I love storytelling. I think it is a powerful way to capture details and special moments in life, and to let traditions live on. Storytelling, to me, describes life, love, the human condition, and everything that is worth noticing. Whether you do your storytelling by writing, speaking out loud, or even capturing stories via other artistic expression, the results can all be equally powerful.
I had never thought of using storytelling to celebrate the life of one of my cats, but the opportunity recently came about quite accidentally. Exhausted one night after running a workshop for women, and on the one-year anniversary of a special cat’s death, I was alone in a cabin in the woods at the retreat center where I worked. I was drifting off to sleep in one of the cabin bunk beds, and I thought of my black cat Target. He’d been on my mind all day, as he’d passed on one year ago. Without even realizing what I was doing, I began to speak his story, out loud.
“Dear Target,” I started, “I first saw you at the Humane Society …”
Honestly, it may have been several hours later by the time I finished telling the story of Target’s life, out loud, to no one but the trees and the walls of the cabin. But it was a very powerful experience, and it gave me a sense of release and closure around my Target’s exit from my life.
Somehow the silence of the woods and the trees around me made my experience very powerful. But powerful storytelling can happen anywhere. If you want to tell the story of your cat, maybe these tips will help you! There’s no right or wrong way to do this. You can draw it, dance it, speak it out loud, write it down — whatever works best with you and your style of expression. And, you can tell the story of your cat even if she is still alive. We don’t need to wait until our cats are gone to celebrate their lives.
Here’s five tips to telling your cat’s story:
1. Start at the beginning
How did you come to know your cat? Did you meet her for the first time at a shelter? Was she rescued? Was she a tiny kitten or a full-sized adult? What was the first thing you noticed about him or her? Why did you choose her and how did she react to you? Where were you? You’d be surprised at the detail you’ll remember when you do this. In some cases, it’s almost like you’re right back in that moment, meeting your cat for the first time.
2. Remember the details
What made this cat unique? Did he have a special meow? Did he love people? Fetch a cat ball and bring it back? Know when you were sick and how to comfort you? What did your cat’s fur feel like? Did she have special markings? Here’s where you get to remember everything that was or is special about your cat! Bring her story to life.
3. Capture the amazing moments
There doubtlessly were special high points in your life with your cat, so be sure to include these in your story! These are part of what makes the time with your cat unique.
4. Don’t be afraid of emotion
Emotions are bound to surface as you work through your storytelling. That’s not a bad thing! You may laugh, cry (I certainly did), and all sorts of stuff may come up. While it may feel immense, it’s probably healthier than trying to repress these very natural feelings.
5. Mix up your media!
Your story doesn’t have to all be in writing. Maybe there’s a part of it that can be danced or acted out through your body. Maybe, instead, you draw your story.
In my cat’s case, there was a particular way that Target loved to sprawl on my husband’s chest. Target had a very possessive yet teasing way of being on my husband. It was like my cat was saying, “This human is mine, and no one else’s.” When I was telling the story of Target, I moved my arms in the same way Target held his legs as he sprawled across my husband’s chest. For that moment, I felt I embodied Target. Try it! This is the magic of dance and drama.
5. Decide where you want it to end
The story can end wherever you want. It may end at the end of your cat’s life. Or perhaps your cat is alive and you both live “happily ever after.” This is your story and your cat’s story — you get artistic license!
Do you tell your cat’s story? If so, how? Share your insights in comments!
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