In Loving Memory Of Onyx Terwillinger Blair
Written by Consta Jenkins
Reprinted by permission of the author
Eatbugs licked his paw, then stroked it purposefully over his whiskers. The last crumbs of his breakfast dealt with, he turned his face into the sun, ready to face the morning. The sky shimmered in a delicate shade of blue, tinged at the horizon with the palest lavender. The air smelled like sweet grass. Cool and fragrant, the breeze gently grazed over his fur, like the touch of his humans' hands. Eatbugs sighed in pure, unadulterated contentment.
"'Morning, Eatbugs." Katze padded quietly toward him. Her fur glistened in the morning light, patted lovingly into place, Eatbugs was sure, by Papa Nick's loving hands. Papa Nick certainly did not lack for kidden attention. Katze had no sooner introduced her human before he had a line of kiddens ready to enjoy his ministrations. Ears scritched, tummies rubbed, chins chucked, the Company now happily claimed him as their own.
"'Morning, Katze. Are you ready for this morning?" Eatbugs didn't bother to suppress his smile.
"Dear me. They are so very serious about it. Do you know that Little Dots asked Picnic to measure of the field? Poor, dear, Picnic standing there while that peeper marked off the 'course' in paw-lengths. After, needless to say, the 'claws in or out' argument was settled."
Eatbugs laughed out loud. "It's a good thing they didn't ask Wookie. That cat has the biggest paws I've ever seen."
"And of course, poor Noki has been roped into announcing the event." Katze shook her head.
The two friends chuckled gaily as they padded their way to the clearing.
The course dutifully marked, the contestants gathered off to the sidelines, practicing their techniques one last time. From the branches of the willow trees swayed a banner, scrawled in peeperish script it read 'Welcome to the Firstest Ever Annual Wiggle Butt Pounces Contest." Noki, in resplendent M.C. regalia, waved the gathering audience toward the viewing area.
"Come one, come all," he said with a flourish, "Let the games begin!"
"How does he keep a straight face?" asked Spunkie.
"Oh, you know Noki. There isn't a bigger ham." AJ patted his waggy back into position, then craned his neck to see if the kibble vendors were out yet.
Pouncequick stepped solemnly up to the line. His face a mask of concentration, he pumped his little legs back and forth, sending his behind into an impressive wiggle. The wind-up complete, he pounced, a ball of flailing paws and tail as he sailed through the air. He landed with an "oooph". Four whole paw lengths!
The crowd applauded heartily as the judges conferred. Eatbugs gave his young furiend a dew-claws up.
Suddenly Der stood up. His brow furrowed, he looked from side to side, then closed his eyes, as if listening to voice only he could hear. Eatbugs felt the strange tingling in his whiskers.
"Oh no," he whispered.
"Come Little One." Virginia nudged Eatbugs' shoulder. "We must get to the Circle of the Elders."
Eatbugs looked up to see Isolde guiding Der, with tender whispers and gentle earlicks. He walked in silence beside Virginia. He knew too well the task that lay ahead. He knew the Journey was a part of life, but his throat still constricted and he blinked back his tears. The March of Days was never long enough, not for those who Journeyed, not for those left behind.
"It is the way of things, Little One." Virginia's uncanny talent for knowing his thoughts did not fail her. "We all have our Days in the Sun, my furiend. When we've marched our March, we must Journey. So the Creator of all Things created the world, and so we live it."
"But there is so much sorrow."
"There is sorrow only because there is love, Little One." Virginia gave him an earlick. "Would you trade all the sorrow of your Journey for even one of your Days in the Sun?"
Eatbugs considered this. He remembered the warmth of his humans. He remembered the pleasure of their hands in his fur. He remembered the rousing games he played with his siblings. "No," he whispered.
"And so it is," said Virginia. "with all of us. The sorrow passes, Little One. The love never does. The Great Promise guides through all the days. Love never fades, is never forgotten. Our March of Days is not measured in length, but in love. The sorrow marks our passing; the love marks our presence. It is the stamp we leave in our humans' hearts. Forever it stays, until we are reunited."
Eatbugs nodded. He did know it was true, but in his heart he felt the echo of fear and confusion of the kidden below.
