Sometimes hope is a subtle thing, and sometimes it nudges you insistently and demands a belly rub.
That's what happened with Roza Katovitch and a black-and-white cat named Miss Tuxedo. Both were homeless, forlorn souls who crossed paths in the unlikeliest of places - a grave site in Colma - and somehow, saved each other.
"I'd come here, sometimes 6, 7 hours a day, and just sit. If you're quiet, you'd be amazed at the things you see. God's whole creation - skunks, raccoons, moles, birds ... and cats," Katovitch said this week as she sat at the simple, immaculately-tended grave of her fiance at the Serbian Cemetery in Colma. "One of them was Miss Tuxedo. I think she's the reason I'm still here."
For Katovitch, 56, the story starts in 2000, when her boyfriend of 22 years, Rich, died of a heart aneurysm while the pair was curled up on their couch in San Mateo watching a movie. Her father died three days later. The shock and grief sent Katovitch into a tailspin of depression and health ailments that prevented her from returning to her job as a union electrician.
Then, about two years ago, she lost her apartment on Mariner's Island in San Mateo when the building was sold. With no family nearby, she ended up sleeping at a series of cheap motels on the Peninsula, her depression only deepening and hope slipping away.
She spent most days at Rich's grave site at the Serbian Cemetery in Colma, tending to flowers she'd planted there, talking and singing to him, sometimes crying, but mostly just gazing at the sea of marble Orthodox crosses. Katovitch is a lifelong member of theOrthodox Church, and Rich had converted not long after the two met in the late 1970s.
Like most cemeteries in Colma, the Serbian Cemetery has feral cats who hunt the gophers and other rodents. Katovitch knew most of them by sight and, without giving them much thought, had named a few: Doobie, Piggy, Bonnie Baby, Miss Tuxedo.
"I don't know why, but Miss Tuxedo started following me around," Katovitch said. "She wouldn't let me touch her for the longest time. Slowly I'd get her tail. Then I got her head. One day she let me scratch her ears, and that was it. From that moment on, she wouldn't leave me alone.
"I'd be fixing a vase for Rich, and she'd be pushing her head under my hands," she said. "It was like she was saying, 'No, no, love me.' Suddenly I had a purpose. I don't know why, but this cat loved me."
Seeing Miss Tuxedo every day relieved some of Katovitch's isolation, and took her mind off her grief. When Miss Tuxedo needed a cancerous spot on her nose removed, Katovitch took her to the vet - with the bill paid by a friend the pair has made at the cemetery.
Victoria Lewis of San Francisco, who works for a film production company, was at the Serbian Cemetery one day scouting for filming locations when she noticed the tall, sandy-haired woman who sat for hours in the otherwise deserted graveyard.
"I thought, 'Who is this woman with the cat?' It was like something out of 'Harold and Maude,' " Lewis said. "I got to know them, and I'll be honest, I'd never seen such love between a person and an animal. Roza just has such a big heart."
Up from depression
Caring for Miss Tuxedo helped jolt Katovitch from her depression, enough to apply for affordable housing. Last year she won a unit at a complex in San Mateo, and she moved in December.
Her roommate? Miss Tuxedo.
"I got permission to bring her," Katovitch said. "My doctor said my life depended on it. I guess it does."
Author: Carolyn Jones
Originally published on sfgate,com. Reposted with permission of the author.
This article was originally discovered and sent to Marjorie Skiba by Seeking Shelter fan Jules V.