Except for Darth, I've never actually seen anyone die. My dad and grandma, I just heard about over the phone. There was still the collapse and the wailing but from the minute the person died, I started to get better. When I was waiting for Box to die, I dug in. I told my friend, I feel like I've always been sad and will always be sad. I'm wondering what kind of coper I am. I vacillate between callous apathy: "Box is dying" to histrionic "I do not know how I will go on."
Box was the best cat in the whole world. I am biased but when I got him at the Humane Society, there was a list of Humane Society workers who wanted to adopt him. They, though, had already adopted so many animals that they were at the policy limit. Box would have been my first adoptee since I started working there so I got dibs. I don't know how exactly everyone knew he was the best cat--on the breed they typed him "orange tabby" and "exotic" so maybe it was his strange, swirly markings that drew everyone but I actually think it was the way he meowed.
He was a loud cat. Every morning he woke us up saying Ma-ma Mow and then shrieking like an unoiled door hinge.
He ma-ma mow-ed up the stairs following me to get dressed and ma-ma mowed while I took a shower. If I took a bath, he'd poke his head up over the side and ma-ma mowed at me there. And then pretended he wanted to get in the tub but obviously didn't. I guess all cats do that--just like all cats take up the whole bed when you sleep, love to sleep on cardboard.
Box was dangerous. He'd bite your toes if they were out of the covers and your hands if they were outside of your sleeves. He would knead your leg like a loaf of bread if you sat still too long. Zoe would play games with Box, dragging the string all over the house. He would follow her anywhere.
He had a lot of friends in the world. I can hear Lynn's voice saying "Box" all gravely and commanding. Ander and Megan were the only house-guests who would pet him while he ate. My mom let him stay with her over Christmas break and summer break and scratched him on his forehead. My nephew Cam, whenever Box had an owie from tangling with the neighbor cats (or possibly raccoons), would ask, "What happen Box."
I don't know. How can I convey how good he was? I'm already running the montage in my head. He loved to be outside. He was so orange against green grass. He stalked everything but ravens who stalked him. He liked to sleep in the sun on the deck and run across the 1/4 acre of grass on the house on green street. I spent half my life looking for him when he wouldn't come in. He was allowed to go outside but not to stay out all night. I was up until 2 a.m. once looking for him on 9th Avenue, opening can after can of Fancy Feast so hear the can open, he would smell it and come running.
Erik and I had to trap the mice he would bring inside from the field next door. He was a fighter but not a killer and we swept traumatized mice into empty Kleenex boxes to return to the field next door.
He slept with me every night, no matter where I slept. He was almost the kind of cat you could trust to take camping--he would go but always come back.
Last night, I thought he'd died and I held him on my lap. Then I realized he hadn't so I took him into bed. We shared my pillow and he stayed warm, I hope. I kept waking up to check if he was breathing. I thanked him over and over for staying in the bed. I didn't want him to die cold and alone.
When the sun came up, his chest started to convulse. Then, he finally stopped breathing.
I don't know how to say how Box-y he was. There are a hundred pictures of him in my head and images of him pulling up on his paws to look in windows or on chairs or over the bathtub but I think what really made him Box was how very loud he was. His purr sounded like a Mack truck. The house, even with Zoe singing ABC's and tickling Max, is quiet today.
I don't know how to say it well. I love that cat.