A Hand Across Time
I’d waited all summer for this, my third year of counseling a great bunch of teenagers ... their senior
year, with all the college planning, testing, recommendations.
My office was their haven, a refuge, a meeting place. The four walls didn’t talk, didn’t tell the secrets
revealed or expose the tears that were shed. It hadn’t been an easy growing up for many of my kids,
but most were finally well on their way.
It was an exciting time and I was ready to begin.

Only a week ago.

The day was hot and I felt like hell. I sat in his office wanting just to throw up or pass out, I wasn’t
sure which or in what order.         
Dr. Ron didn’t waste time. “Well, Jeannie, when I told you to lay off the birth control pills for a few
months, I didn’t mean don’t be careful. Don’t know how you’ll feel about this, but you’re pregnant.”
 At first I was stunned, then pleased. It had been nearly six years since Terri was born; she’d love a
baby brother or sister.
 But what about work? Ron didn’t hesitate at my question. I could stay on the job right up to the end
of February and still be back in time to see my kids graduate. It wasn’t the best timing, but it would
work out. I wrote a quick letter to the new principal, explaining the situation so he could be prepared
to find a substitute for the brief time I’d be out.
 And I went on preparing for opening day.


It took two trips to carry my stuff to my office. The second time I went into the building, Father
McGatry was standing at the door.
“Don’t bother to unpack,” he said, stopping me in my tracks. “You’re not coming back to work. We
can’t have a counselor walking around in that condition in a building filled with impressionable
teenagers."
I thought I was hearing things. “That condition?” Was he worried the kids might ask how I got that
way? Who would be most embarrassed ... the kids or Father McGatry?
There was no sense in arguing. A private school could do whatever it wanted. It was obvious the
welfare of my students wasn’t what concerned him most.
He even helped me put my boxes back in the car.


Somehow I drove home and pulled my little Beetle into the spot behind our building. I looked at the
box on the seat next to me ... knick knacks for the desk in my office, books for the shelves. And then,
I guess, it hit. I had been fired. I put my head on the steering wheel and sobbed.

Tap. Tap. Tap.
Tap. Tap. Tap.

When I looked up, a kindly face with sympathetic eyes was on the other side of the glass. I rolled
down the window to admit a blast of hot air, but didn’t even feel it. I was already captivated by her
smile. “Are you okay, deah?” It was a strong Brooklyn accent couched in tones filled with sincerity
and concern. I managed a nod, then burst out crying again. She opened the door and reached for my
hand. She stood holding it while I cried. Then she helped me out and walked me to my apartment.

That was my first encounter with Marie. It began a mutual connection that didn’t last long enough,
but that taught me the meaning of the word “friend.”

Throughout my pregnancy, Marie was a constant, loving companion. We sat outside on lawn chairs
and talked. We went shopping and talked. Marie didn’t drive and I enjoyed being her wheels so she
could travel around this part of the world so strange to her after the city life into which she’d been
born. She’d worked and raised her son in the familiar surroundings of New York, home to her mother
and sisters.
                                                            * * *
She was waiting when we got home from the hospital. She couldn’t wait to hold my new daughter.
Babies were special gifts of God, she believed, and often I heard her say she wished she could have
had a dozen.
There was never a time she didn’t want to help me with little Erica.
“Hello, dahlin’!” became the first words that made the baby smile.
By the time “our” daughter was a few months old, we knew there was a connection that had been
there long before we met. We had been just biding our time, waiting for the preordained meeting to
happen. Two old souls, we’d been friends before, so it was easy to care quickly and deeply.

When my husband and I found the perfect neighborhood to build our home, Marie didn’t flinch when
I told her we’d be moving. She was just glad I was happy.
“It’s only five miles away and you can come every day,” I told her, conscious of her reliance on
others to transport her but not knowing what else to say. “And we’ll come see you often. Don’t
worry ... nothing’s going to change. You’ll see.”

The home movies, devoid of sound, only show Marie’s smiling face as she mouths the words to
“Happy Birthday” and helps her little dahlin’ dig gleefully into her first birthday cake. The holidays
chronicle our friendship, the way we aged together as my daughters grew, all on silent, fragile, brittle
Kodak film.

I’d been right about one thing ... we were still together often ... still connected.  Her husband and son
saw to it that the whole family became frequent visitors. Often, I’d ride over and pick Marie up for an
afternoon spent sitting on our front porch.
She loved my house with the old furniture and warm earth tones.

