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Sabrina (1989 - 2011)
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Our cat, Sabrina, died yesterday morning. She was sitting on my lap while I worked at the computer, which was where she was to found most of the time on cold winter days. After she fell ill last week she insisted on being with me every minute, even though she had become too feeble to climb up herself. During her last two days she seemed comatose but I kept her on me, steadying her limp body with my hand, in case she still sensed my presence. Maybe she could because she died less than an hour after I got out of bed, went into the office and put her in my lap for the final time. It almost seemed like she waited to go until I was holding her.

Mary and I have done a lot of crying. Sabrina's bowl is still in its usual place -- we can't bear to put it away yet -- although Sabrina herself was delivered to the vet for cremation.

There is no tragedy in a cat dying at the age of twenty-one. We should have been prepared, but she remained so agile and unaffected visibly by the passing years that it was easy to imagine she would continue on forever. And she was always a small cat with delicate features. Cats don't age much in appearance. She still had a kitten's face.

Only a few weeks ago I wrote how I chose her from a feral litter, in a neighbor's garage, on a cold autumn day in 1989. I can pinpoint the year because I had just bought a house. My kids named her. That was in another life. The house is gone, and the family, and the job I worked to support the family.

Sabrina was the last link to that life. She accompanied me into a better life, in another place, with different work and a new marriage -- one that has worked. I guess she was the last link to the person I was back in 1989, a person still too young and inexperienced to realize that sometimes things don't turn out the way you plan.

The absence of the third member of our little family is going to be hard for Mary and I to get used to. Sabrina insisted on being where we were every hour of the day. We are still glancing, out of habit, to see if she's sleeping in her usual spot on the bottom of the bookshelf in the office and we start to tear up when we remember that she won't be napping there again. Every time I come up the stairs with a fresh cup of coffee I am surprised not to see a tiny cat face peering down from the top, waiting for me to get back in order to resume sitting on me.

This morning I patted Sabrina goodbye, pulled the old orange towel over her face and left the vet's office knowing that she had joined the ever-growing list of beings and things I would never see again.

Her feline buddy Rachel died many years ago and we have carried the ashes around with us. The two used to be inseparable, always curled up together. In the spring we'll mingle their remains and bury them in the back yard.

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