Noah the Giant and Milwaukee the Bold

Fifteen years ago the neighbor children pulled a kitten out from under a wood pile, and brought her to my mother. She was too young, and she frightened the old woman holding her on her lap, pitifully inconsolable. So I took her home. I made her a warm place and nursed her and taught her how to conduct herself, and I named her Milwaukee.

She was a beautiful kitten, calico, with a bobbed tail, of which we always said she was inordinately proud. She was a merciless hunter. We brought her a young male companion, whom she despised. He would catch small animals and bat them around with a paw, uncertain what to do. Milwaukee stalked, pounced, and ate, unceremoniously, on the site of her kill.

When we returned from the beach, Noah’s grandmother observed Milly had become rather ‘hippy.’ Her lopsided figure resulted from a sizable cyst on her thigh, caused by a cancer that led to a draining abscess and, finally, a decision to cancel further payments to the veterinarian. I felt I wanted to talk to my boys about death.

‘All living things resist dying, because life is so wonderful. Jesus teaches we don’t need to fear death, and we don’t fear it. But I think it is good, when we’re around someone who is dying, to show them we’re with them, that we love them, and they’re not alone while they do this thing.”

Evan interjected: ‘it doesn’t have to be a religious experience, though.’

So I said, ‘it is what it is, that’s all we can say about it. None of us will escape it, except through our faith.’

Noah slept with Milwaukee purring by his head. In her old age, she would wander downstairs at night and then return to his bedroom door, howling for his attention. He would wake immediately and hop onto the floor, long before daybreak, to find her and stroke her back. Then they climbed back onto the bed and slept together.

Two days ago Milwaukee the Bold stopped eating and drinking. This morning we took Noah from school and brought him to her on her living room chair. He stood and loved her and held her head when the attendant arrived. Then, not sure what the event might entail, he sidled around to his father and put up his hand. He’s too large to carry now, but I picked him up. When Milwaukee’s heart stopped beating I kissed his temple and said, ‘she’s gone on ahead of us,’ and Noah the Giant laid his head on my shoulder and wept.

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