What she didn’t love was the cat.
“Eeeeeeoooh! She would recoil in disgust whenever Fluffy rubbed against her leg. Marie wasn’t
exactly afraid of cats; she just didn’t like the way they felt.
“It’s the fur ... it feels creepy!” she’d say, laughing with embarrassment as I shooed the cat away. I
tried to explain that our beautiful kitten was just trying to be friends, but I only could succeed to a
point.
“There! Is that enough?” Marie would ask as she lightly touched Fluffy’s head with the very tip of an
index finger. “Now go away!”
There was no amount of cajoling that could talk her out of her revulsion to the feel of cat fur, so it
became a standing joke in our household. When Marie came, the cat got one tiny touch with the tip of
a finger and then was banished to the garage or outside.

We still enjoyed the mall, although I was taken aback and not a little embarrassed with Marie’s
penchant for holding my hand as we walked along pushing Ricki’s stroller.
“Why not? We’re like two girls ourselves,” she’d say with a grin and that irrepressible Brooklyn
accent. “Besides, I like holding your hand.”

Her comforting touch was there whenever I needed it, especially when breast cancer claimed my
youthful mother, leaving me feeling very much an orphan.
I held onto Marie’s hand then and didn’t want to let go.

Marie was almost as heartbroken as I when Ricki, running as always, tripped on the sidewalk and
crashed, face first, into the bottom step of the porch. Both front teeth were damaged beyond repair.
“I wish I’d been there when it happened so I could hold her,” she said, sighing and rolling her big,
expressive eyes heavenward. "I don’t know what I’d do if anything really bad ever happened to her.
My poor little dahlin’,” she said, hugging Ricki close. “Aunt Marie will always take care of you and
your mom!”

When Ricki went into nursery school, I was bored at home. Terri had her school and neighborhood
friends; I hated housework and didn’t find domesticity satisfying. So when a member of my book
club asked if I’d give some time to her church group’s effort at beginning a hometown newsletter, it
seemed a heaven-sent opportunity.
“It’s only a little community newsletter,” I told Marie on the phone. “I’m gonna help the church group
out. They need someone to edit this thing and I said I would. It’ll give me something to do.”
Each night, she was eager to hear about “the paper” as we came to call it. The first issue, crudely
typed but bearing my name as editor, was admired and kept as a souvenir of my high achievement.
I didn’t see much of Marie once I began working on the paper. Being the de facto editor, I was
involved in what quickly became a community newspaper and I loved it. Soon everyone in town
looked forward to its printing. I was busy ... too busy for the regular daytime visits, the trips to the
mall.
There were weekends for getting together, evenings for catching up by phone.
In just a year, we were printing every week ... fancying ourselves the
New York Times of our little
town. Marie and I had more than we could handle just trying to catch up whenever we talked.
My phone conversations with Marie were suffering, but not the friendship or the steadfast connection.

Marie listened to my laments about being overworked and my struggles with bookkeeping, which
required more patience than I possessed.
“You need me,” she said matter-of-factly. “I can help, even if it’s part time.”
She learned the routine and handled clients with patience and warmth. We worked together by day,
talked about work every night. Marie’s hair grew grayer, her smile broader. At times, her shoulders
had to be very wide and she didn’t shrink from that either.

My marriage hit some rocks ... no, make that boulders. I wasn’t the same person who had walked
down the aisle with my husband, the man I hardly knew anyway, eleven years earlier. I’d married on
the rebound, although at the time I’d never admit that.
And the more intense my involvement became with the newspaper, the further away from my
husband I grew.
“What will you do, deah?” Marie asked time after time. She was principled and as Catholic as I at one
time had been. It pained her that I might end up breaking up the family she loved as much as her own.
Any less a friend, seeing me moving along a path she found dangerous, might have bailed. Just plain
quit on me. I was, after all, changing my life and those of my daughters. But each evening, with each
new calamity that I unloaded on her, Marie was on the other end of the phone line, listening,
comforting, accepting.

Her husband and son borrowed a truck to move me out of the house I loved in the neighborhood I
loved. It was years before I could drive down that street without wanting to cry. The girls and I found
an apartment in town. Marie never criticized or judged ... just held my hand and gave me her support.
I suspect she hurt for me and for what had happened, but she never let on, never voiced disapproval.

Our fledgling little newspaper continued its growth.. I began contributing a column each week. “Editor’
s Note,” I called it without a hint of originality. I wrote about the kids, my views on social issues,
happenings around town. There’s something about a weekly deadline that makes time fly with
incredible speed and I flourished under the pressure.

