Henry-san the Lifesaving Cat

Written by Grace Young on October 3, 2011

This story was first published in June of 2010 and is so moving, I thought it worth reposting. Thanks to my good friend, Grace Young for this contribution and photo of her beloved feline.

Hendi-san the Cat Photo

In Memory of Henry-san: July 22, 2003

Since June 6th when I found out that Henry-san had lost nearly two pounds within two weeks my little universe has changed. Watching him decline in health and knowing that our time together would soon end has been unbearably painful at times. For the last three weeks he had a remarkable rally, gaining a half pound and returning to some of his old habits. Michael called him the “miracle cat” last week saying that he thought Henry-san was aiming to reach his twentieth birthday. It was a nice illusion to live with–half believing I could postpone our parting.

This weekend he continued to have a good appetite and was very alert, but on Monday the appetite disappeared and he seemed to have trouble swallowing. His walk suddenly showed stiffness and by the middle of the night when I got up to feed him I realized we had entered the last stage. I lay beside him for two hours on the living room floor. There was no denying he was ready to go.

Yesterday in New York City we had horrific thunder and rain all day. The kind of piercing, jarring sounds that would’ve sent Henry-san scurrying under the bed when he was younger. But he chose to be in the living room and I stayed with him. It seemed to me nature was literally calling him back. In the early afternoon Michael came home and a short while later the thunder and rain stopped.

When it was time, Henry-san died in a room bathed in sunshine. He was helped by Dr. Berg who came with her assistant Marcos. She was loving and kind and I will always be grateful that she made it possible for Henry-san to die so peacefully. We placed Henry-san on Michael’s sleeping shirt because he loved napping on Michael’s clothes. I placed a white silk scarf that His Holiness the Dalai Lama blessed for me many years ago on Henry-san’s body as a covering to give him spiritual warmth and protection. Henry-san has a photograph of the two of us together so he will always remember we are soul mates. A favorite toy was added and a few petunia and geranium flowers from our window boxes–surrounding him with the scent of his home. Dr. Berg wrapped him in Michael’s shirt like a baby. And that is how he left home yesterday.

The moment Dr. Berg stepped into the cab the rains began again and shortly after, the thunder came. It rained for many hours. We took a walk in the early evening when it was drizzling—my tears flowing together with the rain. Towards the end of our walk I suddenly realized we were one block from the animal hospital and it was still opened. I stepped in for a few minutes just to tell Henry-san silently I was there. On the way home we passed a beautiful chocolate shop two blocks from our apartment. I told Michael that we should each have a chocolate. After Chinese funerals it is customary to eat some sweets to take away the bitterness. I didn’t have my candy until we arrived home and it was only then that I noticed I had chosen a heart-shaped chocolate.

Last night we woke up at 2:30 in the morning. We got up, returned to bed, but by 3:30 we still couldn’t sleep. So we went into the living room where Henry-san’s resting area is all in plain sight. It was almost twelve hours later and I think Henry-san’s spirit pulled us in. From that point on we slept quite soundly.

I have often said over the years that I believe Henry-san saved me in a previous life. It was a way that helped me to understand or explain the deep devotion I had for him. In the last few weeks I came to realize it was in this lifetime that he rescued me.

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