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Remembrance: The Last Twelve Hours of Tenten’s Life

Tenten breathed her last on a Frday morning. She was a 23 year old cat. Mayumi Yamamoto recalls the last few hours before her death.
Heartwarming cat story
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Tenten passed away on a Friday morning, 5:55 AM, at the age of 23.

The night before, I talked online with Tenten beside me, around 6:00 PM.

She meowed near my PC that my interlocutor heard, although her voice was very frail.

She was sitting on her favorite zabuton, a Japanese flat cushion, which I placed on my desk for her. After my online conversation, she lay down there as usual, that is, in the same style as she used to do; she folded her arms and legs under her body, and her head on the zabuton. I was stroking her body and face. She liked it when I gently stroked her nose with my finger.  

Till 11:00 PM, she could still raise her head every now and then to look around. 

Afterwards, I sent a message to my daughter to tell her that Tenten could no longer raise her head, but could still raise one of her arms to try to reach out to me. She breathed with difficulty. Once, she even opened her mouth to breathe heavily, something that cats never do when they’re healthy. I got scared. 

Soon, all she could do was breathe; it was around midnight.

We lay down together in bed on our sides, facing each other.

Sometimes, I slept on my left side and embraced her right side, and sometimes on my right and held her left side.

But I couldn’t fight off the urge to sleep.

I lay on my back beside Tenten, tucking her between my right arm and body, so we could feel each other.

I was so exhausted that I kept dozing off.

I fell asleep for a while. Then, for an hour, I kept hearing her breathe while I alternated between sleep and wakefulness. She coughed weakly every few minutes, but I was too tired to sit up and check up on her. 

Soon, I awoke because I had to go to the toilet, and I found something wrong with her.

Tenten stretched her arms and legs forward.

Her limbs were stiff, and could not be bent even when I gently tried to do so.

I panicked because I feared that she might have died while I was asleep and rigor mortis had already begun. 

When I scooped her up into my arms, her arms and legs relaxed. Her body got curled up in my arms as usual. She always fits in the space within my arms when I twine them in front of my chest. We used to gaze at each other and talk in this position. That day, too, I felt our eyes met but just for a second – with no more talk.

I still saw life in her eyes, but as soon as I felt the rush of relief with the realization that Tenten was still alive, her head fell down and dangled from the neck. Instantaneously, I supported her head in the proper position by one hand and peeked into her eyes. Then I realized that her eyes had no light anymore. They turned into two black empty holes.

Images courtesy: Mayumi Yamamoto

Mayumi Yamamoto is a writer and academic based in Kyoto, Japan. Her poems have appeared in Literary Yard, and some opinions in Indian Periodical. She authored several published books in the Japanese language.

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