As she curled up in my lap for the last time what seemed louder than everything else - louder than the sound of the children asking their mother what was going to happen, louder than the small noises that the vet tech was making, preparing the sedatives that would take her on a very long sleep indeed - was the sound of the rain driving against the roof.
It seemed right and proper that we should part on a dim rainy evening. We met in a driving rain one afternoon more than fifteen years ago when I sloshed through the backroom of the old metal shed animal shelter outside Astoria. I was there on a job of work and had no thought other than finding the bathroom when I felt a tug on my slick, wet rubber sleeve and turned and looked down at the little tortoiseshell cat that had reached out and caught my arm.
She and I have ridden a long way together since the long ride from Astoria back to the yellow house north of Commonwealth Lake that was our first shared home. She grew from kitten to cat as I went from husband to divorcee' to husband again and then father.
She and I lived in a fleabitten apartment and then another little house, sharing a bed first alone together than then with another human (who wasn't as enamored as I was of having small cats climb on her whilst she slept) and a strange dog, and a colorful bird, and then two other small humans who enjoyed her warm softness and sleek particolored fur as much as I.
We shared a lot of other cold rainy mornings curled up together, the smaller warm and soft within the lap of the larger, offering up the sleek arch of her back for my stroking and enjoying the petting herself, together making a wordless tactile meditation on companionship without expectation.
And so it was for the last time. She curled on my legs, weightless from the cancer inside her that had hollowed her out, nothing more than plush fur over sharp bones.
She went quickly and quietly, only starting up at the injection of the first sedative. But once I petted and held and gentled her, after the first drug had draped her back down on my legs the second drug carried her soundlessly over into the Great Sleep of death; settling her from the taut living stillness of sleep into a looser, dreamless stillness from which she would never awake.
We sat there for several minutes as everyone got to pet her goodbye. And then I got up and carried her outside on our last walk together.
The rain seemed just right. It pattered down like tears on the leafless lilac overhead and onto the little coil of cloth that shrouded her beside her shallow grave. The night-rain seemed like a perfect way to mark the end of the journey we began that other rainy afternoon so many years ago.
I set the last clod of dirt in place and leaned the shovel against the back wall of the darkened house.
The rain ran down my face and settled the earth that covers the place where she now sleeps that final sleep, that lonely sleep that will never warm her, or my lap, again.