Writing Advice from my Departed Cat

Two weeks ago I received a message from my departed cat, Lucy.

I was interviewing Joan Ranquet for Author Magazine Online. Joan is the Hay House author of Communications with All Life: Revelations of an Animal Communicator. Joan also happened to be in Seattle last June, just a few weeks prior to my seventeen-year-old cat’s passing.

Lucy had been sick for some months with pancreatic cancer. I had been doing my best to make her comfortable and wanted to check in with her while there was still time. Joan stopped by for a session with Lucy and it was satisfying to learn how my care was making Lucy feel better. Lucy died exactly two weeks later.

I heard from Lucy in the days following her passing (chronicled in part in “The Passing of an Old Friend“) and, although she hasn’t been physically hanging around the house, I feel Lucy’s presence often. Two weeks ago, when my interview with Joan drew to a close, I couldn’t resist asking her if we could check in with Lucy.

There was a pause at the other end of the line. Then she said, “If Lucy had arms, she would put them around you. She’s is taking care of you in ways that I know you are already aware of.  She really just wants you to know that everything is fine. And she thinks you’re on the right path.”

All very nice to hear. Lucy thinks I’m on the right path. Very reassuring. But part of me was disappointed at how generic that answer had been. It had been a vanilla message that boiled down to “I love you.” Anyone could have said it.

But then Joan added something that made those few sentence sparkle with meaning. “She thinks there is a second novel – I don’t know what you’re currently writing – she thinks that there something else that’s been shelved that she thinks might happen first and that you may want to look at that.”

Hmmm. This stumped me. I quickly dismissed my first three novels, a science fiction trilogy. Maybe it was Miles the Cat, a children’s story I’d penned a few years back. But it was most likely Oversoul, Inc., a novel I’d finished in 2007 about a spirit guide.  “Interesting. That could be two different things.”

“Okay,” Joan answered, “which one has a bunch of history in it?”

“It’s a book called Oversoul, Inc.,” I started to say, but…  History? It had a parallel narrative, one of which took place in the 1950s. Did that qualify as “a bunch of history”?

Then it occurred to me. I’d started writing a novel about two boys who run away from their home in Cooperstown, New York, to join the Union Army. It was a book I’d put aside to write the current young adult novel that my agent was presently circulating to editors in New York. I started to tell Joan this, when she stumbled over me and we said almost simultaneously something about the Civil War.

“Yeah,” Joan said. “That one. What are you doing with that one?”

“It’s been put on a shelf.”

“Well, she thinks you should at least dust it off and take a look at it next.”

“Okay.”

It occurred to me later that there was no way Joan could have known about that novel. If she’d just been fishing, why hadn’t she just bitten at Oversoul, Inc. when I first mentioned it? It validated Lucy’s entire message.

So, my cat has an opinion on my writing. What a wonderful universe we live in when your cat can offer career advice from the Other Side.

I read an account in Kim Sheridan’s book, Animals in the Afterlife, about a woman who went to a medium to connect with a passed loved one. During the session, the woman’s former cat (who had died some time before) had come through with a message. The cat warned the woman that there was something wrong with the tires on her car and when the woman later had it checked out, the information proved correct. But that’s not the cool part. When the woman later listened to the audio recording of her reading with the medium, she heard the perfectly clear sound of a cat meowing, a sound that hadn’t been present when the session took place.

I suppose if a cat can alert her former owner about possible catastrophic vehicular malfunction from the Other Side, then my cat Lucy can offer writing advice.

Please listen to my full interview with Joan on Author Magazine’s website.

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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The Search Continues

Suffice it to say that my cat, Wilson, has had a bad summer.

All through May and June he watched with me as our seventeen year old cat, Lucy — the matriarch of the family — grew sicker and sicker, finally succumbing to pancreatic cancer at the beginning of July.

It’s been almost six weeks and still, every night, he searches for her. He starts at the top of the stairs to the basement, gazing into the shadowy abyss and calling sadly into the dark. Then he descends, searching, searching, his mews growing more strained as he moves about without success.