It wasn’t the house of my dreams. I didn’t even like it, but it had a big back yard and it was a place I
could afford that would still keep the girls in their hometown school. Little by little, the rooms took on
a cared-for look ... new wallpaper, fresh paint, bright rugs, homemade curtains ... and pets. Marie still
avoided  our cat except for the single finger caress, although she didn’t hesitate to pet the dog who
greeted her arrival with jumps and yelps of joy.

By then, it was getting harder for Marie to do some things we’d grown to love. The angina attacks
became more frequent. The heart disease she’d inherited from her father was gradually dictating a
slower, more deliberate style that she fought every step of the way.
Our trips to the mall were more infrequent. At the end of a work day, she often was too exhausted to
talk on the phone, although that never stopped us from trying. I pushed away thoughts that anything
might be seriously wrong. Our lifelines don’t have weak strands; they endure as long as
they’re needed. Or so I told myself.

I found a new headquarters for our thriving business and bought out the one remaining shareholder in
the business. Marie had a big front office of her own. I had met the man who would be my second
husband. All was right with the world. But not with Marie.
She needed open heart surgery, she said in a voice that trembled with fear. The doctors had tried
everything to avoid it, but the time had come. There were too many blocked arteries; her heart was
being damaged by a series of little attacks and there was no other way. I felt the same twinge of dread
that hit me when my mother told me about her cancer. Would I lose Marie too?

Marie bravely went in for the operation and was smiling when I next saw her. Hugging a small pillow
to protect the incision when she coughed, she pronounced herself well and set about getting ready to
come back to work. We all wanted her to be right. It was Old Home Week on Marie’s first day at the
office. She only put in a couple of hours but it was wonderful to have her at the desk where she
belonged.

By now, our old house was home. There were new cats as well, our much-loved Fluffy having died a
few years past. Mitzi and Dazdee took turns washing behind the ears of our aging pooch. The dog
reciprocated by licking wet cat fur until it was dry and begging nonstop until food bowls were
replenished. Oh, how Marie teased me about our pets!

“Between you and that dog, those cats get the best care of any living things on earth!” she’d complain.
“I’ve never seen anyone pamper animals like you. Believe me, they’ve got it made. When I die, I’m
comin’ back as your cat!”

That became our private joke. She’d look at me, stick out that dainty index finger and say,
“Remember, I’m comin’ back!” I knew what she meant and we’d have a good laugh.

Why don’t we take time to concentrate on what’s really important? There she is … no, it’s only the
back of her head. Marie and her husband are at my wedding, but I can’t see her face because the
camera is focused on my new husband and me. When she walks through the short receiving line, she
hugs me fiercely, her happiness that I’ve finally put my life in order shining through the moisture in
her eyes. And then the video is over. How I wish we had asked someone to tape her a little longer,
capture her words, record that lovely laugh.

It was getting too hard for Marie to work. I saw it in the frequent bouts of vertigo she’d suffer, when
the whole room simply tilted and left her flailing on the floor trying to find right side up. The local
rescue squad came in seconds every time they got a call ... sometimes because of the attacks of
dizziness; sometimes because the ever-present nitro wasn’t working fast enough. The heart condition
was back again; the bypasses hadn’t held.
Not long afterward, Marie quit work for good.  She cried, I cried, everyone cried and we all put on a
brave face and tried to make it easier. She told me she was scared of being home with time on her
hands and no feeling of fulfillment to mark the passage of the days. I promised her as much of my
time as I could give. That turned out to be much less than she deserved. She seemed to get grayer and
more tired each time I stopped by. I was absorbed in the business, or should I say in the lack of it. We
had hit the brick wall of the recession of 1990 and I was fighting to survive.
        
“Talk to me.” That was always Marie’s way of getting me to go beyond the pleasantries and remove
the mask I tried to wear when we met so she wouldn’t know just how bad it had gotten. We were
hardly together at all in those days. I was too preoccupied to see what was really important and she
was too dear to remind me.

Marie's heart, so badly damaged before the bypass surgery, had gradually weakened. Her only option
was to try another risky bypass. At her house a few days before the operation, I had to fight back
tears. She was so weak and frail, her beautiful eyes filled with sadness at the thought she might not
make it back to us. As always, she wanted to talk about me ... and she gave me a soft Irish smile with
index finger extended.

“Remember, I’m comin’ back!”

The surgery was a desperate effort to do the impossible. When it was over, a mechanical pump kept
the tired heart beating, while a respirator breathed for Marie. She couldn’t even speak. We used signals
to talk. As I sat on the edge of her bed, she groped across the blankets for my hand. As always, her
touch felt warm and comforting.