They came at last to the Circle. Isolde and Picnic sat side by side. Der, Junior, Dusty Kidden and Pitty Pat lay huddled tightly together. Virginia motioned Eatbugs to their side, as she took her place among the Elders. "In the name of the Creator we gather," she said, "may her gentle paw guide us."
They bent their heads, and pursed their whiskers in concentration as they sent their thoughts to the earth below.
Onyx laid in the sun. She felt so funny. Mom had stroked her fur and offered the best food, but she couldn't eat it. Warmed by the morning sun, she drifted in and out of sleep, trying to hold on to the world, and feeling it swirling away again. She was frightened.
She opened her eyes, blinking against the brightness of the sun. She tried to raise her head, but she was too weak.
"We are here."
It came like a whisper in her mind. Her instincts told her to be frightened, but the warmth in the voices washed over her. Her body grew warmer, the strange dizziness faded. Her fear melted away.
"We are here, sister."
"Der?" Her voice barely more than a whisper, she called out to him. "Der, is that you?"
"Yes, my sister. Don't be afraid. We are with you."
Onyx felt their gentle voices swirling around her. She heard their songs and felt their love. They sang of comfort and peace. They sang of long days in the sun and rainbow painted skies. They sang of love ever-lasting and the joy of day of reunion. Their gentle melody enveloped her. They sang her home.
"I am ready," she whispered.
Virginia opened her eyes. "It is time."
The Company rose and silently made their way to the Gate. The Welcoming song began is bittersweet refrain, echoing across the Rainbow Fields. One by one all the kiddens of the Company fell into stop. Custer walked with Toyota. Skunk twined her tail around Creamsickle as they traveled. Ebony and Spunkie walked shoulder to shoulder with Picnic and Claws-a-Lot.
Together they came to Welcome one more to their fold. Noki and Gypsy guided the peepers. AJ walked with Lola Qat. Dino walked with Custer. Tabby le Tom Tom walked with Catsup.
Once more, the kiddens bound by their humans' love gathered before the Gate.
The Blair kiddens stepped forward, their heads solemnly bowed, to wait for their sister's arrival. The now too familiar blue light flickered in the portal, then faded from view. In its wake sat a lovely dark kidden.
Onyx blinked at the group of kiddens before her. There were so many. Then her gaze fell on her beloved Alexander. "Der!" she cried.
Der ran to his sister. He nuzzled her face and rubbed his forehead on hers. "Welcome to the Rainbow Bridge, sister".
"Oh Der, I have missed you."
"I've missed you, too. Onyx, you wouldn't believe the nappy spots here. I'll show you everything."
Dusty Kidden and Junior joined in the greeting. Noses were sniffed and ears were licked. When all the siblings had given their greeting, they turned. Der stepped forward, "Furiends," he said to the Company, "my sister, Onyx."
One by one the Company came to offer nose greetings and promises of hockey games and meals to be shared and fur to be groomed. One by one they welcomed her home.
When the last of the group gave their greeting, Der turned to guide her onto the Bridge.
"But Derů.mom?" Her voice trembled. She'd been so happy to see him again, she had almost forgotten.
"It will be all right." He sighed and looked out over the Earth. "It is hard for her now, but in time she will understand."
"She wanted me to stay so very much."
"I know. It is so hard when we have to leave--but it will get better. You'll see. Soon she'll remember all the good times and all the love. The sorrow fades, but the love never does. We'll all be together again."
"The Promise?" Onyx looked down over the Earth. She felt her mother's pain brush up against her heart. "Can we make her understand?"
"Time will do that," Der said, "but you can try. Come on, we'll help."
The Blair kiddens padded to the edge of the Rainbow and looked out over the world below. They pursed their whiskers and gathered their will behind Onyx. "Go ahead," Der said.
Onyx thought for just a moment, then turned her thoughts to the aching heart below. "Mom? Mom, can you hear me? I'm home now. I'm all better now. Mom? Der is here! We're all here. We love you and we are waiting."
Onyx felt her words drifting away in the gentle breeze, flowing down to her mother's aching heart. She pursed her whiskers once more and sent her farewell. "Mom? Remember me and smile."
With that, her siblings led her home.
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