Six years ago today was easily one of the worst days of my adult life, after the passing of my dad. Because six years ago today was the last time I held my Persian cat, Tika, before she slipped away from us. I’ve written of her many times in other places and on other media, but only once on this blog. She has so shaped my being that I think that this year, her remembrance belongs right here.
Tika was no ordinary cat. She was one of those creatures that when you met her, you just knew there was something special about her. When we rescued her from the shelter during our first year of marriage, we knew she belonged with us. Tika was the first birthday gift I’d gotten from my husband after our wedding. She kinda picked us, the way you hear of dogs choosing their new owner. We weren’t really interested in adopting, but we found ourselves at the shelter that rainy Saturday April afternoon. It wasn’t unusual for us to stop in at the Humane Society just to look around, when we weren’t doing anything special on our way home and it was on the way. We meandered into the cat room, where the staff was tending to a new bunch of cats that were recently surrendered after their owner passed away. Since we already had a 3 year old calico, and because I have a soft spot for calicos and tortoiseshell cats, I was drawn to a pretty calico that was in the group. She was reserved and shy in the back of her cage, not really understanding why she was there… and then I felt it.
Two light golden eyes were staring at me from a cage behind me. It was Tika, but her name at the time was “Luna.” And she was unlike the other cats. She was active and friendly, purring and licking our fingers through her bars. So hubby and I decided to spend some time with her in the visit room, and that is where we fell in love with this cat. She was sweet, and loved belly rubs. She purred the whole time we were with her, laying on the charm. Her meows were soft and pleasant, almost begging us to take her home. It was very difficult to leave her that afternoon, but we had placed a hold on her so we could “think about it.” There was no thinking, but there was plenty of agonizing, tears and insomnia. We finally decided to bring her home, and whatever the problems the two cats would have would surely work out over time.
In truth, it was over six months before Tika and Callie could tolerate each other and be in the same room. But she was in my lap most times, and Callie just adored my hubby from the moment she met him. So we each had a cat for our laps and our hearts. Tika became my “certified professional” lap warmer, and my nurse when I was hurt in a car accident the following year and in the years that followed, right up until she passed away. She always knew when I needed her, and she was always right in my lap, grooming and loving me. She never knew a stranger. Tika was the greeter that welcomed every guest into our home with a meow and a polite demand for a belly rub. Everyone who met her adored her, even the veterinarians who treated her for the last six months of her life.
Every day since the day she passed, I have thought of her. I have pictures of her on my desktop computer. There is a photo of her and Sassy, our now 16 year old Ragdoll, that peers at me from a frame on the wall. And every day has been excruciatingly painful. For a long time, I couldn’t say her name without tears of grief, and I certainly couldn’t speak about her without choking sobs. When she died, a piece of my heart died with her.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called, “If Tika Came Back From Heaven.” It was unbearably difficult to write, and I couldn’t post it for a year. Even now, it’s hard to read, but sometimes I do go back and read my thoughts about what she would say if she could. But the one thing I know for sure Tika would have wanted was for me to be able to love again, and she would have given her blessing on our newest family member, Mercy. In so many ways, Mercy has been able to heal some of the hurt of loss, and replace it with joy and hope. Her name was chosen because of her physical disability, but her presence in our home has brought mercy and grace, exactly the things that Tika would have desired for me. So it is more than fitting that Mercy Grace has come to be with us. I can never replace Tika, but Mercy has been good for my soul.
Tika Marie, I still miss you with all of my heart. Every day I wish you were here again. And I am so thankful that you chose me to be your Mama. I have learned so much from you, Munchkin; how to love without condition, to give without expectation, and to find joy in the small things. You are gone from here, but always in my heart. Rest well, until I see you again. Much love, baby girl, now and forever.