Imani is the word for Faith in the Kwanzaa celebration.

I didn't know that Imani meant Faith until this week when I saw a beautiful Kwanzaa quilt at the Charleston Art Museum.

When I was first in college, I lived with my Grandmother, who had Alzheimer's. I also had, at that time, a cat named Cassandra who had had a litter of kittens. While Cassandra lived most of her life as an outdoor cat, catching all of her own food, she became too slow in her last few weeks of pregnancy and I brought her into my room to have the kittens.

Grandma had two cats of her own - Eleanor and Franklin. She was at the stage in Alzheimer's where things got confusing, especially at night. So for a period, when the kittens were young and still in the house, she would wake me up every night complaining about a cat in her room. This would happen between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM. I tried to take it good naturedly, at first explaining that only Franklin and Eleanor were there, and all of my cats were in my room.

She insisted that there was a third cat in the room, and we would stay awake for a while, looking for it under the bed, in the closet, etc.

Finally, frustrated with this and wanting to get back to bed sooner, I decided to create an imaginary cat, catch it (substituting one of my kittens), and remove it. I named the imaginary cat Imani. So, each night, late when it was dark, Grandma and I would find Imani somewhere in her room, and I would take the imaginary kitten away.

As annoyed as I was by the late night disturbances, I now regret deeply that I could not take better care of my Grandma. That I could not cure her, or ease the pain of her disease. All I could offer her was an imaginary cat. What an amazing thing that the cat's name was Faith.

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