[I wrote the following tribute immediately after William’s death. He only lived ten months (August 1996 – June 1997). Tiger – our beloved Tiggy – is still with us, thank goodness, healthy and seemingly contented. I will post more about him with photos, when I get around to mastering the technology for that.]
It was sheer impulse. The advert leaped out of the page. “Absolutely gorgeous two twelve week old kittens, lovely temperament, both boys, must go together as are brothers, lots of fun, free to a loving home.“
Our very dear old cat, Pico, had been put to sleep on Good Friday, 1992. He had a long life, the last half of it happily with us His last few months, when he was getting more and more poorly, had been sad and stressful. We said we wouldn't ever want to go through that again - especially as we are getting older.
But after more than four years, it seemed like now or never. I was the first to phone, and was offered first refusal. When I saw them, how could I refuse? Tiger is a beautiful tabby, with symmetrical markings and a satin-smooth coat. William was a black-and-white with a bright, intelligent face, white throat and tummy and paws. They were high-spirited. playful, and cuddly. They travelled the 30 miles home without a murmur, and took to us and their new surroundings immediately.
Like all kittens, their early lives were a mixture of lively romps, grooming one another, and deep sleep. They were curious about everything - especially William, who had an ever-alert intelligence and an engaging impulse to subject whatever was going on to close inspection – and, once initial boundaries were established, beautifully well behaved. In fact, I don't think either of them has ever shown bad temper, been willfully naughty, or deliberately displeased us.
Starting them going outside was a worry. not least because, while we have a large and friendly back garden, the road in front of the house is a danger area and it was not possible to keep them from exploring it. Fortunately, Tiger soon lost interest in this, though William was reported as being seen in gardens across the road. He also was more into climbing trees. And because of the cold, late spring we did not let them outside very much until early March.
William broke his leg on Easter Sunday. How and where he did it is a complete mystery - I found him lying at the foot of the stairs, and realised he could not walk up them. He had an expensive operation to set the leg, and for ten weeks we nursed him, carrying him everywhere and letting him sit near the window safely looking out into the garden. He was a model patient, never complaining at whatever we did to and for him. But as time went on and he was still unable to have unrestricted movement he seemed to lose interest, which worried me. The last day or two before he died, he was quite lethargic.
His death has left a huge hole in my heart, because he was the most friendly and loving, as well as [before the accident] the most sprightly, cat of any I have shared a home with. What I shall always remember most - and with such a sense of loss - is his alert, delicately profiled face with the almond-yellow eyes, coming through my bedroom door after breakfast followed by his perpendicular tail, the eager jump onto my bed, the proprietary pause while I put away what I was reading so that he could advance up my chest and settle into my arms with his head under my chin, turning round to look into my eyes while I stroked his tummy and he licked my hand [or, rather, rubbed it with his teeth]. He didn't purr as loudly as Tiger does, but he made his contentment very clear. Then, after a few minutes, he would jump up and go about his business.
What was so lovely about both of them - especially William - was their total openness to touch [by us. anyway]. There were no forbidden zones, no flinching away or baring of teeth or claws. We simply belonged to each other. with total freedom of access either way at any time.
I had so much hoped for many years of happiness with them both. Now Sweet William has gone, we are left with our beautiful Tiger, and bitter-sweet memories of what might have been if we still had William too….
Some people have already said ‘Are you going to get another, as a companion for Tiger?' The answer is 'No'. Because another wouldn't be William, or a brother. In George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind, the little boy Diamond says of 'Little Bo-Peep’ - "I never just quite liked that rhyme, because it seems to say one's as good as another, or two new ones are better than one that's lost. I've been thinking about it a great deal, and it seems to me that although any one sixpence is as good as any other sixpence, not twenty lambs would do instead of one sheep whose face you knew. Somehow, when once you've looked into anybody's eyes, right deep down into them, I mean, nobody will do for that one any more. Nobody, ever so beautiful or so good, will make up for that one going out of sight".
William and I had looked deep down into each other's eyes, and now he has gone out of sight. No other cat. however dear, will ever fill his unique place in my heart, and the garden will never be as sunny again without him there, where he was meant to be.
Joyce Grenfell wrote: "If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone.
Nor when I'm gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must,
Parting is hell.
But life goes on.
So sing as well."
We shall do our best, but it isn't going to be easy,