This is a picture of my daughter and Auntie Mary -- my daughter is the human.
Auntie Mary was originally named something else -- I am pretty sure it was Zuzu as in Zuzu's petals from It's a Wonderful Life -- but somewhere along the way, she became Auntie Mary.
Auntie Mary has spent the past twenty or so years living the best life possible with my youngest sister, Julie. There is not a better cat guardian than Julie, who somehow managed to make homemade food for Auntie Mary in spite of the reality that Julie has been a vegetarian since she was a teenager and cannot abide meat. Most recently, Julie has tenderly and thoughtfully cared for Auntie Mary in her senior years, delaying adventures because Auntie Mary's comfort has been her priority.
An animal shares chapters of our lives, weaving their presence throughout and leaving little pawprints on the pages of our lives. Auntie Mary played with my children, posed for pictures, played with sparkle balls, and just was part of the fabric of the Sontag family.
Auntie Mary's time with our family ended recently -- she was very, very old and no longer able to maintain a body for her special little spirit.
Her passing reminds me of how animals are special place holders in the history of our lives. They pass a torch to each other, taking their turns companioning us through the mundane, the heartbreaks, the triumphs -- never wavering in their trusting and gentle presence.
Look around at those four-legged souls who share your lives -- let the passing of one remind us of their importance in our lives and our histories.
RIP Auntie Mary.