Many of you know I recently had to euthanize Cornelius, my loyal feline companion of thirteen years. Unconnected with Cornelius, I had written this short piece for a Pagan friend whose daughter was having trouble coming to terms with their own cat's passing a little over a year ago. It's a little piece of narrative fiction designed with a younger reader in mind. I've found myself coming back to it as I mourn the loss of my own cat. When Millie Comes Back
Millie was the family cat since before I was born. Mother said Millie just walked into her life one day and decided she was going to stay.
Millie was a bright-eyed calico with a cap of orange and a spot on her chin. Mother said she was the best familiar a witch could have, because she was patient when she needed to be, and she had a nose for magick.
Millie was a curious cat and she got into a lot of things. She liked to hide in bags and investigate every corner of the house. She would sometimes hop up onto shelves and knock little things down if she wanted Mom's attention.
But because she was a magickal cat, Millie knew never to touch the things on Mother's altar. She was a mischief-maker, but she understood what was important.
Because of her early antics, Mom thought of lots of names for Millie: Boots, for the time she got stuck in one. Trixie for all the pranks she played. And Shadow, because she was always following Mother around, especially during rituals.
In the end, she was just Millie. It's short for Millions, because that's how many names Mom thought would fit a kitty with such a big personality.
Millie was Mom's true and loyal companion. She followed Mom through many changes in her life. Millie wasn't too sure about Dad at first, but she grew to love him. And then I came along, and Millie was like a proud momma herself, always watching over me. She especially knew when I was sad, and would wander over and tickle her tail under my nose until I giggled.
When my little brother Devin came along, Millie would sit watching over him in his crib. When he threw one of his toys out, Millie would jump down and pick it up, climbing along dressers and bookshelves till she could drop it back in with the baby.
By my seventh birthday, Millie was an old lady cat. She didn't chase her toys as much, and when winter came, she curled over the heater because the cold made her joints ache.
When spring came that year, Millie moved around slower and slower. She slept a lot, but when she was awake, she made sure we all knew she still loved us very much.
Then one morning, Millie wasn't moving at all. She lay in her favorite kitty bed with her tail curled around her nose like she was sleeping.
Mother checked on the kitty, and said Millie wasn't sleeping. Some time in the night, Millie had died. We all cried then, me and Mother and Father and even little Devin, who was only three.
Although it was hard for her, Mother picked up Millie and laid her on a piece of her favorite blanket in an old shoe box. She let me and Devin pet Millie one last time. Then we all went out back to Millie's favorite climbing tree. Father dug a hole among the roots, nice and deep. Mother laid Millie into the hole.
I put her favorite catnip mouse in with her. Devin tossed in her jingle ball toy. Then Mother put one of the stars from her altar in the box with Millie. Very sadly, she put the lid on the box. Together as a family, we took handfuls of soil and covered Millie.
I went to the back of the garden and couldn't stop crying. Mother came and sat down next to me. She had tears in her eyes too, but she was trying to smile. She said, "I know it's hard, Kaylee, but Millie was an old cat. She had a long and good life, but she needed a chance to rest."
"Why did she have to die?" I asked. Mother wiped at my tears.
"Everything dies," she said gently. "But Millie will come back to us. Everything dies, but everything also comes back."
I wasn’t sure I believed it at the time and it didn’t help the tears, not at first. But Mother just held me and kept talking.
"Some people think that the dead go to a place called the Summerlands where it is always warm and green. It's a place for resting and getting away from pain. But you don't have to stay there forever," Mother told me.
"Millie might come back as a spirit. So don't be afraid if you feel her curled up and purring on your bed in the night. She's just dropping by to check in on her favorite people."
"Millie might come back as another cat, with a fresh new life. She'll start over again as a kitten, and that kitten might find its way here, because our hearts are tied together."
"Millie might come back as a new puppy. Souls can take many forms, and maybe now that she's done being a cat for a while, Millie might want to try something different. There's no rules against it, you know."
"How will I know that it's Millie?" I wondered.
Mother shrugged, "Your heart will know. But you can't look for Millie in everything. She'll come back in her own time, and if she wants us to know that it's her, she'll find a way. For now, her soul is off having its own adventures, and the best parts of this life she shared with us are still alive in all of our memories."
In time, it got easier. The next summer, we got a puppy. He was a wriggling ball of energy who had to run around sniffing everything. We called him Flash. He was a good and loyal dog, but he wasn't Millie.
Another cat came around after a few years. He was a wild old alley cat with a torn ear and a cautious disposition. He warmed up to us and became part of the family, but he wasn't Millie either.
And then I was almost grown and getting ready to choose colleges. And coming home from work, I heard something mewling out behind the store. I found a tiny little calico kitten with a cap of orange and a dot on her chin. She came right up to me and jumped into my hands, purring.
When I took her home, she got into everything, jumping onto the highest shelves and knocking over little things when she thought I wasn't looking. But she never touched my altar even though there were plenty of things there to appeal to a playful little kitten.
And my heart knew. I had found my Millie.