As we prepare for our move to another Caribbean rock, I’ve been reflecting on my time here and all the reasons I’ve come to love it so much. Topping the list, of course, are the friends we’ve made that we hope will always be a part of our lives.
For posterity’s sake, I thought I’d share one last sad but funny tale from our time on Anguilla to give you a little peek into what we will remember fondly as our crazy, two-year adventure…
It was my son’s 21st birthday, and he was leaving for the U.S. I woke up feeling happy, but moments later, my husband ran in looking shocked and quietly gave me some bad news: “Omg, the cat is dead. She’s on the stairs.” I took a deep breath, then told him to hide her immediately and to say nothing.
Sammy Cat had been in our family for 17 years. We were both shook up, but we didn’t want to tell our son right before he left and potentially ruin his birthday mood. So my husband Ian wrapped Sammy in a towel and hurriedly placed her on the neighbor’s washing machine downstairs. It was the only place he could think of at the time. And in all our rushing about, we didn’t have a moment to tell them she was there. I’m sure you know what’s coming next…
When my son appeared, we pushed him out the door and into the car, saying our quick goodbyes. He looked at us, confused, as if we were a couple of weirdos, no doubt wondering why we weren’t being very nice to him, and on his birthday no less. As Ian drove off like a bat out of hell, a huge dust trail following behind the car on its way to the port, I heard a high-pitched scream from downstairs.
The neighbor’s cleaning lady had unwrapped Sammy thinking it was washing. As I ran down, she looked at me with wide eyes shouting, “Mrs! Mrs, your cat isn’t sleeping, it’s dead! It’s dead, arrrrgh!”
Finally free to let it all go, I cradled my dead cat in my arms and just stood there crying. The gardener had come running too upon hearing all the screaming, and he and the cleaning lady stood by and stared at the crazy sobbing woman holding a dead cat, no one knowing quite what to say. To save them from any prolonged awkwardness, I took Sammy Cat upstairs, howling like I’ve never sobbed before in my life. I just sat there in tears, rocking away with a dead cat in my arms until Ian returned.
Between the tears, I’d messaged a friend asking if we could bury Sammy in her garden. She was in a meeting and didn’t see the message, and Ian had to go to work, so we put Sammy in a cooler bag in an ice box until he could return. I loved my cat, but I wasn’t about to put her in my fridge – even that seems weird to me. (In Anguilla, the average daily temperature is 85°F, thus the need to put her “on ice”.)
Later in the day, my friend got in touch and kindly let us perform a state burial in her garden. It took Ian over an hour to dig the cat-sized grave with a pick axe. There isn’t a lot of soil in Anguilla – it’s mainly rock – but my sweet husband, knowing how traumatized I was, persevered.
I find that grief makes one focus on the stupidest things. In my sadness, I found myself suddenly concerned that if Time Team (the archeological TV show) ever came to visit Anguilla and happened to dig up the garden, it was important that they knew how special Sammy was, and that she was a policeman’s cat. So I basically scribbled Ian’s C.V. on a piece of paper, explaining where she had lived, and that she had been with us since our time in the West Yorkshire Police. I can hear my late mother telling me to inform you all that she was a North Yorkshire cat. It’s imperative you all know that, because it’s a nicer part of Yorkshire. Also, it should be noted that I don’t actually hear my mother (she’s dead like my cat), but you know what I mean…
Sometimes I don’t know why my husband puts up with my wacky ideas, but he always stands by, patiently accepting my eccentricities. We are like chalk and cheese – after 26 years, maybe this is why it works. Anyway – back to the cat and less of the Dr. Phil moments…
Sammy Cat was buried alongside the ashes of Cybil the Downing Street Cat under a beautiful Anguillan mahogany tree. Cybil had a postcard of Sir Winston Churchill describing her life put in along with my C.V. of Ian and Sammy Cat, lovingly placed in a ziplock sandwich bag laid next to them. (Obviously, to help save time in the future on investigating the lives of who these cats were, should Time Team ever come to dig the garden.) We performed the service with tears, placed a shell on top as a marker, and left.
Coming here has taught me so much. It’s hard moving to a new place, and there have definitely been times I’ve found it really tough. I’ll always value all the friends we’ve made, even all those who I simply shared a hello with once. No matter how small, you all made a difference in my life. We will not only be leaving our dear Sammy Cat on Anguilla, but a piece of our hearts as well.
Okay, okay… I’ll stop with the Dr. Phil moments now.
But just know, we will miss you all.
Want to stay connected to the Land of Coconuts?
We'll send you island mail, fresh from the tropics each week.