The end came quickly, as it often does for the best of beings.

Our cat was old. We knew that. He’d been with us for 19 years and his bright light was growing dimmer. His candle was flickering. We all saw it and knew his truly majestic life was coming to an inevitable end.

But it’s never easy — saying goodbye to a family member, to a true and loyal (albeit aloof) friend.

And that was the case in our house.

So we watched him as he slept more and more. And we snuggled someone who doesn’t necessarily self-actualize over snuggling. And we told him he was a good boy. A very good boy. And we loved him the best we could. And we reflected on a life well-lived.

He didn’t have the best of starts. Someone found him nearly freezing in a cardboard box along the side of the road when he was about 8 weeks old, just when we were looking for a kitten for our 5-year-old son. Long story short — we were accepted as his adoptive family and so began the 19-year adventure that his amazing life encompassed.

Our third son was but a glimmer in our eyes when we brought our little survivor kitty home for the first time. We have pictures of then toddler son “cuddling” with our 2-year-old fluffy Maine coon lookalike cat. Both put up with each other, but I’m not sure it was an even contract.

He never wore a collar. He was too cool. You’d have to know him to understand, but he was the Fonzie in the world of cats. Both Henry Winkler and Ron Howard would agree.

When he was 10 years old, we brought another rescue cat into the family. He put up with her, but there was never, ever any question regarding who was boss.

He learned to shake hands for a treat. A cat that does dog tricks — that’s how amazing he was. Every day at 4 p.m. (or earlier if he could con me into it) he’d come into the kitchen to shake a paw and get a treat. His little sister would trickle down behind him and share in his good fortune.

He was with us for three high school graduations, the birth of one child and one grandchild. He quite literally witnessed our kids grow up. He spent a generation with us, and I’m sure he had an opinion about every step of the way (although he never expressed it).

A few years ago, we learned the art of growing catnip and the joy it brings to those in the nip. Our cat definitely was in the nip. I’m so glad last summer was a great one for him. He spent many hours lounging in the garden surrounded by catnip. Sometimes he’d lie atop the catnip plant and immerse himself in the aroma. Must have felt like heaven. I hope so.

Many times, when cats know they are near their end of life, they hide somewhere in order to be alone. He didn’t do this. He stayed with my oldest son — his boy who was only 5 when he first met his dear kitty — and passed away peacefully on his bed in the wee hours of the morning. I’d checked on him at 4:30 a.m. and when my son woke at 7 a.m. he was gone, so we have a good idea of when he took his last breath.

I’m grateful he didn’t struggle at the end. I’m grateful my son was beside him, providing comfort. I’m grateful I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to pet him one last time.

Mickey, you were loved. You will always be loved. Hope you are enjoying an infinite amount of heavenly catnip. I think you are. No, I know you are. We miss you. RIP.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler