A Song for Simeon
[Message to friends and family sent Saturday afternoon, 7-10]
Please join Andy and me in saying a little prayer of thanks for the life of Simeon, my big black cat. He died this morning after giving us 15 years of life and love.
Simeon adopted me at the Humane Society in Tallahassee quite literally. I had gone there to adopt an orange tabby only to find out she had been taken to be euthanized only minutes before. As I stood there, tears welling in my eyes and wondering what had possessed me to come to Tallahassee in the first place, Simeon reached out of the cage and grabbed me several times, loudly meowing, finally prompting me to ask the young teenaged volunteer to let me see him. When she opened the cage, Simeon leapt out of the cage into my arms and purred so loudly potential adoptive parents in the hallway could hear him over the barking of the dogs there and turned around. The young girl smiled and said, “I think that’s your cat, Mister.” And, indeed he was, though, as with all cats, it was more like I was his human. Dogs have masters but cats have staffs.
At the time I already had one cat I had adopted in California who was still there with Andy who stayed behind an additional year when I began my doctoral program at Florida State. Our California cat’s name was Magnificat, not terribly surprising given that she was given to me by
one of my parishioners in San Jose when I was a seminarian. The Magnificat, or Canticle to Mary, is sung as the first canticle in many Evening Prayer services and the Nunc Dimittis (also called the Song of Simeon) is the canticle sung after the last lesson. I figured naming a cat Nunc Dimittis or one or the other of those two words was a bit cruel. Simeon, on the other hand, was a musical name and fit this affable tuxedo cat who quickly grew to the size of miniature Hindenburg blimp and loved to lie in the pools of morning sun coming through our front windows.
Everyone who knew Simeon remarked upon how beautiful and how amiable a cat he was. He was prone to engage in silent meows in which he’d open his mouth and nothing would come out. And he was a mellow cat, willing to nap with any of the living beings in the house, dogs, other cats and humans.
I figured he’d be the last of my three elderly animals to go. His buddy, Julian the black and tan mini-dachshund, came home the same day as Simeon there in Tallahassee and the two of them were prone to wrestle and play, rolling across the floor in a spinning black ball,
pausing periodically like the Tasmanian Devil to reveal that there were actually two animals involved. Julian is now 15 and Magnificat, the part Abyssinian grey tabby (whose blood line comes out of the cats imported from Egypt into San Jose, CA by the Rosicrucians there
who quickly sprang the joint from the museum complex to mix with neighborhood cats) has never weighed above 7 pounds and is now 16. Simeon was being treated for hyperthyroidism but he was also carrying a secret time bomb, a cancer which had enveloped his lungs and avoided detection until this week when he stopped eating and began to have problems breathing. He went from appearing fairly healthy to dead in less than one week as cats are prone to do.
The last few months Simeon has been fairly insistent upon being close to me, often leaping up onto my desk to lie on the desk top between my monitor and my keyboard. He had done that while I was in grad school and Julian, Simeon and I would often curl up in my papasan chair to study together. We also took naps each afternoon with Simeon under one arm and Julian under the other. Just before I left, I began to wonder if Simeon’s clingy behavior was not indicative of something I was not able or perhaps willing to see. I sensed he might be trying to tell me goodbye though I had no reason to believe he was in any trouble health-wise. I returned from my conference in Cuba, clearing customs about 9 PM last night, to the news he was ailing. Leaving Miami at 7 AM, my sister and I rushed up the Turnpike this morning to see him but he died while I was enroute. Today has been a very long day after a very long week in Cuba. The vet spent some time explaining all the problems he was battling, most of which we were unaware, and returned his body to us in a cloth wrapped box with a heart drawn to indicate where his head is
We’re going to bury Simeon in the corner of the yard very shortly under the bamboo stand next to the bodies of Charlie, our beagle, and Ratzinger, our six-toed orange tabby. No doubt he will be joined shortly by his two centenarian siblings. There is already a large hole in our mixed species family here in New Coverleigh and in our aching hearts. We will miss him greatly.
So please join us in giving thanks for the life of a wonderful big, fat black cat whose presence helped his Daddy endure the monastic life of graduate school in Tallahassee and brought warmth and joy for 15 warm years to a home of two humans, two dogs, three cats and three tanks full of fish in this reconstructed dwelling amidst the jungle we call New Coverleigh.
Nunc dimittis (Song of Simeon)
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Book of Common Prayer, 1662, taken from Luke 2:29–32
The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando
If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
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