ShiShi was store bought. I mention this because it was such a very different beginning for an animal friend and me. The norm would be to visit the animal shelter and wait just a few moments until eye contact was made and then that special little furry someone would crawl up into my lap, and away we go. Well, almost. There was always a little paperwork and business to take care of to make the transaction complete.

Not this time. The details of why would be rather long, however let’s just say it involved a 2 year old, a reluctant animal shelter, and a then husband who needed a cat that day. Because the latter may sound just too strange to leave entirely without further comment, I will add that he was in the first year of a full recovery from traumatic brain injury, and impulses sometimes needed to be addressed immediately.

This one definitely did, because I really wanted a cat in our lives. It had been a long time without one. So, 13 years ago, three children and two adults piled into the car with such excitement we could hardly contain ourselves, and off to the mall we went.

Our store-bought friendship began within the hour. What seemed like such a foreign beginning turned into one of the most meaningful relationships of my life.

ShiShi always had a mind of her own. The Abyssinian nature is one that is very much a part of the family, but on her terms. This little ruddy was not a cuddly sort of creature. She never sat on our laps. She preferred the stool be pulled up to the table for her at dinner time. She was always in the picture, but as an athletic little figure climbing high along tops of kitchen cabinets and letting us know her activities by her voice change. We all knew the deeper, longer tones meant she was hunting socks or Grateful Dead bears, which lived in my daughter’s room, and although they were often bigger than her, ShiShi would leave behind a trail of these captured creatures.

Shishi was an independent little feline, yet early each morning we would have our few moments together in the kitchen when she would allow me to pick her up. She would hold my face in her paws, look into my eyes for a few moments and begin licking with that sharp tongue, then that would be that! She had other things to do.

And then ShiShi got old. Her habits changed. She mellowed so gracefully with age, curling up in our laps, her little body becoming lighter and lighter over time. The more she faded away into nothing more than a wisp, the stronger her spirit seemed to become. She touched all our lives in such a special and unique way, my three children who are now grown into young adults, my partner, and, of course, her dear friend and house mate, Lukie, the Bernese Mountain dog.

In the end, which came to her and us this past April, she was a mere four pounds as she died in my 15-year-old daughter’s arms. We still feel her presence everywhere; she visits my 23 year old in dreams as she lives far away in Brazil, and she will always be in my heart. When I think of her, I know the gift she gave me was to embody life to the fullest. ShiShi was expert in being ShiShi.

In her younger years, her need to play could be relentless, as was her need to be held in the later years. Yet she never shirked from making her needs known. No apology for who she was, no explanation necessary. It was a simple, beautiful relationship. She was never trying to "figure out" life; she was busy living it.

Cats live in the moment, and she lived each moment fully. As ShiShi approached her final days she exemplified courage, even though her strength was failing, and above all a gentleness and grace, the beauty of which reminds me that all things are possible.

We can choose how we live out each day. If even the slightest of creatures in body can make such a profound difference in this world, imagine the opportunity we each have in our human form as we cross paths with one another on our journey.

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Rita Lang, LMT, teaches Zen Yoga and is the Director of Instructor Programs for Zen Yoga instructors in Connecticut. She is also a licensed massage therapist whose certifications include Medical Massage, as well as Traditional Thai Massage. She has nine years experience in the art of massage and owns a private office. She has more than 25 years studying and practicing yoga and related disciplines. Visit www.artofzenyoga.com or contact Rita at rita@artofzenyoga.com. Copyright © 2008 Rita Lang. All Rights Reserved.

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