Posted in cats, death

Death can’t erase Nikki from the world.

Nikki in a kittyloaf position staring straight at the camera.
Nikki in a kittyloaf position staring straight at the camera.

Once you have existed, nothing can erase you from existence.

I’ve been thinking about Nikki.  Nikki is always in existence because she can’t be removed once she is there.  She may not be here, in this place, this time, where we can see her.

But she is here when she was kitty larva.

And she is here when she was a kitten exploring the world and forming her personality.

And she is here as she went into that gangly-legged elongated kitten phase.

And she is here as she became an adult cat, just barely.

And she is here as she matured into a real adult cat, and then matured further.

And she is here as she became middle–aged, for a cat.

And she is here as she got old.

And every single one of those things is part of her existence.

She is there sick and she is there healthy.

She is there in every mood she’s ever been in, everything she’s ever done.

It’s all indelibly marked onto the pieces of existence she was around for.

And somewhere in some other time those things always exist.

They can’t unexist.

And that’s besides all the people who cared about her, the people she cared about, the dog she fought with even over Skype, the trio of formerly-feral-kittens she grudgingly accepted and then loved and protected, the houses she protected, the Cat Things she got up to on her own that humans can’t possibly know about that had immense value to the world.

All of these things still exist because things don’t unexist just because time rolls on.

And now, she is buried just under the roots of a tree, and will physically go on to nourish all the things underground that will decompose her, and I think that’s beautiful.

And the less tangible aspects of who she was, that fiercely independent, stubborn, protective, dutiful on  her own terms, hard-to-sum-up personality she had, will go on in other ways just like she’s nourishing the plants and bacteria and fungus in the ground.  All those things get distilled into a particular expression of love that goes on to affect the world.  (This is not as separate from decomposition as it seems.  I’m working with the English language here.)

don’t just want to remember her when she was ‘in the prime of her life’ or something.  Everyone always wants to do that for some reason.  I want to remember her at every phase of her life.  I want to remember her when she was dying just as much as I want to remember her before that.  And I want to remember her during the long phase of chronic health problems that went on years before her death.  Like most people, she wasn’t always healthy, and pretending that part of her life didn’t happen doesn’t work for me.  She’s everything she ever was at every stage of her life, not just one piece of it.

I have my own ideas about what goes on (or not) after death, but they’re only ideas, and that’s all any of us can have.  I think people can forget how individual and powerful and not-to-be-fucked-with-sacred and important each person’s death is.  Death makes life possible, is impossible to separate from life, and is not the enemy.  But life matters.

And… most of what I’m talking about here, doesn’t require any particular set of beliefs about what happens after death.  Just that if you take time a certain way, the way we exist now is marked upon existence forever, both in right now and in the ripple effects we cause, which never go away.

So Nikki is gone, to us, right now, and that is cause for grief at the separation.

But all through her life, every moment of her life, is still there in the time Nikki was in when she was alive.  And everything and everyone she affected is still being affected.  And in those ways she can’t be un-existed just because she’s dead.

I’ve been meaning to write a series of posts about how I think about death.  Which is extremely complicated in some ways.  But this is how I feel when someone I know dies.  And this is how I feel about Nikki right now.

Posted in cats, death, poetry

R.I.P. Nikki

Nikki, a Siamese cat, looking watchful from a tree branch.
Nikki, a Siamese cat, looking watchful from a tree branch.

My best friend’s cat Nikki just died.  Nikki was an amazing cat, and very complicated and hard to sum up easily.  She was a lot like Fey in parts of her personality and body language, but Fey was a Gryffindor and Nikki was a Slytherin, for whatever reason.  She was, to my knowledge, 17, the same age as Fey when she died.

My favorite thing Anne ever wrote about her was Nikki the Guarding Cat.  There’s also Meet the Cats: Nikki.

She always lived her own way, and died her own way, fortunately peacefully while unconscious, despite it being bowel cancer.  She seemed to be in less and less pain towards the end, which is oddly how my father experienced his death from cancer.  (Not what you’d expect, but it happens.  He had no pain the last two weeks of his life, he said it just vanished and never came back.)

She was in many YouTube videos like these, with Brodie (who is Hufflepuff to the core):

He was the first of the younger cats (a trio of formerly feral littermates) to be able to approach her because his social skills are amazing and he gave her the respect she commanded.  (She always acted a little like royalty and expected to be treated as such.)

Brodie and Nikki touching foreheads with love and respect.
Brodie and Nikki touching foreheads with love and respect.

Brodie actually, while she was dying, mirrored her movements for 20 minutes one night, almost as if to show her that he’d be able to take over guard duty when she was gone and she didn’t have to worry about that.

All the other three cats (Coraline, Brodie, and Shadow) clustered around her and kept watch while she was dying.

Nikki on the couch she spent most of her time on while dying, with Brodie, Coraline, and Shadow all lying down nearby keeping an eye on her.
Nikki on the couch she spent most of her time on while dying, with Brodie, Coraline, and Shadow all lying down nearby keeping an eye on her and keeping her company.

Anyway, the only poem I can offer in tribute to her is by Longfellow, “The Light of Stars”:

The night is come, but not too soon;
  And sinking silently,
All silently, the little moon
  Drops down behind the sky.

There is no light in earth or heaven
  But the cold light of stars;
And the first watch of night is given
  To the red planet Mars.

Is it the tender star of love?
  The star of love and dreams?
O no! from that blue tent above,
  A hero’s armor gleams.

And earnest thoughts within me rise,
  When I behold afar,
Suspended in the evening skies,
  The shield of that red star.

O star of strength! I see thee stand
  And smile upon my pain;
Thou beckonest with thy mailèd hand,
  And I am strong again.

Within my breast there is no light
  But the cold light of stars;
I give the first watch of the night
  To the red planet Mars.

The star of the unconquered will,
  He rises in my breast,
Serene, and resolute, and still,
  And calm, and self-possessed.

And thou, too, whosoe’er thou art,
  That readest this brief psalm,
As one by one thy hopes depart,
  Be resolute and calm.

O fear not in a world like this,
  And thou shalt know erelong,
Know how sublime a thing it is
  To suffer and be strong.

 

Nikki, an elderly Siamese cat, on the couch.
Nikki on the couch.
Nikki standing on a fence watchfully, underneath her there is a red “BEWARE OF DOG” Sign that has been altered with yellow paper to read “BEWARE OF CAT“.

I would indeed beware of Nikki.  A cat who can never be summed up no matter what you do.  May she rest in peace.

Posted in death, poetry

R.I.P. Peri

Peri, the Iron Parrot as we called her, because of her ability to survive damn near anything, has died of fatty liver disease. May she rest in peace.

And I can only give her this poem that I wrote to her when we were sure she was dying before, but she wasn’t done yet.

Now, it is hard to imagine my friend Laura without this parrot, the two of them were a pair. They went together somehow.

Anyway, all I have to give is this poem and these pictures.  I’ll miss her.  A lot.

Over the trees
I see
A flock of birds
Made out of nothing but light
A flock of birds
Waiting for your final flight
So don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid when they come
They’re only coming
To welcome you home
When it’s time to fly away
Then fly away
Don’t hold out too long
Trying to stay
You have the whole of eternity
To fly into
And everyone there
Will join with you
So when you know it’s time
And you’ll know
Fly away
Leave us behind
Our love will ensure
We won’t be long behind you now
We won’t be long behind
Behind you now

Peri, a Quaker parrot, standing on her cage with her back to the camera.
Peri with her back to the camera.
Peri, a Quaker parrot, standing on her cage dancing a little.
Peri dancing with me on her cage.