I acquired Hei Yu when I was starting in on a horrible ten-year period of almost constant illness. I was pretty much bed-bound, and she was my lifeline. She was always there, a warm, comforting presence, when I couldn't sleep because of the pain I was experiencing, and she always managed to make me smile and laugh, even when I was feeling worst.
She always knew when I needed her; in the brief times during that period when I was feeling almost human, she acted like any other cat, coming around for petting or play when she felt so inclined. When I was feeling bad, though, she was always there, practically an extra appendage. She never let me wake alone in the night, and she'd dry my tears (when I couldn't contain them) with her paws and tongue.
If I was just "sort of" sick, but not really bad, she'd clown, to make me laugh. She knew, though, and never, never did it after another bout of surgery, when laughing hurt too much to be indulged in. She knew when I'd recovered just enough, though, and she'd start clowning again then -- not before.
She kept me from being too depressed, and she gave me something to be interested in, to care about, and to love.
It wasn't cream-pot love; I was seldom well enough to feed her myself. That was Mum's job, but I was her person.
She even knew how much I loved the smell of her fur, when she'd been outside on a cold, clear winter's night, and she'd make a beeline for my bed when she came in, even if there was fresh food in her bowl and she was Late For Supper. She'd come and curl up right next to my face, so I could smell that wonderful, fresh smell, and never left until she'd warmed up enough that the aroma had faded too much for my human nose to catch; then she'd go and eat, but not until then. She wasn't trying to get warm, either; I kept my room very cold (it helped with the nausea), and she'd've been warmer in some other part of the house, or at least down further on the bed where the electric blanket was.
During the rest of the year, she'd stop and wash thoroughly before she came to me after she'd been out, because she knew that I had allergies to some of the pollen she'd pick up in her roving and sneezing hurt me. Only in winter would she come straight to me without pausing, so I could smell the cold night air. Any many other things, but I don't want to bore you.
I'd always loved cats (how can you not love a warm, purring bundle of fur?), but this cat turned love into something bordering on adoration, and taught me that they have a depth of feeling and understanding that is almost unbelievable, if you haven't experienced it.
I'm grateful that we had eight years to truly enjoy each other, years when I was well enough to be of some use to her; to make Frozen Bubbles for her and share my breakfasts with her afterward, to hold her and play with her whenever she wanted it, instead of her catering to my needs. To drag her string or throw her ball, to provide a lap to warm her feet after an excursion outside in the snow... To love her properly, as she deserved.
I nursed her for her last few weeks, and made runs to MickeyD's, even walked there once during a raging blizzard when cars couldn't make it, because the only thing she'd eat toward the end was Chicken McNuggets. She even refused spaghetti, which was always her favorite food. How could I do otherwise?
Saying goodbye to her was the single hardest thing I ever had to do; I was spared The Decision because she wasn't in any pain, she just sort of "wore out". I let her go in her own time; I didn't try to prolong it with pointless medications and indignities from vets. She was eighteen, almost nineteen, and her time with me was up; I had to let her go, no matter how much I'd've given for just a little longer with her.
Hei Yu was my Special Cat, and I truly believe that she saved my life with her caring companionship. I'll never again be able to take any cat for granted; they're all gifts given to us -- even when they're driving us crazy with the Latest Trick. <grin> Maybe especially then. We need to be taken down a peg now and then, and we always need to laugh.