RequiesCat In Pace

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I first met him at the post office in the summer of 2012 when I first arrived in Kalaupapa. I believe he felt that he had been called to be the official greeter for the post office and the administration office. He was large and strong, yet very gentle and friendly and he sported a magnificent ginger coat. 

On occasion I would sit on the bench outside the post office and he would hop up and sit beside me as if to make conversation. The locals would say, “Hi Maka!” and pat him on the back. He was a big favorite and lord of all he surveyed.

I had not planned on having a cat when I came to Kalaupapa and I never had a cat in my 68 years prior to this, but things would change soon. Not long after I first shared a bench with him outside the post office, he showed up at my house. I have no idea why he did so because I had not been feeding any cats, nor did I have any cat food. Besides that, he was well-fed by Mark, the administrator, as well as others. Indeed, he seemed to enjoy the “life of Reilly.” So now I felt it was the time to rename him Reilly and he made his home on the property surrounding my house.

One year later he was joined by another younger cat whom I named Bailey. Then in an annual sequence they were joined by Tony Tiger, Mr. Gray and Timmy Tiger. Reilly was, of course, the king and, though the others would act up at times, he remained a benevolent monarch. 

Sadly, however, about a year ago, he developed a tumor in back of his left ear. Dr. Jayne from Topside Molokai came down to the settlement, gave him shots, put him on antibiotics, and prescribed steroids to reduce the swelling. The steroids did so but Reilly’s condition continued to worsen gradually as the months went by. Then he grew weaker day by day until one morning last week he breathed his final breath while laying in his cozy cat bed. It was a sad day for me as we laid his now-frail body to rest in the grassy area of our grounds.

Now some people may shake their heads and wonder why others are so grief-stricken at the death of a “mere” pet. Pets, they feel, just gobble up food and are totally dependent on their owners. What they do not realize is that these same pets become faithful and loving companions. They also teach us many things in their innocent ways. 

They teach us to be more patient. They teach us to be loving and not to hold grudges when we say “No!” to them. They teach us to forgive and to forget and they help us be more caring in our relationship with others. 

When they pass away, they leave us with a great ache in our hearts and an emptiness in our lives, even while we hope they are now in pet Heaven. 

Requiescat in pace, King Reilly.

Anchor columnist Father Patrick Killilea, SS.CC., is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.


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