It was normal for the local orphanage if one day a new member showed up on their doorstep, in a diaper.
But it was not normal at all if that happened at a nursing home.
Yet it occurred frequently at Sister Laurence's Home for the Aged. Every so often, an elderly person would appear at the threshold and beg for shelter.
Sister Laurence did not complain about this. Raised in Istanbul, she believed it was improper to ask guests who they were before feeding them a lavish meal.
That was why she always accepted the elderly who arrived at her door, no questions asked about where they came from.
But it also meant the costs of running the home were never quite covered. The meager donations from townspeople and government subsidies were too little. Fortunately, none of the elderly ever stayed at Sister Laurence's for very long. They would typically die after 2 to 3 months.
That was an advantage of a nursing home over an orphanage - the residents would not overstay. At Sister Laurence's, everything ran smoothly, precisely on schedule. For instance, just days after someone new arrived, a death would occur. And the room of the deceased would be given to the newcomer.
Most of their passing was unremarkable: they would slip away peacefully in their sleep. It was as if their soul had suddenly departed from their body to some faraway realm. And it was the gentlest death one could imagine.
Yet there was one commonality. Those nearing death would often speak of dreaming about a cat. A cartoonish cat, with an eerie grin and odd facial expressions. The world they dreamed of was also cartoonish. And the cat ruled over this animated world.
They would describe the dreamland eagerly, as if it were a profound nostalgia. It felt like their true home, unlike the world they lived in, even the home of their upbringing. Upon waking, some would even speak of the sensation of being born into the wrong world. Indeed, most had lived an entire lifetime feeling, as they put it: "From birth, I sensed this was not my home," and only had the feeling of being home after the dream with the cat. They would say they wanted to "go back home."
And go back home they would, just days later.
The nursing home residents would even hold cheerful little farewell gatherings whenever someone announced "The cat has come for me." To them, it was like an angel of God sent to retrieve them for heaven.
Sister Laurence made no comment about this. She figured all was natural, and thanked the peculiar cat, if it’s real, for bestowing these poor souls with a wonderful respite from their wretched lives.