My daughter came home for Thanksgiving and we honored the holiday with family and friends. Since my birthday follows Thanksgiving, we usually celebrate after we have recovered from the sumptuous Thanksgiving repast. That particular birthday, Anjelica gifted me with a tall, tantalizingly scented candle with three wicks. The next morning I arose early and made a spinach quiche. To cheer up the overcast November morning, Anjelica lit the new candle. As we sat down to dine, Sparkle suddenly leapt up on the dining room table. I shouted for her to get off the table, but not before sweeping her gold and white ringed tail over the three burning wicks. With a grand leap, Sparkle vanished into the other rooms.
“Mama! Sparkle’s on fire! Her tail is burning”, cried Anjelica.
“Quick! She ran into the sun room! Catch her! I’ll get a towel!”
I raced to pour cold water over a towel, quickly wrung it out, and dashed into the sun room.
“Her tail isn’t burning now,” Anjelica said as she tried to calm Sparkle and herself.
Gingerly I wrapped the wet towel around Sparkle’s smoldering tail. Fellini, our other cat, wrinkled his nose as he sniffed the air. Sparkle’s tail emitted a odiferous scent of burning fur. She did not balk at the hand towel I held in place around her tail.
“She flew off the table so fast, the air managed to put out the flames,” I commented, checking over Sparkle to make sure she hadn’t been injured elsewhere. For her part, Sparkle purred contentedly in Anjelica’s lap the rest of the day.
“Now you have to call her “Sparkler”, observed our friend Sister Marie as she howled with laughter as we related the story of Sparkle’s flaming tail.
“Let’s send up some prayers to St. Francis of Assisi since that’s your order,” I said to Sister Marie.
Save for the black patches on her singed tail, Sparkle appeared none the worse for wear. Suffice to say that for Christmas we kept candles far away from Sparkle.
We did not know these were to be Sparkle’s last Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In May, I noticed a hard lump on Sparkle’s backbone near her left shoulder. Given Sparkle’s age, fourteen in human years, I attributed the hard growth to a cyst or arthritic condition. When Anjelica arrived home from college, she blanched at the site of Sparkle. After examining Sparkle, our vet informed us Sparkle was suffering from a fast growing tumor, the ‘tentacles’ of which had invaded her muscles. Due to the rapid spread of this type of feline tumor, surgery would only delay the inevitable for a few more months.
“Take her home, keep her comfortable. You will know when to bring her back. She only has another two or three months.”
Anjelica was crushed. Sparkle had helped ease her transition from Montessori school to parochial school and from middle school to high school. Sparkle never left her side as Anjelica mourned the sudden and unexpected of her beloved grandmother. Sparkle was on deck for Anjelica during the remaining four years of her grandfather’s life as we cared for him. When Anjelica cried over the loss of those dear to her, it was Sparkle who snuggled close to her throughout the night, purring loudly to ward off sadness.
I convinced Anjelica that we would not let Sparkle suffer and cling to life because of our emotions.
“The kindest thing you can do for Sparkle is to let her go.”
“But how can I? How can I say goodbye?”
“By remembering all of the good things you shared with Sparkle. By doing just what you have been doing for fourteen years: by loving her.”
On the Fourth of July, Sparkle celebrated Anjelica’s birthday with us. Although remained loving, purring loudly, she gradually backed away when Anjelica tried to pick her up. Sparkle ate less, slept more, and refused to be near Fellini.
“It’s time to take Sparkle to her doctor,” I said, putting my arms around my darling daughter.
The veterinarian said Sparkle was masking her suffering for us to hide her pain. Sparkle had reached the end of her long and winding road. We decided to have her buried in a peaceful cat cemetery near a weeping willow tree overlooking a pond.
Alone in the examination room, we bade Sparkle goodbye for one last time. Anjelica could not let her go. This time Sparkle did not resist.
We cried all the way home.
It has been over a year now since we lost Sparkle. Throughout our lives we have had quite a few pets, but sometimes one touches the heart in a unique way. For Anjelica, that cat was Sparkle.
Adieu, bonne chat Sparkle. ^..^