Last night she cried.

She whimpered when she was still; she cried a little more as she struggled to stand. I anticipated having to make a decision come morning.

When I awoke early, I clambered downstairs to check in on her. She was on her usual pillow, underneath the stairs. She looked at me with cloudy eyes, and I spoke to her. I sat beside her and gently lifted her to my lap. She’s skin and bones, but my thighs are soft enough to offer her comfort. She crouched there, her tiny chin supported by my hand and each spinal disc poking through the fur on her back. I softly stroked her neck, behind her ears, the top of her head…anywhere her bones weren’t protruding. She laid quietly, then began to purr.

We sat for several moments, still in mind and body. When she shifted to stand, I released her, and she wobbled somewhat before resuming her original spot.

I made coffee; I worked a bit, I retrieved the vet’s phone number, and I returned to the upstairs bedroom where I’d left my phone and my book. Thought I’d sit and read for a few minutes before making the call. As habit, I closed the door behind me.

A few moments later, I heard a noise–a scratching sound–and I rose to open the door. I expected to find one of the other animals demanding to enter my space.

But no, it was Billii. The girl who, just moments before, had prompted me to schedule her final vet visit was sitting at the door. It has been months since she’d climbed the stairs to the second level. She hadn’t been upstairs under her own power for ages.

And yet here she was. Billii.

She looked at me with gauzy but determined eyes, as I exclaimed with wonder, “Billii! What on earth are you doing here?”

She wobbled in and sat beside the bed. Crouching down, she hesitated for a moment. It was clear she wanted to jump up on the bed. She attempted to leap, and faltered. She tried again. She stumbled. I was frozen with astonishment. She needed to succeed on her own; I needed to let her do so.

Finally, with one determined leap, her claws found purchase and she hauled herself up.

She wanted to be near me. I stood and pulled my favorite Celtics hoodie from the back of the closet door, and laid it down for her. It smells like me. It’s soft. And it’s hers, for as long as she wants it.

I had a million other things to do this morning; I had to call the mechanic, wash the floors, pull weeds in the garden…but I lay down beside her, talking to her, comforting her, being near her. Quietly. Peacefully. I self-chastise for a moment…why am I doing nothing when there is so much to do?

Just maybe, love is doing something important. The floors, the garden, the work, the mechanic…they’ll all be there tomorrow. Despite her courage and determination, Billii may not be.