lovely, happy, mercat queen
May 25, 2012. No comments.
So now she lies by the garden wall where the sun lingers at the end of the day, crowned with forget-me-nots – my little mercat queen.
That’s what we called her in those last days as she bravely pulled herself around on only her two front legs, looking a bit like a mermaid who forgot to leave her tail at sea, or a queen hindered by a heavy processional train, or if you like – a very disabled cat.
Funny, it wasn’t that I thought she might not be long for this world when I wrote about her less than a month ago – because I didn’t want to think that. And she was well enough. But a little part of me sensed it, and looking back I sort of knew. Like cats know.
For a few days life was more Cat than human, and it was a good way to live. Lying in the grass watching the birds I promised myself that once in a while I would remember to do this even when she was gone. Just be. Listen. In cat world Here and Now is enough. The smell of cut grass. The warmth of the sun. Birdsong. A wordless world. Then, just as I was wondering where I would bury her when the time came, she pulled herself up and checked out a few places by the wall, finally settling on a spot by the jasmine (where I once found 3 bicycles in need of repair), lay down on the earth for a few minutes and then meowed at me. I was left in no doubt on the matter, and with that cleared up we both went inside for a bite to eat.
She didn’t suffer pain or go mad, but even so, there were those whose opinion it was that I should have her put her to sleep. It’s as if – as soon as things start packing up – we should get this death thing over and done with as quickly as possible. It’s messy and it makes people uncomfortable. It annoys me in much the same way it annoys me that old people often get hurried off to nursing homes to be pumped full of drugs with no regard to the things they may need around them to nourish their soul. It seems to me that “Quality of life”is a subjective phrase. There are fully functioning humans walking around this planet half dead inside, and disabled ones who’s heart’s still soar.
So no, I decided that unless she became clearly distressed I would trust nature to it’s own ways.
Though frolicking and catching mice were now out of the question, she took great delight in eating freshly cooked salmon and getting her whiskers covered in clotted cream (and then falling over trying to wipe it off – balancing on one leg is not easy, even for a yogic cat). She purred when I sang, and if the weather was good she would ask to be carried outside to watch tiny insects or bat flies and humour me by playing with a twig, kitten-like, for a few minutes before lying down for a rest.
Like the line in a Rilke poem “where everything shines as it disappears” (or is it that I slowed down enough to really appreciate that which shines…knowing it is disappearing??) the spark that made her such a beautiful and wise old cat never left her. She shone until she faded away. As naturally as breathing. And then, not breathing.
That’s what my folks told me, who were very kindly looking after her while I was miles away up north on tour. I didn’t get the message for another 3 hours, but for some reason I woke up at the exact time she died. That sort of thing dosn’t surprise me these days. Like finding I’d scribbled down some dates from a dream I had last month and it turns out they mark the beginning and end of her passing.
She had timed it perfectly of course. I returned home to find her lying “in state” all peaceful and serene under my Granny’s old towel looking like she had quite literally curled up and died. We had just enough time to dig a hole in the designated place (so much earth, yet so little more depth!) and make a coffin out of my wooden shoe box before night fell.
Claudia was buried at dusk on the night of the annual solar eclipse. There was candlelight and cava and a little singing (I think she would have forgiven the out of tune ukulele….just this once).
A fitting farewell to one who brought such beauty, joy and companionship to my world for 17 years, and showed me how to watch birds and always seek out a warm patch of sun.