“Wherever you go, you’ll always be HOME.”

China Black (2015 – 27 May 2020)

China Black aka Gaspard (2015-27 May 2020)

“Would you like to hug him one last time?” the pet crematorium staff asked as I stood at the furnace.

China Black, the slipper-sized black kitten that I rescued from under the vending machine in Chinatown some 15 years ago had passed on in early dawn.

This little black paw has given me so much.

I took the white shrouded bundle from the crematorium staff & held it close to my heart, like I’ve done so each morning for the past years.

China Black loves perching on the shelves to meet me.

China Black loved cuddles. He began his day by hopping onto one of the shelves to make eye contact with me when I entered their room to feed and water them. Only after getting hugged would he leap out of my arms to join the rest for breakfast.

Of late he started sleeping more in his favourite corner on the floor, and eating & drinking soon became a chore.

Hospitalising a cat like China Black that had never left the security of his home since the day he came back from sterilisation was out of the question. He was as affectionate as he was nervous and he resented being caged or confined in any way.

China Black dozes as he prepares for the journey into Light.

So I tried to make his last days at home as comfortable as possible, and let him pick wherever he wanted to lie down.

A few hours before he passed on, the rain came, followed by thunder and lightning. I lit incense to give thanks for the cool breeze and deliverance from the suffocating humidity of the past few days.

Then I cleaned China Black in scented water with pomegranate leaves like I had been doing for the past few days.

Despite his weakened state, he purred loudly and his eyes glowed affectionately, as if he was trying to memorise my face.

As I massaged his limbs that used to be so nimble and quick, I told him not to be afraid of bodily deteriorations. We had to give up this old shell for something better.

Then I stroked his face, held his little paw that I had kissed so often and said, “You’ve given me so many things. You don’t have to struggle to hold onto this body anymore. Wherever you go, you’ll always be home. Go & rest now, Momma’s always here.”

The cat cage where China Black exited for the Light.Hakim and Emmanuel paused quietly and looked at China Black before I carried him out. I put a butter lamp in there to give thanks. For the rest of the day, these two cats just lounged about quietly near the cage.

After he had 3 sips of honey water I carried him back to his favourite corner on the floor. I had wished he would sleep in the cat cage where it was cosy and clean. But I respected his will. To shield his bony body from the cold ceramic floor, I put a cotton shirt on him.

Before I turned in for the night, I lit a butter lamp that would accompany China Black and all in the room.

China Black loves the Sun. He would frequently stand by the window and look out. I would sometimes carry him to the window to greet the Sun.

As I passed the butter lamp over China Black’s head and body to bless him, he looked up at me in full awareness. I felt him receiving the blessings. I did the same for Hakim & Emmaneul, his cat brothers. They seemed to understand what I was doing and didn’t try to hide or run from the fire, but looked at me intently and calmly.

The next morning I woke up and did my morning prayers before I checked on the cats, which was my second act of the day. And as I faced the rising Sun to give thanks for Life, I was surprised to find myself giving thanks for Death as well, for the first time.

When I looked into the cat room, China Black was lying inside the cat cage. As I stood wondering how he could possibly have the strength to walk and climb onto the raised cage, the words, “Angels were here,” popped into my head.

China Black had passed on as if he was asleep.

It lifted my heart to know that my little cat’s soul has left in the cool of the night, where the air was crisp and the sky was sparkling with stars.

This little black cat has not only given me 15 years’ worth of hugs and affection, but also trained me to see the divinity of Water & the sanctity of Fire for Life’s final crossing.

I’m no student of theology or devotee of any particular spiritual teachings, but I felt assisted when needed. In sharing this experience with China Black, I hope that all who deal with animals be given guidance and resources to honour the death of their animals as much as they have benefitted from their lives.

And for those who are struggling with the inevitable end of animals in their care, may they find the rituals most suited to them to help their animals and themselves to make this difficult but necessary crossing. 🙏🌈🐾

Sweet Grace who taught me acceptance with China Black in their younger days. Both were great climbers and I understood how they must felt to lose control of their limbs & other faculties. This is the time when they need our care most. It is a lot of work and sadness, but it has to be done.

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