(First things first for you English-speakers: Nounours is our other cat, as many of you already know, and his name is pronounced “Noo-NOO’orse.” I’m afraid that’s the closest approximation I’m going to achieve in writing. The second two parts – the vowels – flow together quickly, pronounced as one syllable. “Nounours” is French for “teddy bear.”)
In the wake of Ronnie James’ departure, Nounours has been grieving along with us this past week. We feel badly for him. We’ve been trying to console him, giving him as much love as he can handle. He and the Wrah-Wrah were extremely close. They were attached close.
Two proverbial peas in a pod, Ronnie James and Nounours.
Nounours holding Ronnie James’ hand.
Now, we believe that Nounours knew things we didn’t know.
Nounours took such good care of his brother.
Nounours always nurtured Ronnie James.
Easy-going Nounours is a big goofball, and a lovable goofball he is, too. We often affectionately joke that he isn’t “the sharpest blade in the drawer,” but there are different types of intelligence. Nounours’ intelligence, it turns out, is other-worldly.
For instance, Nounours is the lone feline in the house now, but he doesn’t lie by the front door anymore, as he was wont to do when Ronnie James was away in the hospital. (That, in itself, was indicative of Nounours’ sixth sense. He otherwise never planted himself by the front door.) The reason? He knows that this time, Ronnie James isn’t coming home. He knows that his brother will never come through that door again. Nounours was with us when Ronnie James died. He was there and he witnessed the whole thing, and then he approached and sniffed the Wrah-Wrah’s lifeless little body. He understood. He knew.
Two days after Ronnie James’ death, his cremains came through the door. His ashes came home to us in an urn – a small, locked box – last Saturday afternoon, hand-delivered.
A little padlock hangs beneath the heart name-tag, and there are two keys for it taped to the underside of the urn.
And somehow, Nounours understands this, too, at what seems to be a very deep level.
There’s a large, flat cushion lying in the inner corner of our sectional couch, a relic from the love-seat we had when we were living in Austin. We brought the love-seat with us from Texas to our apartment when we moved back to Arizona, then donated it when we moved into this house and got a new couch. We kept this one cushion, though, along with the matching ottoman. The two pieces add a touch of muted color to the beige-on-beige thing we’ve got going on in our living room.
In the last weeks of his life, Ronnie James loved to rest on the cushion when I was sitting next to it… and only when I was sitting next to it. It started because he would sit near me along the top of the backrest couch cushions. One day, when he was up there by my right shoulder, I set this oddball cushion down in the corner. He came down and arranged himself on it immediately. He wanted to be near me at all times, if not actually touching me or lying on me.
The cushion became Ronnie James’ special spot when I would sit on this section of the couch, and it’s still there today.
Stretching out on the cushion and touching me with his head and hands. He loved to be in physical contact with me, and he never touched me more than he did in those last three days of his life.
Nounours, on the other hand, never paid attention to the cushion. Its purpose was always decorative, so no one ever sat on it but Ronnie James once I set it down in that spot a few weeks ago.
Ronnie James sleeping next to me on his cushion on May 14 – his last day in this world.
We were steeped in grief when Ronnie James’ urn came home on Saturday, but we were grateful to have it so soon. It’d been less than 48 hours since his death. We received the urn and then left to attend a friend’s evening wedding – a welcome distraction, focusing on someone else’s happy occasion! When we got home, we sat next to each other on the couch. I was in tears again. Ronnie James’ cushion was terribly vacant next to me. Without really thinking, I set his little urn and his collar on it.
Then Nounours came out from the bedroom and went directly to the corner of the couch.
Nounours appeared when I set the Wrah-Wrah’s urn and collar on the cushion, and we couldn’t believe what happened next.
Nounours, who isn’t a cat who does things deliberately, like Ronnie James did (they were opposites… actually, Ronnie James was like me, whereas Nounours is like Callaghan), walked straight to the corner of the couch and jumped up to Ronnie James’ cushion. He found his brother’s collar. He found his brother’s urn. We’ve never seen him so curious, interested in or focused on anything.
First, Nounours discovered the Wrah-Wrah’s collar. He pulled it close to him before turning his attention to the urn.
We couldn’t believe it.
Watching this, our hearts broke all over again.
Rubbing his face on the urn…
Flipping it over…
He seemed to be confused and almost frantic trying to get the box open.
Callaghan and I were floored, to say the least.
It looks like Nounours is reading the label on the bottom of the urn. It’s printed with the Wrah-Wrah’s name and the date of his cremation.
After pawing at Ronnie James’ urn, hugging it, rubbing his face on it, turning it around and flipping it over twice, he pushed and nosed it into the corner of the couch and rested his face against it. He seemed sad at first, but then he started to purr.
Resting his head on the Wrah-Wrah’s urn, purring.
Callaghan and I were dumbfounded by this astonishing and obvious display of recognition. Nounours somehow knew that his brother had something to do with the urn. I picked my jaw up from the floor as I reached for my phone to catch a few seconds of Nounours purring with his brother’s ashes.
Apologies for the bad quality of this video… I don’t have the equipment or the experience to make good videos… but here it is, nonetheless:
Last night, I captured a second recording of Nounours snuggling with his brother’s cremains. He does it every day, no matter where we’ve placed the urn. In this video, they’re on the futon in my office. (Please excuse not only the bad filming, again, but also the airplane noise cameo at the end! We’re in downtown Tempe, near the Sky Harbor flight paths.)
Also, it just so happens that Ronnie James died one week ago in this exact spot.
We’ll often find Nounours sitting or lying with the Wrah-Wrah’s urn, hugging it or just touching it. Or, we’ll find him curled up with his brother’s collar, or actually holding the collar in his paw.
He misses his Wrah-Wrah so much.
A second phenomenon is that Nounours has taken on some of Ronnie James’ traits since Ronnie James died, including cleaning himself more, talking more, giving us eye-blink kisses the way the Wrah-Wrah did, walking near us to brush our lower legs with some part of his body, and occupying spaces and places in the house that Ronnie James used to occupy.
He looks so sad.
Sometimes, we find Nounours lying on or next to the cushion, arm outstretched, paw resting on his brother’s urn.
And sometimes, we find Nounours just sitting protectively over his brother, like he used to.
It’s not just the cushion, either. Nounours will find and snuggle up to Ronnie James’ urn and collar no matter where they are.
When I placed the Wrah-Wrah’s urn and collar at the foot of the bed, Nounours went to them. We found him like this, holding the Wrah-Wrah’s collar close to him.
This is the last picture taken of Ronnie James and Nounours together:
Ronnie James adored his Nounours. This picture was taken the day he died. It was the last time Nounours got to nurture his brother.
Last night marked one week since Ronnie James’ death.