Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mourning Lili Cat

In 2008, in the midst of the three-week war in Gaza, a friend wrote to lament the fact that an opossum had been carelessly struck by a car in the middle of a Southern California residential neighborhood. The driver, she wrote, hadn’t even stopped to see if the opossum was okay (it wasn’t).

When I read her e-mail, I was in my hotel room in the West Bank flipping between Al-Jazeera and CNN while the Israeli jets flew low and fast overhead. Whether they were routine air exercises or part of the military operation in Gaza was impossible to say, but it was unsettling nonetheless. As I read over my friend’s rant about the opossum, I scoffed and felt an unfamiliar wave of judgment rising up within my chest. Who the hell cares about an animal when people are being slaughtered just as cruelly around the world?

I bit my tongue and simply ignored that section of her e-mail, but despite being an animal lover myself, I could not comprehend how someone could spend so much energy worrying about an opossum or a cat or a dog when there were so many crimes committed against humans on a daily basis.

But then Lili cat died. Just after wrapping herself around my ankles and gazing at me with bright green eyes, her tiny body was hit by a car rounding a bend too quickly in the middle of the French countryside. There was a resounding thud and her crumpled body was thrown to the side of the road in a matted heap of black fur and blood. The driver didn’t even stop.

Her owner, my friend, cast a devastated look at her small form and muttered “merde” under his breath as he turned his children away from the scene and went in search of a shovel.

Lili cat was placed in a cardboard box; her stiff tail sticking at an odd angle was all I saw as they carried her away to be buried. An impromptu cross was hammered together and her name was written with a Sharpie pen. Lili.

My friend’s five year-old daughter took my hand and somberly lead me forward to the grave under the bushes. "To say good-bye," she said. As I stood there, my heart ached for things that would never be. Lili’s sleek form stalking lizards in the grass while her kittens stumbled over each other in the kitchen, tripping unevenly on their tiny paws, their ears flattened down and their eyes sealed shut.

Yesterday I had run my hand over Lili’s swollen belly, imagining the little kittens that would soon be running about this renovated farmhouse. A purr rumbled through her body and she nudged her head against my hand. Lili cat. I heard the life being taken from her body, and now I cannot get the sound out of my head. I want to erase it, undo it, and bring Lili cat back.

I feel reasonably silly mourning a cat. In the grand scheme of things, my mourning energy could be better spent on more devastating acts of injustice.

It just seems ridiculous to mourn the loss of a small black cat when wars are being waged, natural resources pillaged and destroyed, opportunities snatched from most and handed to a few. I would feel ashamed to look someone in the eye who had actually lost something substantial in their life and tell them I was regretting the loss of a cat. 

 Still, when I think of Lili cat bounding through the garden and attacking my feet as I harvested berries and watered the herbs, my heart sinks lower in my chest. We will never do that again. 

I miss her. 

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