And I couldn’t be there. I was on the other side of the country, getting for a new life in an even further place, and I wasn’t there for you. I just wish they would have waited two more days, so I could have come back on my day off and be with you as well. I just wish things could have been different.
My absence on this day will forever haunt me. I never thought that not being there would take an even bigger chunk of me than when I was there. After Alex, then Ullan, died, I knew I wanted to be with you when you went, and I also knew it would take something from me. I just did not expect that not being there could be worse. I really wish I had been there. Not so it could take away some of my pain, but so I could be with you. So you would know I was there, and I had not given up on you. That I had not left you. That I loved you, and that I was there, until the very end. Like I had been with my horse, and our dog. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there. I should have been there. I wish I had been there.
You changed so much with us. Your capacity to love, your kindness, your empathy; they all grew so much. You went from being a wild, angry kitten to being a kind, sweet and loving cat. It’s just amazing what love can do to a creature. You might not have been an angel like Ullan was, but you truly were the most incredible cat that has ever walked this Earth.
I grew up with you. I was six when you walked into our lives, and have few memories of a time when you were not there. With you gone, so are the final vestiges of my childhood. You saw me grow, helped shape me into the person that I am today. I hope I was able to return the favour.
We had decided to call you “Iris”, because of your striking green eyes. Iris is the Greek goddess of rainbows, and what is more striking than the colours of a rainbow? It mattered not that you were a male; after all, irises are also flowers, and they are a male noun in French. So we named you Iris. I found out later that Iris is not only the Goddess of rainbows, she’s also the Goddess of communication, new endeavours, that she was the granter of wishes, and that her rainbows are thought to spread from Earth to the Heavens. I don’t think we could have found a more fitting name for you. Every meaning of your name proved to be true. For all of us.
Once again, I am going to pay no heed to my own beliefs or science. I instead choose to believe you happily climbed the rainbow to the Heavens, where you were greeted by Ullan, and are now both watching over us. And every time I’ll see a rainbow, I’ll know it is you, telling me that you are thinking of us, and that everything is going to be alright.
Iris, my cat, thank you. Thank you for eighteen years of happiness. Thank you for teaching me how love can shape a person, help them grow, make them change for the better. Thank you for showing me, every passing day, how to strive to be the best you that you can possibly be. Thank you. I miss you so much already.
Iris, I love you. Always.
??/08/2000 – 16/06/2018
May you walk across the Bifröst, and any rainbow bridges, to the firmament.