This morning on the way to work, I opened an email from Mum containing some sad news – that Smartie (the cat) had died.

Smartie and sister Kit Kat arrived at Mum’s beachside pad about 12 years ago and quickly made themselves part of the family. While the hormonal effects of having them spayed led to their affectionate dubbing as Fatty and Scatty by Lil Chicky, there was no doubt of their permanent place in all of our hearts, especially Mum’s.

I’ve been living overseas for 11 of those 12 years and Kit Kat and Smartie have been every bit a part of my familial pilgrimages Down Under, whether curling themselves through my legs as I come through the door, mewling plaintively as I sit in ‘their spot’ on the couch or purring quietly next to me in Mum’s tiny courtyard garden, me draping one hand over the side of the chair to stroke an upturned chin or bowed head while I read.

Even so, I was surprised by how upset I felt by the news.

I walked along Victoria Embankment to the office today, through Whitehall Gardens with the Thames on my left, the morning sun glistening gently off the water. And it was the perfect place to give in to my tears. I cried for the cat for whom endless patting would never be enough. The cat who climbed into the bathroom sink each morning to watch Mum put her makeup on. The cat who sat out in the rain yesterday and then hid herself away to die.

I cried for Kit Kat, wondering where her sister and playmate has gone.

And I cried for Mum, for whom this is so sad a loss. Her email brought her worry, her search for Smartie and her sad discovery all the way across the world to the banks of the Thames and it pierced my heart to read her words and reflect on Smartie’s affectionate – albeit insistent – charm and the Smartie-shaped gap left by her passing.

As I dried my tears. I kept thinking to myself it’s not Mum, it’s not Lil Chicky or anyone else in my family. It’s not like the family pets we lost as I grew up, the ones I shared a house with and shouted at in frustration to ‘get off my beanbag’ or ‘leave the sausages alone’. But there it was anyhow – a heaviness in my heart and warm tears in my eyes.

Smartie now lies peacefully in the bower in Mum’s tiny courtyard garden.  The very place she’d come to find me, meowing insistently until my hand fell from the arm of the chair to rub my fingertips between her ears.

May she rest in the place I always found peace.

paw prints