n May of 1999, two separate events took place. First, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released, featuring the new super villain, Sith apprentice “Darth Maul.” At the same time, somewhere in our neighborhood, someone dumped off a jet-black kitten. The kitten followed Andrew and Naomi home to Maul Hall (with a little help).
Our new pet’s name was a no-brainer. Darth Maul demonstrated unprecedented friendliness for a feline, quickly developed the endearing habit of gruff, conversational mewing, and became an instant hit with everyone who crossed his path.
Darth was, in a word, “cool.” He became friends with my old dog, Mozart, and developed the habit of joining us on our late evening walk. He became friends with everyone at the Valrico Animal Clinic, and was possibly the first cat in history to allow certain intrusive examinations without extending his claws or biting. He simply voiced disapproval via a steady stream of indignant conversation.
GARDEN: Rebekah and Darth loved to garden together. He’d wait for her to get situated, walk over, and either stand or sit nearby, talking expressively all the time. When she moved, he moved. She could always count on his presence.
Sometimes, when he was younger, Darth would go up to the 7th green on the golf course and sit next to a newly arrived ball, watching the golfers as they came up. I’d see him bat the ball around, then run like crazy. He never used a litter box, he preferred the bunkers.
He had an uncanny sense of respect for other life, including our garden snakes. One day I saw the cat next door come out of our bushes dragging a large black snake, pouncing on it, playing with it, batting it around. The snake was hurt, but not mortally. Darth watched for a few moments before heading over to the scene. He stood next to the other cat, mewed a few distinct expletives, then smacked the offending cat hard before chasing it away. Darth then proceeded to coax the snake back to life and ushered it into the safety of the bushes.
DOG FRIEND: When Mozart died, Darth mourned. The moment the clinician administered the final shot (it was a home visit), Darth jumped off the bed and joined Moe on the floor, curling up and nuzzling his best friend till he slipped peacefully away. Later, he sat vigil on the headstone for hours.
Late that same night Darth insisted we go out for our 11:00 walk. “Would you look at that Derek Maul,” the neighbors probably said, shaking their heads, “now he’s out there walking his cat…”
“THERE IS A SEASON (TURN, TURN)”: Two weeks ago, while we were in Tennessee, Darth Maul left the house for his nocturnal rounds, and he never came home. Our house-sitter – bless her tender heart – was inconsolable. Friends and neighbors searched, but to no avail. When we came home we held out hope that Darth might show up, but it’s been over a week now (20 days in all) and – we have to accept it – our cool cat is not coming home.
Yes, he’s micro-chipped. Yes, we’ve put the word out. Yes, we’ve searched in every conceivable place. No, the shelter hasn’t seen him.
BENEDICTION: Darth has been wandering his exact same territory (two-houses in every direction) for over 13 years. Lately it’s just been one house on each side. Then – the night we came home – Scout and I ran into a mean Coyote in the neighborhood….
Darth Maul was a great cat; he was better than a great cat. Everyone who house-sat fell in love with him. Melissa, Lacey, Holly, Faith. Darth was a real friend; he was the best. You didn’t have to be “cat people” to be “Darth people.”
So thank you, you cool, gruff, and conversational cat, for being such an important and loving part of the Maul family all these years. We’re going to miss you more than I can possibly express. You loved with the kind of unconditional love that humbles those of us who are less genuine and less grateful for one-another. And we love you; we love you – we always will.
In gratitude, and with far too much pain for the moment – DEREK
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3