When my daughter Rachel was six years old, we went to
the local shelter, looking for the perfect cat. We liked a
lot of the cats we saw there, but we were especially taken
with a mother and her kittens. All the kittens were
entirely jet black, except for one. She had a small white
tip to her tail, like one bright light in the night sky.
We brought her home and called her Star.
Starry was a charmer. Rachel admired her proud manner
and enjoyed even more the secret knowledge that it was all
an act. Starry could only appear aloof for so long before
leaping up into Rachel's arms to be cuddled and stroked.
As time went by, Rachel and Starry adopted certain
routines. At night when we watched TV, Starry crawled into
Rachel's lap, and stayed there, purring contentedly.
Starry always rubbed her face along Rachel's chin, ending
the love fest with a gentle nip on Rachel's nose.
Sometimes I couldn't help but feel the injustice of this.
I was the one who took care of the cat, feeding, cleaning,
grooming - yet, Starry was clearly Rachel's cat.
Eventually, I came to love watching their cozy bond.
My little girl grew up, went to junior high and
finally high school. Starry was ten and Rachel was
sixteen. Starry and Rachel were still close, though Rachel
spent less and less time at home. Starry spent most of her
day sitting on the sideboard in the dining room, looking
out of the window into the backyard. I loved seeing her as
I'd pass, her glossy black coat almost sparkling in the
sunlight she loved to seek out, the white tip of her tail
brilliant against the shining black of her curled body.
One Sunday morning, early in November, Starry got out
the door before we could stop her. When Rachel's friend
came over to study that evening, she came in the door with
a worried expression. "Where's Starry?" she asked.
When we told her we didn't know, she had us come
outside with her. There was a black cat lying in the
It was Star. The cat's body was warm and she didn't
appear to be injured. There was no blood or wounds that we
could see. It was after hours, but our vet agreed to meet
us after our distraught phone call. Rachel was upset, but
holding it together. My husband Burt and I told her to
stay at home while we took Star to the vet.
Burt and I picked Starry up carefully and rushed her
to the vet's office. The vet examined her briefly before
looking up at us and saying, "I'm sorry, but she's gone."
When we got home, Rachel could tell by our faces that
Starry was dead. She turned without speaking and went to
It had been a hard year for me. My father had died
not long before, and I hadn't totally come to grips with
the loss. Rachel and I were in the midst of the delicate
dance mothers and teenaged daughters everywhere find
themselves performing - circling, pulling away and coming
together in odd fits and spurts. I took a chance and
knocked at her door.
When she said come in, I sat with her
on the bed and we cried together. It was a good cry,
clearing out some more of the grief I couldn't face about
my father and bringing Rachel and I closer as we shared our
sadness about Starry.
Life went on. Thanksgiving came and went. Rachel and
I both found ourselves mistaking black sweatshirts strewn
on chairs or floors for our newly missing black cat. The
sideboard looked desolate, empty of the warm presence
glowing with life I'd come to expect there. Over and over,
little pangs of loss stung our hearts as the weeks went by.
I was out Christmas shopping, when I saw it. It was a
Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a "cat angel."
A black cat with white wings and a red ball between her paws.
I had to get it, but bought it wondering if it would be a
happy remembrance of the cat we'd loved or a chilling
reminder of our loss.
When I got home, I painted a white tip at the end of
the angel cat's long black tail and hung the ornament on
That evening, when Rachel came in, she flopped on to
the couch. She sat staring at the Christmas tree, "spacing
out" after a long day at school and after-school sports. I
was in the kitchen when suddenly I heard her gasp. "Mom,"
she called. "Mom, come here!"
I walked in and found her standing in front of the
tree, looking at the cat angel with shining eyes. "Oh,
Mom. It's Starry. Where did you find an ornament with a
tail like hers?"
She looked about six again. I gathered her into my
arms and wonderfully she didn't resist. We stood together,
looking at the tree, feeling our love for Starry and for
Our charming, nose-nipping cat was gone, but now
Starry, the Christmas angel, would be a part of our family
tradition for years to come.
Sometimes you can make your own miracles.