This was first published on December 8, 2013.
On a sunny November day more than a year ago, as I was walking in my hilly neighborhood, I saw a wretched-looking black tiger-striped cat under a car by the side of the road.
I bent down to say “hello.”
With what little strength he had left, the cat staggered up and walked toward me. I could see he was so emaciated, he was near death.
That’s it. Something has to be done.
So I picked him up. He’s coming home with me.
That’s how “Elijah” became part of our family.
After a month of almost non-stop eating, Elijah finally started filling out. He grew more fur, glossy fur. But he was old, and walked with the characteristic stiffness of old age.
Elijah insisted on being outside. But he never wandered far from home, but would spend his day curled up sleeping on a patch of ivy under a tree next to our mail box.
Worried about his thinness and the cold, I would clothe him in a sweater. He would keep it on for a few days, and then lost it among the bushes somewhere. We must have gone through at least three sweaters.
He was sweet and endearing and would purr when I petted his head. Whenever I went outside, Elijah would get up from his ivy bed to greet me. When I worked in the garden, he was my constant companion. He obviously was once someone’s pet.
At the end of every day as the light dimmed I would take him into our laundry room, with a comfy bed, litter box, food and water. And every morning, at 1 or 2 a.m., he would start yowling — a piercing yowl — waking me up. I would stumble out of bed and let him out.
This went on for several months. In. Out. In. Out.
And, of course, spending his days outdoors, Elijah would get fleas and bring them in to infect my fur-boy, Gabe.
One day, I’d had it with the fleas. Henceforth, Elijah would be a permanent indoor cat, fully integrated into the household.
At first, it was a novelty for him. But after a week indoors, Elijah began pacing around the house in circles, yowling.
We both really tried. Elijah and I both gave it our best. But he could not stay indoors, having been accustomed to being homeless for God knows how long.
Elijah would be a permanent outdoor cat. I set up a comfy bed for him in a sheltered space right outside the kitchen door, with bowls of food and water.
Another week went by.
On March 12, 2013, after I had fed him early in the morning at 4 a.m., Elijah disappeared.
I called and called for him: “Elijah! Elijah! Come home, Elijah!” I went around the neighborhood looking for him, calling “Elijah! Elijah! Elijah!”
The next day, I was on my laptop when I heard his distinctive meow. Not his aggrieved yowl, but his polite meow when he asked to be fed.
I immediately dashed out, calling “Elijah! Elijah! Elijah!”
I walked all around the perimeter of the house — the back garden, the front garden, the sides . . . .
Later that afternoon, my husband heard him too.
But no Elijah.
That’s when we knew he was gone, for good.
What we heard was his farewell meow.
I fell into my husband’s arms and we both wept. Our hearts were breaking into pieces. We had fallen in love with Elijah.
To this day, when I take my walk, I still walk past the place where I had first found him — hoping against hope to find him again.
I like to think that, like his namesake Elijah the prophet, Elijah the cat was also taken bodily up into Heaven. For we are told in Revelation 5:13:
“And I heard every creature in Heaven and on earth and under the sea and in the sea, and all therein, saying, ‘To Him Who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!'”