Sometimes it seems that the world is rushing forward very fast. I try to stay in the present (a never-ending practice; I don’t always succeed). But I also have moments where I’ll realize something like, “Geez, Milo passed on X years ago, and I haven’t thought much about him for quite a while!”
(Milo, FYI, was a street-smart orange cat who passed on quite some time ago, and yes, I haven’t thought about him for a while. That kind of blows me away when I realize this. Because Milo, just like every other animal in this family of mine, was a huge part of my life.)
How is it possible to forget so quickly? Maybe some of us don’t forget so quickly, but sometimes I feel as if I forget too quickly. (I realize, also, that there may be a complexity to this that I’m not aware of — perhaps some of us want to forget quickly to avoid the pain of remembering.)
Maybe this is part of the natural letting-go process, but I’m always more than a little surprised when I have this realization. So, purposefully or not, I’ve created some rituals in my life that help me remember these special cats. These actions really do bring the happy memories of these cats alive, even just for a moment. Somehow it seems that a cat gives us so much in her life. That bond is significant, and I want to keep honoring it — even when the cat is gone.
Here are some of the things I’ve done, intentionally or not, that bring cats and their memories alive in my mind.
It might be fun to sit down with a trusted, cat-loving friend, exclusively to tell stories about a cat who is no longer with you. Much like parents or grandparents reminisce about cute things that their children did, why can’t we do the same things with our cats? My husband and I still laugh about a funny memory of Milo stealing raw venison off the counter, running around the house, and growling with it. Or how well Jamie rode shoulders. Or how Karma sat outside, with her back to the house, before we tempted her in. Or how Kali loved to press her face close and hard to mine. All these things are treasured memories, and speaking them out loud makes them alive.
We have special songs for many of our cats — cats who are here and cats who have passed on. Nothing brings back the memory of a cat faster than his song. Target (our loving, extroverted black cat), for example, had a disco song we sang to him. If I sing that song, Target comes alive. I can see him lighting up, dancing and excited.
A massage therapist taught me this. Target had just passed on. I was grieving and decided to treat myself to a massage (my favorite way to try to make things better). I was telling the therapist about how Target would possessively take his arms across my husband’s chest, and how so typically “Target” that was. (Target and my husband had a special bond.) “Do it,” said the therapist. “Be Target.” I put my arms out, just as Target did. Darned if I didn’t feel just like Target at that moment. If you are a body person, you will find this powerful.
If you like to write, this is loads of fun. I was doing this before I realized I was doing it. I often bring my own cats (deceased or alive) into my own cat fantasy short stories and books. It is so much fun to create their characters, because I know them so well. And it does bring them alive. You can do this no matter what you write — fiction, poetry, essays, articles, journaling, whatever.
If you are a visual artist (I am not) or even if you have a little bit of talent in these areas (I don’t), you can draw or paint, even sculpt, a likeness of your cat. If you want this and you don’t have the ability to do it, many good artists will create a likeness for you, using a photograph. I have a beautiful mandala featuring my first cat Tigger, painted by a loved artist friend — it hangs right over my desk.
Of course we move on, and perhaps painful parting memories soften (I hope) over time. But we often memorialize our loved humans who have passed on — so why not our cats?
Have you intentionally honored or kept alive a loved memory of a cat somehow? Tell us how in the comments.
More by Catherine Holm:
About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.