My much beloved cat, Lucy, passed away last week.
We adopted her seventeen years ago, right after we moved into our house. We had a special bond, Lucy and I. All I needed to do was sit next to her to coax her into an enthusiastic purr and it was tough — is tough — to see her go. It would be even tougher if she hadn’t paid me a visit a few days after she died.
Coincidentally, last fall I’d purchased several iBooks on animal communications and spirituality. On some level I must have known Lucy didn’t have much time left, but I was nonetheless devastated two months ago to learn she had a rare form of pancreatic cancer. I was hoping Lucy would be one of those cats that you hear about that live into their twenties, but that was not meant to be.
It turns out that this sort of cancer is untreatable and that cats that have it don’t live very long. Thus the pain meds, steroid shots, and nightly subcutaneous liquid feedings began, all in an effort to make her last weeks more comfortable. The vet gave her two to four months to live.
I spent my spare time near the bedroom window where Lucy liked to sit in the sunlight. There I’d read or write or just be in the moment with her. I started reading some of those iBooks on animals and spirituality that I bought all those months ago. I started with a few chapters of Animals in Spirit by Penelope Smith, before moving on to the highly recommended Animals and the Afterlife by Kim Sheridan. Lucy loved all the attention (if not the nightly subcutaneous feedings) and I had a chance to enjoy her presence as her life drew to a close. I even had a chance to do an animal communication session with Joan Ranquet, a Hay House author and the animal communications teacher whose class I’d taken a year ago for a novel I was researching.
As June turned to July, I started to get uneasy. I was scheduled to attend a writers conference in New York, one which I had already paid a lot of money to attend. If Lucy was still around, I’d have to leave her, not knowing if I’d ever see her again.
The weekend before I was to leave, Lucy grew weaker. I sense the life ebbing from her. She didn’t seem to be in pain, but her limbs grew stiff. Cold. The process began Saturday and continued through the night. By Sunday morning, she could barely move. I spent the morning letting her know I was there, but she lingered, and by Monday morning it became clear that she would need assistance in passing. During a peaceful visit to the animal hospital, she died in my arms.
The sense of loss was complete. For seventeen years, Lucy had been a part of that house and now it seemed utterly empty. Her timing had been uncanny. Within twenty-four hours, I was on a flight to New York where I could distance myself from that emptiness and get lost in the bustle of a busy writers conference.
On the second night in New York, I returned to the hotel and opened iBooks with the intention of looking up some of the books I’d been hearing about at the conference. Strangely, a book I hadn’t read for two months came up: Animals in Spirit by Penelope Smith. It was impossible, because I’d read a half-dozen books since I’d last read it, yet it come up automatically, as if I’d just been perusing it. It was Chapter 7: Guilt and Grieving:
“When animals enter our life, we start on a journey filled with adventure, learning, and love. The animals reach deep into us and change us in ways that can hardly be described. We grow in love. And upon their leaving, we are lost, devastated. Over time, we explore the story and see the meaning, and stand in awe of these remarkable beings. What an honor they give us when they walk a part of our lives with us.”
The chapter went on to describe the death and dying process from the animal’s point of view and suggested exercises for coping with and letting go of the experience. It was just what I needed to hear, almost as if Lucy was trying to send me a message and help my grieving process from wherever she was.
A few nights later, when I was in that state between dreaming and waking, she really did return to give me messages, this time more direct. I’m always with you, she said again and again. I love you. I love you. I love you.
But perhaps the most stirring was this: I’ll be back.
Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.