We walked down the broad wooden steps of Palmetto Mansion and made our way across
the wet lawn. The moon was full and gave everything in the night a soft white glow. A soft mist wrapped around the trees and rose up the trunks.
“Why are we going to the graveyard at night?” asked Tux. “It’s so creepy.”
“Because it’s Halloween,” I said.
“What is Halloween?” Tux asked.
“Halloween celebrates the end of the harvest and the arrival of Winter on the first of November,” said Herbie.
“Oh,” said Tux.
“And many believe that tonight is the one night of the year when we can talk to the spirits,” he added cheerfully.
“I don’t think I want to talk to the spirits,” said Tux quietly.
“Don’t believe everything that Herbie says,” I said.
The moon was a fat white crescent and gave the cemetery a soft glow. There were cats of all colors and shapes assembled on the grounds.
Up on the very tallest grave stone sat Messy, her green eyes shining and her fluffy tail swishing
back and forth. Her fur was thick and full and made her seem twice as big as a normal cat.
She was magnificent.
“I know Princess Messy,” I said casually to the brown tabby seated in front of me. “We’re pretty good friends,” I added.
“Really,” the cat replied, raising his eyebrows, looking me up and down with suspicion. She looked back up at the monument.
Messy had cleared her throat and began to speak. Her normally low, scratchy voice was loud and echoed throughout the cemetery.
“Tonight,” she boomed, “we honor our friends and family who crossed the Rainbow Bridge over the last year.”
“What is the Rainbow Bridge?” whispered Tux.
“It’s the bridge you cross when your time on Earth is up,” I whispered back.
“Oh,” said Tux.
Messy continued. “Please call out the names of loved ones who are now waiting for us on the other side.”
It was quiet for a few moments, and then the cats gathered in the graveyard began to call out names.
“Mystery,” said one.
“Mister Pickles,” said another.
All along the circle of cats names were called out. Messy nodded at each one.
“Pela.” “Grand Purr.” “Little Jenny.”
Tux whispered again. “Where does the bridge go?”
“Well, they say when you cross over, you are greeted by all the people you have loved in your life who crossed over before you. They wait for you on the other side.”
“Oh,” said Tux again.
They listened quietly until the last name was said.
Messy looked out over the cats gathered before her.
“We are here to remember those who now wait for us. We thank them for all they did on this Earth, whether it was being a good friend to us or a loyal companion to their human. And for those whose life on Earth was hard, they are now surrounded by the love of all of those who wait for them.”
There were a few sniffles in the crowd. “Until we meet again,” Messy said.
“Until we meet again,” the cats called out in chorus.
Tux moved in a little closer.
“Uncle Dobie?” He said quietly.
“If you cross the Rainbow Bridge before me, will you wait for me there?”
I felt a sudden sting in my eyes. I blinked hard
but now my eyes were wet. “Of course I will, Tux.”
“Thanks,” said Tux. He looked relieved. He then leaped off the stone wall to join the other cats.
I watched his black and white fur disappear into the mists. But despite the chill in the air, I was warmed by a glow in my heart.