Ben the cat passed away yesterday sometime in the evening. It appears to have been very peaceful—he was curled up in one of his favorite napping spots, and simply didn’t wake up. He was in good health, other than being a bit overweight, and had been active and normal, so most likely he simply had a heart attack or an aneurysm or one of the various ailments that strike otherwise healthy creatures and ends matters instantly. He was around eleven years old, possibly older, given the relative difficulty of judging a rescue’s age once they’re full grown.
It was a good and quick death, the sort most of us wish for and unfortunately don’t get. He made it as easy on us as he could. I was getting back from a trip and was able to say goodbye. A day earlier and Kevin would have had to make one of the bad phone calls, a few weeks later and we would have been deep into traveling and there would have been a nagging fear that maybe he had been acting sick and we didn’t pick up the signs. And there was not a long, lingering illness or that awful choice you have to make with all the attendant guilt.
He went on his own terms, still at the top of the cat hierarchy, and he never lost a fight in his life. Since riding off into the swamp on the back of a burning alligator, clawing at its eyes, was not really a viable option, this was as good as it could be.
I’m a wreck, of course. Irrevocable things should not happen so fast and so suddenly and without seeing them coming. Still, if I can write this up, perhaps it will be a thing that has happened, not a thing that is currently happening.
He was a force of nature, a big, surly, affectionate thug. I picked him up from the rescue about three months before it turned out I was getting divorced and really, really needed him. There were a couple of stretches in there where it was Ben and I vs. the world. He would escort me down stairs and to the bathroom (he kept up the bathroom escort for the rest of his life) and lick my face with an air of vague annoyance that I could not be trusted to groom myself properly. I saved his life twice—once with the rescue, once with some excruciatingly expensive medical intervention that bought him another three years—and he certainly saved mine a few times, so I imagine that whatever cosmic ledger keeps track of such things is balanced now.
Losing a pet is always miserable, but Ben was more than that. Of all the pets I’ve ever known, he was one of the only ones who felt like an adult, like having an immensely competent friend and roommate who happened to weigh eighteen pounds.
I can’t shake the feeling, however sentimental, that perhaps he simply decided that I was okay on my own now, and went off to his next gig.
Well. I have never been to Valhalla and don’t anticipate going, but I expect that’s where Ben ended up, or something very like it. Hopefully the door guards did not attempt to bring up the technicality of not having died in combat, and so would not have to spend all that time in the infirmary recovering. Freya’s chariot was pulled by cats, so I expect they understand about cats there.
I imagine he probably swaggered in, smacked a few hounds in the face, jumped on the table and threaded his way through tankards and drunken Vikings. Probably he took some food off someone’s plate, then sat on the edge of the table and waiting for a suitably well-padded Valkyrie to come by. Then he’d stand up, drape his paws over her shoulder, rub her face and purr.
As Valkyries are not made of stone, she’d take him back to wherever they sleep, whereupon he would hog the bed and lash his tail whenever she attempted to get another couple of inches back.
And in the morning—or whatever passes for morning in Valhalla—I expect he went on to whatever big warrior cats do next. Spirits like his are few and far between, and I was greatly privileged that he decided I was worth his time.
I have no doubts that whoever runs into him next will also be aware of it. Subtlety was never his strong suit.
Goodbye, Ben. And good luck, wherever your paws take you.