I originally posted this blog in 2007, a year after I had lost my mother to Alzheimer's disease. As the years go by, I find myself missing mom more and more. So, this is for you, mom - and for Lucas, the cat who guided you home.
For nearly a year I have been holding the following story close to my heart. On March 29, 2006, I lost my beloved mom to Alzheimer’s disease.
Mom was never much of an animal lover, although she did watch over the many dogs who shared our home when I was growing up. She didn’t care for cats at all, which makes this story even more precious to me.
A Furry Farewell for Mom
“You need to come quickly,” the hospice nurse said. “I believe your mother is actively dying.”
I knew this call would eventually come, but I still dreaded hearing the voice on the other end of the phone. So the Alzheimer’s disease that had ravaged my mother’s mind and body was finally coming to an end. A lifetime of memories filled my heart as I drove to the nursing home. I ran to my mother’s room, but my sister’s tears told me that mom was gone. Sprawled out next to mom was a large, striped cat named Lucas.
“Chris,” my sister, Aeylin, said, “you would have been proud of this cat – he was here the whole time.”
In the many years I’d been going to the nursing home I had never seen Lucas. The day before I’d gone to visit mom, and stretched out next to her was a large, unfamiliar cat. One of the caregivers told me the cat’s name was Lucas, and went on to say that Lucas comes to be with certain residents when he knows they are near the end of their life.
I watched him curled up next to mom, who was completely unresponsive and had no interaction with him.
Anyone who understands them knows you can’t keep a cat someplace it doesn’t want to be. Lucas was there because he chose to be there.
When I got the phone call the following morning and came to say goodbye to mom, I wasn’t surprised to see Lucas there. My sister said she’d been holding mom's hand, and had noticed a change in mom’s breathing. Then the cat had gotten up and nudged my mother's hand, which alerted her that something was wrong. The nurse confirmed that mom was gone, something Lucas apparently knew the moment it had happened.
When I came back the next day to pack up mom’s things, Lucas was asleep on mom’s empty bed. The staff told me he had alternated between walking around crying and sleeping on the bed that had held my mother.
As the author of For Every Cat An Angel and For Every Dog An Angel, two books for grieving animal lovers, I know in my heart that all critters have a guardian angel that watches over them. Now I had been privileged to watch one of these precious creatures BECOME an angel to my own dear mother, who had always been afraid of dying. I knew Lucas had come to guide her home.
Losing my mom has been very painful. I am flooded with memories of all the cupcakes she baked – with no advance notice – for some school activity or event. I am remembering all the doll clothes she sewed, all the dance recitals she attended and, yes, all the furniture she antiqued!
But it is a comfort knowing that when mom was finally done with her body, and was ready to go on to the next great adventure, it was with her two loving daughters...and one very special cat...by her side.
Miss you, mom.