Belfast Telegraph

Why I’ll miss Lily, a special feline friend

By Gail Walker

Four days ago we lost one of the best friends anyone could have wished for. Loving, kind and intelligent, I can't think of a single instance when she let me down or failed to enthral me. She brought such joy.

Leaning over her body — the beauty that captivated in life still there in death — I stroked her glossy hair and through my tears could think of nothing else to say except thank you. For being such a wonderful companion. Such a wise counsel. Such a good cat.

Lily's absence from our lives is keenly felt. After 13 years of never being able to open the fridge door without that anxious cry as she, too, peered inside, it's horrible to have no rival for the last piece of Camembert.

How we miss the old psychological warfare over the best armchair, when, really, no one could withstand her imperious eyeballing for more than a minute before slinking out of it. How we complained about her favourite vantage spot after supper, when she would sprawl, lethally, in the dark at the top of the stairs, keeping sleepy observation over all floors of the household, hoping for one last treat.

What strikes me now was the sheer force of her personality. Just seven weeks old when she came to live with us, soon our lives took shape around her. We couldn't go on a holiday en masse — a cattery was a no-no, so someone had to stay home with her. An old apple tree should have come down years ago but one branch was pivotal to Lily accessing a roof, so there it remained.

For a while I’d the dark suspicion that perhaps Lily thought we were the pets, and she was trying with infinite patience to make us understand the simplest words, like ‘food' or ‘stroke'.

A pure white cat with eyes that changed colour depending on the light or her mood, Lily had movie star looks and knew it. Perhaps it was the constant adoration — strangers would stop to admire her on the road — that made her so self-possessed and confident. Whatever, she quite literally got away with murder — once prime suspect when the body of my late father's favourite robin was discovered in the vegetable patch. He was enraged. He forgave her. For who could not?

She’d never sit on your knee because she was a cat’s cat, fiercely independent. But she’d lounge beside you, purring for hours, shifting only to have a different ear, another shoulder, stroked and soothed. She was a lesson in how to live each day, never failing to greet a new dawn with enthusiasm, hope, a sense of adventure.

She understood the importance of taking time out, throwing herself in front of your keyboard so you’d have to pet her instead. She believed in living life on her terms, even if that meant only ever eating fish. She was a ‘why eat Whiskas when I can have a three times as expensive brand?’ kind of girl. I loved to watch her soar through the air and walk paw-sure the length of the fence.

She adeptly played one off the other, yet when it mattered, she was instinctively there for you; an intuitive reader of moods. I think of those sleepless nights after my father's death when she'd lie on my bed, pushing that hard, warm head into the palm of my hand when despair was overwhelming. She missed him, too. Now she takes with her something of him, in the sense that she was from his lifetime.

I'm glad my mother and brother were with her when she died, moments after being taken suddenly ill. I’m glad my brother’s voice was the last she heard for he was her favourite — though she hid it well, she preferred men to women. And I'm glad we all spoiled her because what would be the point of keeping her if not to do that? Besides, you couldn't put a value on what she gave to us.

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