I buried my cat yesterday.
For nearly fifteen years she had been my companion, ever since that winter's evening when she had followed me home and decided to move in. I don't really remember being given much choice in the matter; it was more or less "I'm going to be living here from now on - OK". And that was it, I had a cat.
Where she came from I have no idea. The village grapevine could only report that she had been around for a couple of weeks; begging here and there, because the collar and bell at her neck would stop her hunting. Very slowly she had been starving to death.
Over the following months, she learned to trust again. At first she would only allow herself to be touched gently on the top of the head. Slowly, oh so slowly, she let me stroke her more. On to the neck, the shoulders, the back, and finally right to the end of her thick bushy black tail.
And she learned to play too. Cat toys were never her thing, but a screwed up piece of paper would get her scampering all over the place. Just briefly, until she would stop and look round self consciously, then quickly lick her paws clean, as if to say "No, that wasn't me. I was too busy cleaning myself!"
The collar had come off on Day 1; as a free cat who was merely living with me, a collar was not appropriate. So she started to hunt. Just not very well. Hunting was one of those things she felt she should be doing, but the mechanics of it mostly eluded her, though there were enough little victories to keep her interested. In the summer the swifts built their nest in the eaves at the back of the house. Two storeys up - so should've been safe enough. But they chose the spot where the ridge of a single storey roof met the wall. DeDe worked out that she could jump onto the garden wall, climb the trellis on top, walk along to the end and hop up to the flat roof. An eight-foot jump across space would get her onto the next roof, and then she could sit there on the ridge waiting for a swift to drop into her mouth. And wait she did. On and off all summer, while the swifts swooped around her head screaming at her. And the next summer. And the one after that.
Then one evening in the following year. I heard her come in through the cat flap. Her joyous miaow could only be described as 'muffled'. Without looking I could tell what had happened, and having announced her victory, she left to enjoy her feast. It was the one and only time she ever succeeded in getting one.
As the years progressed, the effort of getting onto the roof became to much for her, and the swifts were safe. DeDe had to satisfy herself with watching from the lawn, while the swifts still swooped and screamed at her overhead.
In her later years, I did the unthinkable, and got married. Not only bringing another person into her house, but another cat too. The relationship with Magic was never better than "I will tolerate you because I have to." Much to Magic's regret.
And then even worse than that I brought into the house something called a Baby - first one, and then a second.
But DeDe put up with the upset, perhaps even better than Magic, but she wasn't keen on the time she was obliged to spend outside or in her shed.
With the passing away of my father at the beginning of the year, DeDe went to stay with my mother. Two old ladies keeping each other company. We thought at the time that it was likely to be DeDe's last summer, and she would have a little more comfort and peace (apart from, of course, when the grandchildren came calling).
Yesterday, too soon, far too soon, I had the call. DeDe needed to take a trip to the vet, and I had to make that final decision. She passed away bright eyed, and with a miaow on her lips.
That evening my tears mingled with the muddy earth as I laid her to rest in the garden.
Home again, now and for always.