I cracked my eyes open to the rising sun. Turning towards the other side of the bed, I remembered what day it was. December third, the first anniversary of my dear Martha’s passing. The memory pressed against my heart, near to the point of breaking it. No, I said to myself. Life goes on.
Forcing my sorrows to the back of my mind, I began my daily ritual. After getting dressed and brushing my teeth, I ventured downstairs, to be greeted by my cat. “Hello, Fido. You hungry?”
Fido rubbed against my leg and began to purr. Then, ever so gently, she guided me towards the kitchen, and a moment later, we were standing by her empty dish. The look Fido gave was louder than words. “My dish is empty. So, what are you going to do about it?”
In response, I reached down and scratched the back of her neck. Once again, she began to purr and rub against my leg. I began to chuckle. “You know, Fido, there’s one thing for certain. You’re very persistent.” As Fido continued to rub my leg, she would occasionally pause and stare at her dish.
I knew when I was defeated. As I opened a can of 9 Lives, Fido meowed, reminding me that it was for her, not me. “You have nothing to worry about. Since I have no idea of where these nines lives came from, you can have it all.”
As soon as I dumped the mystery meat into Fido’s dish, she abandoned my leg and focused on her meal.
As Fido satisfied her appetite, I proceeded to satisfy mine. As I delved into a bowl of cereal, I glanced absently at the empty chair across the table. My heart ached at knowing Martha would never sit with me again. Why, Martha? Why did it have to be you? I can vividly recall the look of anguish on her face, when the doctor said she had only six months to live.
Oh, how sorely I wanted to thrash him and make him take those words back but knew it wouldn’t change the truth. It was obvious the chemo wasn’t doing anything but making Martha sick and before she was diagnosed, she was a rather plump woman. But by the time we saw the doctor, she was barely more than skin and bones. God, why couldn’t it be me instead of her? Unable to take another bite, I pushed the cereal bowl away.
I couldn’t face the chair any longer, so I walked out to the backyard and looked at the rose bush growing back there. I haven’t forgotten, Martha. We planted this the first day we moved here. I pricked my hand on some of the thorns and you gently washed them and wrapped it with your handkerchief. Such warmth you gave unsparingly. I felt so blessed knowing you loved me that much.
I smiled, then said to myself, Forget the daily routine. I picked three blossoms off the rose bush, then went back inside, scooped up the cat, and proceeded out to the car. As I drove down the road, I told Fido, “Don’t worry, I’m not crazy. We’re just going on a little road trip.”
Fido didn’t have to worry for long, for we reached our destination within fifteen minutes. As I pulled up the driveway, an iron gate, opened for visitors laid before me. Beyond it were acres of a lush green meadow over rolling hills, peppered with grave markers. We’ve arrived at Martha’s new home.
Just past the gate was a parking lot and unsurprisingly, I was the only visitor parked there. After scooping up Fido and grabbing the roses from the front seat, I strolled to Martha’s resting place. When I arrived I put Fido down and gently placed the roses at Martha’s headstone.
Tears welled up in my eyes, as I began to speak. “Hello, Martha. Sorry I haven’t been by to visit lately. You know how it is. I called the kids a couple days ago to say hi. They’re doing fine and promised to visit soon. I don’t put too much faith in that, since they’ve been saying it from the day of the funeral. I understand they have busy lives and whatnot, still it seems like they could have come up for just one weekend. But what can I do? Well, enough about that.
“Anyways, I want to thank you for the gift you left at my front door last year. I guess you must have seen how I was at the funeral. Outside, I gave the appearance of bravery, not shedding a single tear. People were even complimenting me on how I was a pillar of rock for them to lean on. Little did they know I was a broken man. My heart shattered the moment you gasped your last breath. Oh, how much I prayed for it to be me, instead of you. But it wasn’t meant to be.
“That night, after the funeral, my thoughts fell into a black abyss. I went to the medicine cabinet and found your leftover fentanyl. I thought, If I can’t live you, how could I live at all? I came so close to taking a half-filled bottle of those pills. I even filled the cup full of water.
“I was about to end it there, when I heard a noise at the front door. At first, I thought I imagined it, when I hear it again. When I went to open the door, I found myself face to face with a cat. As I gazed down at my uninvited guest, she looked right back at me with her quizzical eyes. It was as if she was asking, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“As I stood there dumbfounded, the cat started rubbing on my leg and began to purr. Perplexed at what was happening, I tried to brush her away, when she made a mad dash in the house. I chased after her, like a dog after a squirrel. It seemed like we went through every room, until we finally ran to the kitchen. She hopped up on the counter and stopped in front of those pills. It was an eerie moment, for the cat glared at me as if she was saying, “That’s a coward’s way out.”
“It was at that moment I realized you sent this miracle to me, so I would open my eyes. And you did, in every way a man’s eyes can be opened. From that moment, Fido became a member of my family, and we have been inseparable ever since.”
I picked up Fido and continued. “You may ask. Why did I name her Fido, and I would answer, why not? If Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation could name his cat Spot, why couldn’t I name mine Fido?”
I stroked Fido’s neck and she resumed purring. “Anyways, now that Fido’s in my life, I have something to live for again, and I thought it was right to thank you personally.” Kneeling down, I tenderly touched the head stone. “Thank you, Martha, for saving my life. I miss you and will always love you. Then, I stood back up. “I don’t think I can ever make myself say good-bye, so I’ll just say, I’ll be back soon.”
With Fido in my arms, I returned to the car and drove towards home. Breaking the silence, I whispered, “Well Fido, what do you think about Martha?”
Fido rubbed her face against mine and purred. You’re right, old girl. I feel the same way.