This experience actually started two days before the actual event I am going to relate to you. It actually starts the night I took the math placement test for my college in January of 2006. Upon getting my results, I naturally called my mother and father in Texas (I live with friends in California... Friends who I have come to regard as a surrogate family, so I refer to sisters when I biologically have none, and make a pointed difference between my Texas Mom and Dad (the biological ones) and my Cali Mom and Dad... Just for reference) to give them the good news.
They sounded... Upset when they answered the phone, but my Texas Mom is a bit of a hypochondriac, and I figured she'd just thought of something else that could be wrong with her, so I didn't ask why they were upset. I passed on my information, bathed in their congratulations, and got off the phone. As I was getting off the phone, I heard my Texas Dad in the background of the call say "do you want to tell her?", but by then my mom was hanging up.
Now, while I'd been in the testing center and all of that day beforehand, I'd felt awful. I chalked it up to nerves and taking my first standardized test (the GED aside) since 1st Grade. (I was Home schooled from 2nd Grade on.) I felt better after passing, but during the entire next day, I felt sick again. Just... Knowing what I know now, I would call it sick with grief, but then I thought I was getting the flu. Stomach cramps, nausea, headache, and depression.
Before I go any further with my story, I feel the need to explain that I had just moved from my Texas Parent's house in September of 2005, and I'd been back in December for a week to visit. During that time, 10-year-old Smokey did not stray from my side. She slept on my bed, and followed me everywhere. She'd always been a 'follow-cat', but I knew something was different this time.
I think we both knew that this visit would be the last time I would see her. I worked hard to try and be able to bring her with me, but the vet wouldn't give her clearance to fly. At under 12 pounds, and at her age, she was too old and too small to fly. And there was no way I could drive with her... In her whole life, on top of everything else, she'd never left the little apartment I'd shared with my parents. I raised her from a tiny kitten in that house.
The last night I was there during the visit, she slept on my bed, right next to my head. And as I went to sleep, I was petting her, and I remember whispering "I'll be back to visit soon... Don't you go anywhere, baby..." And I know she didn't want to... But what I found out almost exactly a month later...
Fast forward to me back in California, the day after my test, at sunset. Remembering my father's words and having been feeling crappy all day, I called my Texas Mom again. This time the first thing she asked was if I wanted to hear bad news then, or if I wanted to wait until after the weekend (it was a Friday night). The hair stood up on the back of my neck, and I felt my face flush... Whatever she was about to tell me, it was the reason I had been sick for two days.
The morning of the day of my test, Smokey had followed my mother into the bathroom with something hanging off of her back end. My parents were shocked and horrified to find that she had a prolapsed colon, which is basically when the last bit of your intestines turns inside out and comes out of you when you poop too hard... Smokey was too old and too small for the surgery (it would have killed her), and my parents couldn't afford it anyway... So the afternoon, while I was taking my test, they'd had her put to sleep after a day of sad goodbyes and cuddling. (What gets to me about this is that they left her body at the SPCA for disposal... If they'd called me that morning, I would have wired them the money to have her cremated and the ashes returned... But there's nothing I can do about my parents trying to shield me from the sad truth of my baby's death.)
I got off the phone in a daze. I was sitting on the couch on our back porch in California. I think I was crying... I know I didn't really break down until after I got off the phone... And my California Mom came out to the back porch to throw something in the recycling bin, and found me crying. I don't remember how I told her or my sister what had happened, but I know I did.
I've completely lost the next hour... I don't remember anything. I think I was in shock. I know my California Mom decided to make fudge to try and help me feel better, and my sister was sitting with me and holding me. When I finally managed to stop crying, my sister invited me to go out front with her for some fresh air, and I nodded.
We went out on the front porch, and I was miserable (obviously). I couldn't concentrate enough to talk, so I just was looking up at the stars while my sister rubbed my back and I tried to keep from crying again. I was so upset... What if Smokey thought I'd abandoned her? What if she was mad at me for leaving? For not taking her with me? All I could think of were things I'd done "wrong". Then, suddenly, I saw it.
It was the only shooting star that I have ever seen, and it seemed to fizzle out directly over our house. And as it shot toward me, I suddenly found myself flooded by memories of Smokey so clear it was as if I was watching a movie on a screen in my mind and I couldn't even see the front yard anymore... Just the memories. I saw her as a kitten, small enough to fit in my hand the day she crawled up onto our porch following an outside cat we'd been feeding. I saw the time she'd ripped all the garland off of our christmas tree and strung it around the house... I saw so many scenes that they all blurred together... And ended with that last night and her sleeping inches from my nose.
To my sister, I'd stood frozen for only a few seconds, but I swear I'd relived the ten years of my baby's life in those few seconds... And somehow I knew that the star had been Smokey coming home to me. She said goodbye, and somehow I knew that she wasn't mad at me for anything.
To make more of a point, many times since that night I have seen Smokey among our resident ghost cats... The star really was her, and she's home where she belongs... With me. Forever.
To the stars, Smokey... To the stars.