2006. We were living in what many might call paradise. Internationally famous cottage gardens bordering along a picturesque canal setting, complete with a quaint, character-full, small leaded-window, ‘chocolate box’ cottage. Managing a unique nursery growing plants from seeds and cuttings. Or at least it was paradise some of the time.
You have to take out the vindictive and twisted former owners who couldn’t let go, their local spies, the legacy of neighbour animosity they had left and a couple of staff suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. To say nothing of an ‘anonymous’ trader taking down all our signs on a regular basis and the coup de grace, our reason to leave-a pack of hounds from the local hunt tearing through the place like something out of Lord of the Rings…
And did I forget to tell you a very large house ‘up the lane’ had at one time been a dubious children’s ‘home’, around the corner once was the site of a Victorian workhouse?
Finally, few will believe or care that the area was reputed to be on Satanic lay lines, and the canal a watery grave for some who fell foul of their ancient barbaric practices. But we did have the house exorcised by a Methodist minister.
But one day…
In the adjoining three-acre wood NatWest had lent us in exchange for a twenty year ‘death grip’ I spotted a large grey and white cat standing silently and still. Then he was gone. Must have come off one of the canal boats we reasoned. And then forgot about it.
A few weeks later, the same grey and white ‘bruiser’ briefly came into the nursery. He disappeared again. The next time he came in he was carrying a dead rabbit [which he had most probably killed] in his mouth. He looked a mess. His head was covered with bites and scratches. He went off again.
Jimmy hypnotised not only us but one of our staff who also took a deep shine to him. We decided he would join our four other cats and be able to come into the cottage. But first a trip to the vets. A £200 bill for healing his head. We hoped he would stay a while.
The rest is now history and has been well documented in Jimmy’s column in the Daily Mews.
We have few good memories of our days at the nursery. We don’t dwell on past challenges, despite the nightmares they had once been. Yes, it was all a mixture of the reality we created, with our featuring in other people’s reality, and some karma thrown in for good measure. Regrets? None. But one aspect stands out, head and shoulders above the others.
I can’t do justice to his escapades. The daily face-off in the thicket with a neighbour’s ginger tom, Max. His former keeper spotting ‘Tara’ [the name they gave him] in our yard, and our dreading he would be taken from us. His presence on our workshops, making sure everyone knew him. His complete stopping of killing any wildlife - after the rabbit incident [I can’t recall another creature being attacked]. His -remember he was a feral bruiser for 15 years - desire to sit on laps for hours on end. His helping me recover from a serious gallbladder problem. His ‘boss’ persona. His [almost always good] relationships with all our other cats. His amazing appetite. His brush with death after a serious mouth problem in 2009. His loss of an eye and subsequent cataract in 2011. I could go on and on.
Of all the cats we have kept, of all the descriptions of how animals help humans, Jimmy stands out for being Jimmy.
His very presence made a difference. You either get this or you don’t.
The last few weeks were very painful. Cat [and dog] lovers know you keep trying to find a rational explanation for the life force ebbing away. You can see it, and s/he knows it. The animal wants to stay with you, here on the ‘earth plane.’ But their time to pass approaches daily.
Jimmy all but stopped eating. We fed him through a syringe. His white fur was discoloured through his saliva. He looked a mess. Seeing this proud, beautiful cat slide away was very hard.
A phone call from the UK on June 12th whilst we were in Cyprus confirmed what we both knew. It was Jimmy’s time to leave. Peter the vet was compassion itself.
There have been tears. Sometimes out of the blue, sometimes when they were expected but never came.
One of our two female cats, Holly, has missed him terribly. When she came back from the cattery, she spent the best part of 2 days crying for him. And she never normally makes any noise at all.
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.” Anatole France.
It’s a well-worn cliché. ‘There will never be another Jimmy.’ So, back to creating reality. The next cat we offer a home to will be like him. But the spirit of Jimmy still lives here. It is strangely reassuring, unique in my experience after a cat has passed.
I would give anything to have him back. But he has lived his life. No amount of ‘reality creation’ will get cats to increase their average life span by 5 years. Or grow back his eye. Or allow him to survive life-threatening anaesthetics. The memories we have are precious.
How many of us want to lose those, animal or human, closest to us? How can it not be painful when they ‘go’? But who-only the terminally selfish-could ever deny them the bliss after their rightful passing?
That was Jimmy. An inspiration when alive. A great teacher after his death.
He knows stuff that cat. He knows stuff.
Jack Stewart, June 25th 2014.
Jack thanks everyone who kindly sent letters/emails offering condolences on the sad loss of Jimmy.
You can contact Jack on his Facebook page:
Go to Facebook then look up Healer Jack.