My husband and I left the hospital for a quick dinner. I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead,
still holding her hand. “We’ll be right back,” I told her. “See you soon." She squeezed my hand and
gave me a little wave. Her eyes were closed when we walked out of the room.
We got off the elevator scant hours later and turned toward Marie’s cubicle in the Coronary Care Unit.
The nurse stopped us, looked at me somberly and shook her head. Marie’s husband and son had just
left; she had passed away not long after we’d gone. If only we had stayed. They let us see her then,
the idle respirator linked to the tube in her throat, the IV clamped shut but still in her vein, the heart
pump still. I couldn’t think. I could only take her hand and silently talk to her. Behind each thought
was the unspoken plea ... don’t leave me. Don’t let me lose you too. It felt almost worse than when
my mother had died. At least then I had Marie.

Now, there was no one.

I can’t recall much about my mother’s funeral. I can still remember Marie’s like it was yesterday. My
heart was broken and I cried like only a lost child cries when there is no one to run to, no one to offer
comfort and unconditional love. In the ensuing days and weeks, I spent hours at her graveside, talking
to her, telling her what was going on, how much I missed her. After awhile, a year or so, I knew she
would be exasperated with me as I dissolved in tears when I approached that headstone with her name
on it. So I stopped going. We’d talked about it a long time ago and she’d agreed that cemeteries were
terrible places. After all, the ones we loved weren’t really there anyway, so why continue the torturous
visits when a good heart-to-heart could be had anywhere?

I talked to her often, about the good things and the bad. Spirits hear.

The business was finally gone. I was grateful that Marie hadn’t seen the day when the wreath came
off the wall by the front door and went into a box with the few treasures I’d taken from my office
and I walked out for the last time. Marie’s favorite implement stayed with me from one new job to
another. I used her scissors often, and I felt her hand holding mine as I snipped.

The years went by, no one ever filling the yawning void left by Marie’s death. There was no soul-
mate, no cushioned resting place for a tired spirit. Occasionally, someone mused that I must miss her
very much. One thoughtless person, upon hearing me say I’d lost my best friend, decreed that I
should just find myself a new one. Like best friends grow on trees.

Best friends, I once wrote about Marie, can’t be made. They can only be found ... discovered when
one soul reaches out to another. Best friends never cry or laugh alone. Best friends can’t be critical,
only helpful and supportive. Best friends never say “I told you so.” Best friends keep their promises.
Best friends never die.

                                                                *****

It was a lazy, hot summer Saturday ... even at 8 a.m. My husband was away on business. I was lying
in bed catching up on some reading and figuring out what to do with my day.

        Bam, bam, bam.
        Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong.
        Bam, bam, bam
.
My two cats scattered to their favorite hiding places. Someone was pounding on the front door,
banging and ringing the doorbell. Struggling into a pair of jeans and an old t-shirt, I yelled that I’d be
right there. At the bottom of the steps, I looked into the peephole and saw a stranger, impatiently
tugging at a dog’s leash. “What can I do for you?” I asked through the door.
“I need some help,” he said. “I’ve knocked on every door in this building and you’re the only one who’
s answered. Please help.” He was struggling to hold his dog as I opened the door. He pointed over his
shoulder to the sidewalk at the corner.
“There’s a kitten in the storm drain over there,” he said. “I can hear it crying, but every time I try to
get close enough to look, my dog frightens it and it runs into the drainpipe. Will you call someone to
come get it out?”
I walked with him to the grate and peered into the dank darkness below. I didn’t see anything.
“Are you sure there’s something down there?”
He nodded vigorously. “Little thing, gray,  big green eyes. Scared to death.”
And then I heard the mewling cry.

The fire department was on its way. The man had gone, his impatient dog pulling him along the
sidewalk toward home. So I sat on the curb and looked into the hole.
Two little eyes looked back and a tiny voice said “Mama.” At least that’s what I heard.
We talked for awhile, I in my most soothing mother voice, the kitten in a begging tone that asked only
for release. When the firefighters arrived, they labored with winches to lift the grates. The terrified
kitten retreated to the center of the pipe, well into the street, and crouched, unwilling to respond to our
call.
Finally, with grates off both ends of the pipeline, the smallest of the firefighters crawled into one end
while his comrades blocked the other. He came out backwards, cradling the cat. And he handed her to
me.

