Beshert surprised me in the five-pound form of a rescue cat with one eye and a crooked gait. Her predecessor was an alliterative marvel: a calico cat from Calistoga, California, rescued on Halloween by a young man who became alarmed when a man with four kittens in a box told people that the ones he couldn’t give away by dusk were doomed.
The young man plucked one from the box, took it home, and then had a problem with his family’s Doberman. His mom let it live in the garage until I put an ad in Calistoga’s local weekly newspaper, looking to adopt a cat there. (My best friend in San Francisco was having a baby and in solidarity I wanted my offspring to come from California, too.)
I named her Callie. We were besties from the handoff.
Callie lived to age 16. The day I had to put her down, I was heartbroken. And that was even before I realized it was Halloween. If that timing was beshert, I was spooked.
I was in mourning for a year. My grief was deep and it was real. If you’ve lost a beloved pet—a family member—you know what I’m talking about. Thinking about getting another cat seemed disrespectful.
But I was driving my friends crazy, missing my cat. One of them scoped out the rescue cats at a shelter and told me she’d found my perfect new love. I went to take a look.
The cat hated me, loudly, from the get-go. She hissed. She tried to scratch me. Did they have a calmer cat?
The volunteer unlocked one of the enclosures and handed me the smallest adult cat I’d ever seen. She was a scrap of fur; she could have come from a remnant bin. She’d lost an eye to an untreated infection and a fractured hind leg had left her with a limp.
Because she couldn’t jump with her bad leg, I placed her on the top level of a cat condo. Sunshine streamed in from the window above it and warmed her tabby head. She looked golden in the sun. She closed her eyes, bowed her head and purred. For such a little thing, it sounded like a roar. I looked at her and knew: she was my new beshert cat.
I named her Chelsea, after Callie of blessed memory. We’re not sure who rescued whom. She was a ray of sunshine in my life for 12 years. I never thought of her as Jewish or not until cancer took her from me just before the High Holidays this year. Then I decided and said Kaddish.
Pam Janis is Moment’s Beshert Editor and a speechwriter and ghostwriter.