We got him from a cat rescue program. In retrospect, I'm not sure he should have been taken from his home - he was a very tame, very affectionate kitten who had a habit of wandering and lived in a rough neighborhood - but since that allowed us to meet him, I don't complain too much.
When I first saw him, I leapt on him and held him, exclaiming about how cute he was. I'm sure I overwhelmed him, but I couldn't help it. Once I calmed down somewhat, we started on the process of becoming friends.
He was so playful and quirky, like most kittens are. I'd send bottlecaps, quarters or small balls sliding across the floor, and he'd race after them, not bothering to be quiet. He used to run into the empty tub and chase his tail there, until we realized he'd taken to licking our toothbrushes and banned him from the bathroom. He had a habit of overcoming his fears - if something scared him, he'd avoid it for awhile, and then he'd become obsessed with it. He did this with our basement, for example.
He, quite simply, loved everyone, regardless of species. If a human came to visit, he'd come up and say hi (the only one he shied away from was the vet). My Mom let him play with our pet rats, and he'd pounce on their tails and lick them obsessively, but never hurt them. He took to new cats upon meeting them. When we moved him to our small town home and introduced him to our cranky tortoiseshell, she disliked him, but he gradually won her over.
And as he grew, he got more affectionate. He still had a habit of doing 'drive by cuddles', as we called them, but more and more he'd do long cuddles as well, or join us in bed. And he purred often and readily.
But something happened. We're still not quite sure what. For a few days, he had a bruise on his nose and was acting unusually nervous. I guessed that he'd hurt his nose and this had scared him, and tried my best to comfort him. He seemed to be getting better, and we let him go back outside again.
Then we left for our weekend visit with Mom (she is working in another town, so we have to have two households). After one of our previous cats got hit by a car while we were away, we'd decided to make the cats stay inside when we were gone, but we couldn't find him. Hoping he was just hiding, we finally decided to leave.
When we got back, we searched for him, but still couldn't find him. Then our elderly, hard of hearing neighbor, who has a cat of her own, came over. She told us that he often came to visit her, and she'd play with him. She told us that while we were gone, he came to see her and he was not feeling well - listless and unhappy. She made him a box to curl up in, and tried to give him food, but he wouldn't eat it. She didn't have any way to contact us, but she did her best to care for him. And then he died, and she put him in a metal box and left him on our property. She showed us where.
We don't know what killed him. He might have been hit by a car. Another neighbor of ours has a rat infestation, and he might have eaten a poisoned rat. It's the right time of year for anti-freeze spills, too. We don't know what happened to him, and we don't know if our other cat and our neighbor's cat are safe.
So both us and our neighbor are keeping the surviving cats inside. And we've taken his body to the necropsy lab at the vet's, so they can tell us what killed him. But the answer won't bring back my dear friend. He's gone forever, taken from us in his prime.