Another Goodbye: a Bittersweet Eulogy for Beacon Bowman
We buried Beacon this morning. Out under the great tree in the back field by the pond. When Jason came in and woke me this morning, I saw it on his face, I knew something was wrong. Not sure if it was Wile or Beacon that was heavy in his gaze, Jason gently told me that Beacon had been hit by a car. It’s difficult to even write these words. We were reminded of Solomon, our first cat, as we walked all the way out in the field to the great tree in silence, Jason ahead with Beacon in his right arm, a shovel in his left, Savarin on my hip, Wile unaware as he faithful trotted by, cows trailing behind. And we wept, and wept, and said goodbye.
He was such a loyal, loving cat. There was not a mean bone in his body. He was neither spiteful nor distant, as cats can be. He was not judgmental or cunning. He was faithful like a dog, as he took long walks with us out in the field, occasionally dashing close underfoot for security when he felt a cow got to close. We adopted Beacon in Beacon, New York, with our friends Katie and Troy, where he was discovered with his sister, another grey kitty, as tiny kittens alone in the winter, and brought into the animal shelter. They lived together in their crate until we came in, just weeks after Solomon had passed away. When the worker opened the crate door, Beacon leapt out onto Jason’s shoulders, in true Beacon fashion, and would not let go, wrapping his tail around his face. In fact, just last night, he did the same thing to Jason, leaping onto his shoulders and doing a balancing act to stay there while Jason walked around and Savarin watched with glee. We quickly realized this was the cat for us, as he took so much ownership over us from the start, and the whole ride home, more than eight years ago now, we went through names, royal names, strong names, silly names, like Alexander or Rufus or Cletus; Solomon had been so majestic—would that be this cat’s personality? But until we could find the right fit of a name, we settled on call him the cat from Beacon, so we could get to know him more. And in that, we realized this was his name! Beacon! Both of us knew it within a couple of days! (Not “Bacon” as my brother would mistakenly believe for years…) Beacon made the transition from outdoors to animal shelter to New York City apartment quite well, and nested himself a little home. He loved to sleep on our heads at night, to wake us with wet nose nudges in the morning, and greeted everyone who came to the door. He even made the transition to living with Lahi, Carly & Ashley’s excitable cattle dog, and transitioned quite well after that to a house he could call his own here in Virginia. And to our surprise, he made the transition to being an outdoor kitty so well that you would have thought he was born in a chicken house! Beacon spent a lot of his day either chasing Wile around, being chased by Wile, sitting among the chickens, climbing a tree, hunting birds or field mice, or rolling in the grass. I’ve known a lot of cats, but I haven’t known one to take walks as faithfully as Beacon did. When we walked, he walked. When we stopped, he just laid down right where you were. He would go with us for miles. He would stay at our pace over hills, through woods, by the ponds, never going his own way or turning bac. And because his four little legs were shorter than Wile’s, occasionally Wile would get far ahead, and then stop and wait for Beacon to catch up.
From the very start, Beacon loved. He loved and loved and loved us. He lavished us with love, even when we didn’t deserve it (or didn’t necessarily want it!). And so often we didn’t deserve the unconditional love he gave us. He licked us, he left his hair all over us in gestures of his love, he curled up on any little part of ourselves we would extend to him—an arm, a shoulder, even just a part of a knee, if we were busy with something else. He loved Wile deeply. He was coming to love Savarin deeply. And he loved our friends deeply! How many of our friends would he just drape himself across and purr? He liked to be held upside down, scooped up, thrown over my shoulder like a continental soldier… and his trust was like a canyon for us—any way we held him, anywhere we took him, anything we asked of him, he was not afraid. He deeply trusted. And he played. He would chase Wile around the yard just to get a rise out of him! He was Wile’s best buddy, and he taught Wile how to be a puppy, and how to be a part of our family. Those two found rest in one another’s company—not to mention, their matching coats! Beacon’s beautiful muted grey coat was actually the reason we even looked for a “blue” Border Collie like Wile! And he listened. Strange thing for a cat. He listed to numerous commands, including ‘no’ and ‘come on’. He came when you called his name and stayed when you told him to. And he had those funny little teeth that stuck out as if he were a vampire, yet he never purposefully scratched or bit us. His green eyes often glowed against the matte blue-grey of his short-haired coat. Our hearts ache, they are heavy and sad and empty and riddled with the “it’s my fault” and “we shouldn’t have let him out.” But our hearts also rejoice for the joy and the depth of life he added to our lives for the past eight and a half years, for the way he helped us to make the many transitions we did during those years, from saying goodbye to Solomon, from 312 to 314 W. 115th, from New York to the farm. We so thank the Lord for that. And I am in awe yet again of the fact that we are created to have such deep relationship with these animals, as all of us do, that we’re created by the Lord to love and care for them, to be loved by and cared for by them, and to experience a more intricate and reflective life because of them. Even though it was much too soon to say goodbye, to let go of a member of our family, we said our goodbyes with grateful aching hearts. As we sat there in silence, Jason, myself, Savarin, Wile, and the cows crowded behind us, we just listened in silence. We felt the weight of birth, as Savarin looked out with us solemnly, and the bitter weight of the passing of life. The tree that towered above us sounded like rain, the air smelled of rain, and Beacon laid nestled warmly in the earth, under the living dirt and grass, as lovingly as he used to crawl up under our blankets to sleep all day. And we said our goodbyes without words, for they were not necessary. We love you, we thank you, we miss you like hell…already.