Luke the Magnificent is gone. He went downhill fast his last two days. He would have been 18 in two months. We took him to the vet Thursday afternoon and said goodbye. He's now at the Rainbow Bridge with his sisters, Pansy Gardenia and Lily Magnolia.
Luke was our first and only little boy; all our other cats were girls. He’s also our only cat who picked me, rather than having me pick him. I never wanted a boy. Thought they’d be too much trouble. All that spraying and, well—catting around. But Luke wanted me and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted him, too.
Luke came to us from a neighbor who had forced him to fend for himself as an outdoor cat. He migrated down the block to our front porch and settled in there about ten years ago. He was so thin that he looked ill. I started giving him the leftovers from my girls’ meals. (That would be Pansy and Lily.) Luke had been starving, so he filled out quickly. I treated his battle wounds with antibiotic creams and they gradually healed.
The next phase of his assimilation into our family was bringing him into the house overnight and in bad weather. I wanted to be sure he had all his shots. Since there are HIPA laws (Health Information Privacy Act) for pets as well as for humans, the only way I could get his history was to own him. In 2007 I formally adopted him from his original owners.
I learned that the neighbor had adopted Luke from the same shelter as my twin girls one month to the day before I took them home. I knew that other kittens in Pansy and Lily’s litter had found homes ahead of them. I like to think that Luke was their actual brother and that he recognized them through the windows on our front porch.
Luke appreciated having a roof over his head, two squares a day and two sisters to chase around the house. Well, really more like one. Pansy was a tough cookie. She’d been the alpha cat before Luke came along and she wasn’t about to step aside, no matter how much more muscular he was. We had a good run together, all of us.
Despite his hardscrabble early years, Luke outlived Pansy by over four years and Lily by over two. He enjoyed his five months in our condo with lots of light and open space. He especially liked finally having his mommy all to himself.
Luke would jump up on the bed after I’d settled in for the night. He’d perch on my chest in meatloaf position and wait for me to pet him and stroke his chin. I told him how much I loved him. He purred back how much he loved me, too. “Luke the Magnificent. Luke the Lion Hearted. Luke of Oriole.” All the while petting and stroking, while he purred.
“You’re so handsome and brave and strong. And did I mention handsome?” Still petting and stroking. And still purring. “You protect us. You patrol the perimeter. You chase away the interlopers and keep us safe.” Followed by more purrs of agreement. And so on, until I fell asleep or he got bored and moved down to curl up next to my feet.
At his checkup two years ago, tests showed he was suffering from several chronic ailments. I had decided there would be no heroics, no surgeries, no heavy-duty treatments that would make him miserable. We took him home expecting to have a few more good months with him. At his checkup 12 months later, he was only a little worse than the previous year. We considered every month a gift, and we had him almost another full year.
He was having problems just before Christmas, but he rallied so we could go to my sister’s for two days while someone checked in on him. He rallied even more at yearend, having a reasonably good January with surprising spurts of vitality. He wanted to go out last week and I had trouble following him around the yard. But time, his kidney problems and other unnamed ailments caught up with him this week. I knew when he stopped eating that there would not be one more blessed rally for him.
It’s strange to come home to an empty house after years of loving creatures there to greet us. The space where Luke’s food station used to be is achingly bare now. I will mourn my Luke for a long time. After a year or two it will get less painful, but the empty place in my heart will never be filled. I still cry for Tulip Wisteria and Daisy Hyacinth and they’ve been gone about 20 years. The losses of Pansy Gardenia and Lily Magnolia still feel fresh at four plus and two plus years.
Luke the Magnificent, who chose me because he knew I would love him dearly, will be his mommy’s boy forever.