Last week we lost a beloved family member.

His name was Sherlock. And he was our lovable beige bullseye-tabby cat.

Even though Sherlock had been ill with kidney and respiratory problem since the second semester of last year. We were quietly confident that he can live for the next two or three years. The vet ordered us to change his diet to low protein in order to prolong his life, which we duly oblige. And after a while he seemed okay, and adjusting well to the new diet. There was no indication that we also faced a parasite in his blood, a fact only we made aware just a few hours before he died.

Sherlock was an easy going cat, lovable, and not afraid with strangers. And since we were late in neutering him (age 4), he retains that masculine battle hardened stray cat looks. He was also a fan of warm hug, and whenever he saw you lying on the couch or bed, he’ll just come over, curled on your belly and proceed with his purring.

My relation with Sherlock wasn’t love at the first sight. More like gradually we grow to love and depended on each other. It started in 2008, which was a tough year for me. I was recently separated, depressed and lonely. And just when I need a distraction, I got Sherlock.

Sherlock was born around late 2008, we didn’t exactly know the date. So we picked one for him. 5 December, which also my friend Anzarra’s birthday, and the National Ninja Day. He was a sneaky cat as well, so that seemed proper at the time. His mother was this kampong cat: thin, one eyed and just doesn’t seem healthy. But then she mated with a Persian cat (we thought it was owned by Zaskia Mecca who lived just across the office), and she gave birth to two kittens. Sadly, Sherlock was the lone survivor.

So when I saw this kitten in the office, I started to play with him, feed him scraps, and spends after office hours with him until late night. Then I decided to save a bit and bought him real cat food. And tried to train him a bit. It works in some way. Sherlock didn’t litter everywhere, he didn’t eat without permission. Just simple tricks.

In 2010, when I got laid off – in a seeming act of revenge, Sherlock took a huge dump in the front of the HRD’s room. And not long after that incident, he was about to be thrown out. So the office boy contacted me, and asked me if I want to keep him. I just got a new job and could afford my own place at the time, so I’m very happy to do so.

And the rest is history. I began to heal from the depression, got my divorce, remarried and moving to a new house. Basically getting forward with my life.

But nothing prepares me for this.

For the last two weeks of March, Sherlock was seemingly doing very well. He was improving. He gained some weight, his appetite returned. But on Wednesday, 29 March, he refused to eat, and we noticed a swelling on his upper left mouth. His lower fang struck trough his upper gum and caused an infection. So we brought him to the vet.

The next day, I was unable to visit him since I was attending an event. My wife had called the vet, and he explained that they had to give him infusion, since Sherlock was dehydrated. We still expect that it was just a setback, and he will recover.

At 11 p.m., the house phone rang. It was unusual, because people rarely call the house. More so at this particular hour. I didn’t suspect anything when I picked the phone.

It was the vet. He called and informed me that Sherlock had just passed away. But we will have to wait until tomorrow to pick up his body.

I told my wife, and after the initial denial – both of us cried. The next morning we went to the vet to collect his body. He was already wrapped up neatly using newspaper. “It’s ready, sir. We clean him up and you can directly bury him”.

But that just didn’t sit right with me. I had to see him for the last time.

When we got home, we decided to open the wrapping. And we both instantly weep. He looked like he just sleeping, with favorite position where his paw covering his eyes. Then we let his siblings: Lupin and Yumiko acknowledge that their older brother has gone. A few meowing and sniffing, and they moved on. My heart was trembling when I saw my son, said “Ceyok.. Ceyok…” then proceed to hug and kiss Sherlock.

He certainly deserved better. So I changed the newspaper and wrapped Sherlock using one of my shirts. We decided to bury him in the front garden.

The sadness was so intense. People may dismiss this and said that he’s just a pet. But in truth, he’s a family member. You spent years with someone, and you’d miss them if they weren’t around.

It’s also the routine and the familiarity.

I mainly work at home, so I spent a lot of time with him (admittedly, maybe less when I got married and had a kid, but still I lives with him). If he spotted me facing my laptop, Sherlock would just jump on the table and position himself next to the laptop’s exhaust – just to felt the warm wind. I’ve spent more time with him than I have in the company of any of my oldest and dearest friends.

Yesterday, there was this moment where I was inconsolable. The sadness was overwhelming, and I felt an intense feeling of guilt. That I should’ve been there. That he died alone, in a clinic not at home with his family. Then there’s the questions. Have I done enough? Have I loved him enough? Have I taken care of him properly? Did he know that I loved him so much? My wife hugged me and told me that Sherlock was as happy as he can be with me. That we did our best. That perhaps I was saved from the pain witnessing someone passed away.

I’m certain in time, the pain will ease. And I may adopt another cat. But for now, I’m allowing myself to grieve for a bit.

Since his passing, you can find me sitting on the terrace in the afternoon. I glance at the ground where he was buried. My eyes may be a bit teary, but some smile is guaranteed. The smile from remembering fondly about Sherlock. My cat, my friend, my companion and forever a part of my family.

Rest in peace, buddy. I love you, and I’ll miss you, always.

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