She was long and lean, about four or five months old, I judged. For a kitten who’d been in a storm
drain, she was remarkably clean. She snuggled against my chest and purred.
“You’ll have to take her, ma’am,” he said, shaking his head as I tried to resist. “We can’t take her
back to headquarters … either you take her or we turn her loose.”
“Please hold her for a few minutes,” I said. “I’m going into my house to get a carrier. I’ll take her to a
shelter.”

With a comforting word to assure my two cats I’d be back soon, I picked up the carrier and went
downstairs, car keys and wallet in hand. I could only imagine what was going through their minds as I
left the house without either of them.
She offered little resistance as I gently guided her into the carrier. It was about a half hour’s drive to
the no-kill shelter in an adjoining town. They would keep her until someone adopted her.

A little meow issued from the depths of the carrier as I turned the first corner and stopped for a traffic
light. She ventured toward the grille on the door and stuck out a paw. It grazed the side of my arm
and when I looked down, her big green eyes were fixed on my face. The paw, extended as far as she
could manage, went immediately to my hand as I reached toward her to calm her down.

We talked all the way to the shelter. Well okay, I did most of the talking, but she contributed the
occasional soft meow to the conversation. She’d be just fine at the shelter, I told her. Sure, I’d like to
keep her with me, but my other two cats wouldn’t like it a whole lot and besides, it was a very small
condo and she wouldn’t have any space to herself. I’d promised my husband there wouldn’t be any
more cats. She could understand that, couldn’t she?

The no-kill shelter was full. A kindly volunteer peered into the carrier and allowed as how he felt really
bad but there was no alternative. I’d have to either keep her or take her to the local animal welfare
shelter. Maybe they could find a home for her.

Back in the car, I reassured her that the good people at the new place wouldn’t hurt her. They’d
convince someone to adopt her and she’d have a nice house with plenty of food and a warm bed to
sleep in.
I talked and talked. She reached her paw through the grate and answered quietly every now and then.

“We’ll keep her for about five days,” said the clerk matter-of-factly. “She’s considered a stray, so if
no one adopts her by then, we’ll have to euthanize her.”
He took her out of the carrier, not roughly, but with a noticeably casual air, tossed her over his
shoulder and walked toward the door to the cage area. I waved goodbye, choked on the lump in my
throat, closed the carrier door and went slowly back to the car.
I felt like I’d just condemned someone to death. When I put the empty carrier on the seat beside me, I
was already in tears. I cried all the way home.
By the time my husband got home that night, I was a mess.
That poor little cat, already abandoned to fend for herself in a murky storm drain, was sitting in a cage
at the shelter, waiting to die.
He was understanding, even compassionate, as he reminded me we already had two cats in our small
home and they wouldn’t accept a newcomer easily. I knew that. But who would explain it to the little
orphan at the shelter?

Sunday was no better. We went shopping, did some housework. I folded laundry and wondered if
there was anything soft in her cage. I fed my cats and worried that she wouldn’t get enough to eat. I
laid awake unable to sleep, seeing those big green eyes, feeling that little paw.

First thing Monday, I called the shelter. How long would they give me to find her a good home? Her
who? The kitten I’d brought in on Saturday, I said impatiently. How could they have forgotten? Oh,
that one … she’d have to be put down on Friday if no one adopted her first.

That didn’t leave me much time. I spent a few hours that day talking on the phone with everyone I
knew who had pets and might be convinced to take another. No one could.
I called all the no-kill shelters looking for one that had a place for this little girl. No one did.

I called my husband from my car.  It only seemed fair to warn him I’d be late getting home to
prepare dinner. I had a stop to make that might take awhile. They’d told me I could visit the kitten.
She was fine, I was assured, but no, no one had asked to adopt her.

The cat room was clean and filled to capacity with cages reaching four high off the floor. By the time
I found hers, she was already at the front, her paw extended. She had a funny little voice I hadn’t paid
much attention to before. It was squeaky and sad, but she went on for the longest time telling me
about life in a cage in a shelter and how lonely and frightened she was. I understood everything.

“Just sign one more place,” the clerk said, pointing to the bottom of the page. “There, now, she’s all
yours!”
“When can I take her home?” I asked. They spay the cats first, I was told. She couldn’t be picked up
for about five days. It would cost fifty-five dollars, he said. Oh, by the way, had I picked a name?
Considering the way she came into my life, I decided to call her “Sara.” Short for “Serendipity.”

My husband wasn’t the slightest bit surprised. He’d known from the beginning that we’d soon have a
trio of cats. We talked to the others about the new arrival, but got the distinct feeling they were in total
denial. They seemed utterly unconcerned. That is, until she was brought into the house in one of their
carriers and promptly whisked into the guest bedroom where we intended to isolate her for a few days
to facilitate the introduction process. Besides, she had a cold we didn’t want them to catch.

I spent a lot of time in that room caring for Sara. I would sit on the floor, my back against the bed,
and watch as she ate. Then she’d toddle over to me, climb into my lap, curl her tail around her little
body and purr. Usually she fell asleep like that and I was enjoying it too much to disturb her rest, so I
read a book while she napped. The isolation idea was okay, but in our little house it just didn’t work.  
The older two stood vigil by the closed door, sniffing in curiosity at the little paw extended from the
opening beneath. After only a couple of days, I couldn’t close the door fast enough and the baby
bounded into the living room, past two awestruck big cats and from one room to the next in gleeful
exploration of her new home.
Not understanding their reticence, she leaped over them, swatted a paw with playful intent and
promptly sprung to the top of the carpeted cat tree with its many levels, claiming the uppermost as her
own. She didn’t win instant popularity.

Our little newcomer quickly learned her way around, found the best hiding places and the best places
to sleep. The sleeping part caused the first major ruckus.
For years Cali, our eight-year-old, had curled up at my head and slept there contentedly until it was
time for breakfast. No longer. Now Sara beat her to it. But, where Cali had quietly taken her place,
arranged herself comfortably and gone off to sleep, Sara had a different style.

One of the side effects of menopause for me has been difficulty sleeping. Both getting to and staying
there, so I like to read in bed for awhile. My husband, on the other hand, is in dreamland before his
head hits the pillow.
After Sara arrived, however, he stayed awake long enough to chuckle at the ways of this beautiful
little creature who by then had captured his heart. It went like this:
She was nowhere to be seen until I climbed into bed and settled down with my book. Without a sound
she would appear, leap onto the foot of the bed and slowly, deliberately, make her way up next to me.
One foot delicately up on my chest, then the other. Her head nudged under my chin as she settled,
stretched full length, her eyes mere inches from mine, the book pushed out of the way. And thus she
stayed until, ready for sleep, I would reach over to turn off the light, forcing her to resettle herself at
the top of my head. Oblivious to, or mindless of, the consequences of her usurpation of my bed, she
stared Cali down or growled quietly when the big cat tried to regain her position. My kitten had
decided where she belonged.

After a few weeks, I noticed that Sara wasn’t responding to her name. Realizing that she may have
had another one before I found her, I tried a few to see if she would react, but none caught her
attention.
Going through an old photo album, I found a picture of my daughters with one of the cats that had
died the last year we were in our house. How could I have overlooked the resemblance? How could I
have missed the soft gray fur, white chest and paws? “Sara” was a dead ringer for our beloved Mitzi.
“Mitzi?” She jumped down from the perch when I called her, ears straight up, tail held high. Almost as
if she were saying, “Yes?” And that cemented her new identity. In the ensuing months, she gradually
took over everything from stuffed pillow beds to squeaky toys to the dark corners of my closet where
Precious, the oldest, would try to retreat to avoid Mitzi’s unwelcome advances.

And then, after many nights, I finally noticed it. To be sure I wasn’t imagining things, I tried different
ways to test it. One night, I mentioned it to my husband, feeling kind of sheepish, not wanting him to
laugh at my active imagination. He didn’t. He’d noticed it too.

It was happening every night. When the bedtime ritual was complete and Mitzi had graduated to the
top of my head, I would often be pulled back from near sleep by her touch. She would reach out and
take my hand in both her paws, maybe give it a little rough-tongued caress and then promptly close
her eyes, still holding on. If I changed position, she would be disengaged … but only temporarily.
When I settled down again, she would root around the covers or search under the pillow until she
once again found my hand to touch.

It was my husband who first said it out loud. I’d been thinking it, but kept telling myself I was being
foolish. One night I couldn’t deny it any longer.
She sat on my chest longer than usual. Just staring into my eyes. Purring. Telling me something she
wanted me to know.
Then she gingerly stepped off, tiptoed up to my head and curled ‘round. This time, I propped up on an
elbow and met her soft gaze. When I settled back, one arm under the pillow, hand extended, I felt it
again. Two silky paws reaching, gently touching, holding my hand.

My husband whispered, “Remember what Marie always used to tell you?”

“I’m comin’ back,” she’d said so often.
And I believe she has.

Best friends keep their promises. Best friends never die.




                               
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