What Love Is

I was inspired to write this after one of my friends wrote about losing his cat. He wrote a touching tribute to him on social media. In solidarity with him and those grieving from pet loss, here is my story about one of the greatest loves of my life: a siamese-tabby named Scooter.

When I die, wherever I will be, I want him to be the first face I see.

Scooter taught me love. Technically speaking, I knew love because I was fortunate enough to be born into this world with a loving, supportive family by my side. But Scooter was someone who taught me how to love someone unrelated to me like a brother.

I was six. He was a small kitten in a large white box. The box was on top of my lap, bouncing occasionally in the car as my mother and I made the journey home.

I had cats before. But he was my cat.

I didn’t think of him as a possession. Because I was an only child, I was thrilled to have someone to grow up and play with. But as I grew, I noticed he didn’t like to play much. He indulged if I wanted to play. It became clear early on that he was happy when I was.

He derived satisfaction from being close to me, sleeping contentedly on my chest or wrapped in my arms. To make sure I was alive, he would sometimes bite my nose in the middle of the night. This would irritate me to no end. His ears would flatten apologetically. He lowered his head, but would resume purring once I opened his eyes and told him, “It’s alright, Scooter. I’m just sleeping.”

Sometimes, he would reach for my face just to feel its warmth. He’d accidentally scratch me above my right eyebrow. He once drew blood. Seeing I was in discomfort, Scooter instinctively withdrew his clouds. He would never again scratch me except to nurse on top of me.

He would defend me when my mother would angrily raise her voice by scratching her feet. My mother would see this and would immediately stop. When I was bullied at school, Scooter would check for open wounds, lick me and stay by my side until I stopped crying. Ironically, I would start crying out of joy. Someone was loving and protecting me unconditionally. This was love.

One morning, a bird fell out of the nest. Scooter played with the injured bird. We initially mistook his activity as toying with his prey. After the bird succumbed to its injuries, Scooter went to the bird and lowered his head mournfully as the sun shined down on them both. In the days that followed, I would hear him meowing as he stood in the exact same spot. Since then, Scooter decided to not chase the birds. Instead, he decided to peacefully coexist with birds and every creature smaller than him.

He chose life over the thrill of the hunt and loved watching the world live. This was love.

When he turned ten, Scooter decided to no longer hide under the bed when company visited. He made a choice to befriend everyone, sit on their lap, purr and appreciate them. If I spent time interacting with company, he would trust them enough to fall asleep on their lap. Of course, he’d look over to me and nod for permission first. He didn’t care for conversation or politics. He was simply satisfied with everyone being.

He was grateful for our existence and never hesitated to show his appreciation. This was love.

He was around twenty when he passed away. As he took his final breaths, I softly sang to him with tears streaming down my eyes. I fondly remember the words:

My dear boy, I thank you
For all the times you’ve been you
And all the lives we been through
Showing me your love
My dear boy, I see you
Know I’ve always felt you
Make the choice to teach me
How to be the best

And now that you’re going
My heart stings, but growing
Be among the stars,
Brighter than where we are

Please know that I’m here
Better and clear
With you in my life
This love won’t disappear

I had lost a wonderful friend and brother, but gained a beautiful light that guides me through the dark with unrequited love.

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