I told a friend about his behavior a few weeks ago and she suggested I sit down and have a talk with him. As ludicrous as that sounds, the idea wasn’t without merit. Last year I’d read several books written by professional animal communicators for a novel I was writing. I’d even gone as far as taking an animal communication class from one of them, Joan Ranquet, author of Communication with All Life.

One of the big takeaways from my research was this: Animals understand far more than might seem possible. Much of their communications is accomplished through a sixth-sense telepathy that starts to make a lot of sense the more you research and experience it. When this is the main method that animals gather information, it opens them up to discovering and understanding a great deal of things.

I read one account of a yellow lab who had become distraught upon the death of the ailing grandparent living at the house. The dog was sulky and didn’t eat for weeks, until the family had a ceremony that included the dogs. During the ceremony, the dogs’ guardians piled several items of the deceased grandfather’s clothes in the middle of the room and said prayers for him in what amounted to a memorial service. During the service, the yellow lab sat on the old man’s former clothes. When it was over, the dog took the grandfather’s hat and shredded it to pieces. When he was finished, the dog walked away, seemingly satisfied. Within a day the dog seemed his old self and began eating normally.

With this in mind, a few nights later I noticed Wilson gazing longingly toward the basement door. I said, “Where did Lucy go, Wilson? Wouldn’t it be nice if we found her again?” As I said this, a picture came into my mind of Wilson trotting over to Lucy and licking her happily on her head. Wilson can be something of a dog at times.

“Honey,” I said, “Lucy died. She’s not coming back.” Something about saying it out loud like that made my stomach spin. Possibilities of reincarnating pets aside, Lucy as we knew her was gone.

Wilson seemed to contemplate this. For the next few days he stopped searching the basement or calling out sadly. Maybe our talk had had some effect.

But no, a few days after that, the searching resumed and only let up when Wilson had a flair up with allergies that required the vet to shave the side of his body to conduct allergy testing. With the help of medication, Wilson’s feeling better now; but his desperation to find Lucy has grown more urgent. He’s even taken to looking for her in the mornings.

He’s a loyal little critter, I’ve give him that.

Has anyone had any experience with a grieving pet? Do you have any advice?

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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Wilson, a Cat in Mourning

Three weeks ago my cat of seventeen years, Lucy, died of pancreatic cancer. I’ve missed her terribly, but it has impacted our youngest cat, Wilson, especially hard.

Lucy ebbed away over the weekend in early July but, in the end, she needed a vet’s assistance to pass. All that weekend our other cats, Mrs. Claws (11) and Wilson (6) watched her get weaker and weaker until those last hours, when Lucy could no longer move. At some level I thought when we left the house with Lucy early that Monday morning, the other cats understood that she wasn’t coming back home.

The day after Lucy left us, I was on a plane for New York, happily distracted by a busy writers conference for the rest of the week. Both cats did fine while I was away, but when I returned at the end of the week, Wilson started searching the house. It was almost as if he’d seen Lucy and me leave at the same time, so he concluded that we’d return at the same time, too.

Wilson was Lucy’s buddy. He’d often follow her around the house. And if Lucy meowed with anything like distress, Wilson would be there beside her in seconds, as if to make sure she was okay.

I didn’t realize it, but a routine had developed during the last years of Lucy’s life. At night when the lights when out for sleep, Wilson would go down to the basement, where Lucy liked to spend her evenings, and together they would come up to the main floor.

Now that I was back from New York, Wilson was doing the same thing but now… No Lucy.

Bedtime. The lights go out. There is a quiet moment before sleep. And then it begins: the most pathetic, plaintive mews down from the basement; sad cries that move from one corner of the house to the other, as if Wilson is moving around down there, searching for Lucy in the dark.

Sometimes during the evenings, Wilson sits at the top of the stairs to the basement, watching, occasionally crying out sadly. And when I started my workout routine again (also in the basement), it made my heart crinkle up into a ball to watch him meow forlornly in the storage area, searching the nooks and hidey holes. Lucy always used to watch my workouts. She must be here somewhere, right?

I’ve been making an extra effort to play with Wilson and he’s been making an extra effort to keep me company. We’ll learn to live on without Lucy. Together.

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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The Passing of an Old Friend

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.

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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