Merlin came to me on a retrograde mercury 12 years ago. He stuck his head out his rescue carrier, saw me lying on the couch and immediately made himself at home on my tummy. He was starving and so head shy, he'd clearly been badly abused. My eyes teared and my throat constricted – I was allergic to him. I’d never been allergic to a cat before.
“What’s your name? I asked. He yawned. “You’re not very pretty, are you?” He started to purr. He was so long, stretching from my chest to my knees.
I couldn’t let Merlin sleep in my room because of the allergy. I seriously couldn’t breathe. So that first night I closed the French doors, and propped a box full of crusader candles in front of them to keep them closed. Merlin spent the next couple of hours shoulder butting the doors trying to get in. He’d finally give up and go sleep with my roommate, the large, drinking woman whose personal habits left something to be desired, He threw up on her pillow.
I spent the next week trying to get someone to take him. Partially because of the allergy, and partially because I didn’t want to take care of anything anymore. I’d been a single mom living in Brooklyn, in an apartment I loved beyond all reason, raising a son, who I loved beyond all reason, with a cat who was the sweetest piece of my soul come to life. Life however, being life, quaked. My son went to college, I had to move, and Tasha Diana Greymalkin died. The entire structure of my life cracked, the tawdry affair with the firefighter destroyed anything that was left, and I moved to Jersey. For work, I’d been hired as a healer.
After 35 years of living in New York, moving to Jersey clearly meant I’d died and gone to hell. Nothing could have been further from the resentful truth. I had consistent work as a healer, Karen would ultimately hire me to do readings at the witch store, and I was teaching the craft and doing workshops out of my home. Some of the best friends I’ve ever made, in my 65 years on the planet, live in Jersey. I had no love life to speak of, which after the firefighter was an extraordinary relief, but I had a circle of witches, a group of heartfelt soul friends, that touched and changed my life in ways too numerous to go into here. I also made a few enemies along the way but hey, if everybody loves you, clearly you’re doing something wrong.
My friend Marjorie said, she’d take Merlin. He still didn’t have his name (Merlin) he was just “the cat.” One of Marjorie’s cats had died and her living kitty needed a playmate. The cat rescuer came to pick up Merlin. When he saw her, he leaned against my legs, and gave me such a stricken look, I felt just terrible. A week later, Marjorie called the cat rescue lady and said she couldn’t keep Merlin because he was trying to kill her cat. When the cat rescue lady told me, I said, “Just bring him here. I’ll keep him till we find someone else.” The truth is I’d missed him; I was not prepared to miss him but I did. Merlin got out of the carrier and looked at me, his eyes whirling in their sockets. “Just think of it as a bad acid trip,” I told him.
That night as I lay in bed - eyes tearing, throat constricted, the cat throwing himself against closed French doors, held shut by the box of crusader candles – I prayed. “Lady if you want me to keep this cat, please lift the allergy.” The next morning when I woke up the allergy was gone. I’d love to say, and then we lived happily ever after. Not exactly.
I needed to figure out his name because he really didn't like being called, 'the cat.' This process consisted of reading through a book of baby names and calling him by the ones that appealed to me. I must have gone through 75 names, when I decided, “Fuck this, let’s go for Gods.” Taliesin didn’t work, neither did Lugh, but when I called him Merlin he looked at me as if to say, “Finally, stupid human.” He then committed to killing me.
I spent a great deal of time on-line, reading posts about how to live with an aggressive cat. I was used to Tasha, the sweetest cat in the entire world. Tasha scratched me once in all the years that I had her, used to gently head butt me awake before my alarm went off, and my son accused me of loving her more than him on numerous occasions. Tasha was a love biter, but it was truly a love bite, very gentle, and something to look forward too. Not so with Merlin. He bit and scratched to maim, and he lived to attack. He’d be sitting in the kitchen, I’d say, "Hey baby," and he’d leap for my jugular. I’d be walking through the second bedroom, and he’d fly across the floor and leap, grabbing onto my thigh. My right thumb is still 2 sizes larger than my left because one of those leaps knocked me down. It was either my face or my thumb and I opted for the thumb. Another time when he flew at me, I whomped my baby toe against the door, and there it was, hanging off the side of my foot like a little flipper. When I could finally bring myself to look at it, I knew to tape the baby toe to the toe next to it. It’s still kinda fat and funny looking to this day.
It was a quite a shock to find out that Merlin was a phenomenal healer. No one was more surprised than me when I gave a Reiki workshop and Merlin jumped up on the table and laid on top the person being reiki-ed. Someone asked if I was going to move him and I said, “No, I’m scared to death of him.” When the person being treated was done, Merlin jumped off. When the next person laid down, Merlin jumped up and lay on them. He was expert at working the first chakra, allowing the energy of the first to bring the rest of the chakras into balance. When one of my clients and dear friends, was diagnosed with breast cancer. I called a healer I knew and asked her if she wanted to do a banishing. “I’m there,” Jena Luna, who is now Lane, said, and she brought her drum.
My friend was lying on the table. Jena Luna drummed, I cut circle, invoked Saturn, and we went to work. Merlin jumped in to help. He positioned his body on top the breast where the tumor was. Jena Luna and I were feeding in the healing, Jena Luna was making sound, she had a voice like no other, and Merlin was stuck like glue on top the tumor. And then he jumped off and threw up. He’d purposely absorbed the poison; he’d shrunk the tumor.
Merlin’s and my relationship began to change when we moved from Montclair to Bloomfield. He freaked out when he saw the boxes and after the move I'd the distinct impression he was genuinely relieved I hadn’t left him behind. It was a tiny apartment in an old Victorian. I called it the postage stamp, and it was across the street from a private, old folks home. The people in the home were too crazy for a regular home and not crazy enough for the institution. I was pretty sure this was a metaphor for my life but refused to reach for it. The first night in Bloomfield, as I was drifting off to sleep, Merlin got on the bed and rubbed his face against mine. He was purring. I knew better than to pet him because he’d bite and scratch me, hard.
Business was good in Bloomfield, I was doing more healings than I’d ever done and Merlin lay on every person I worked on. At the end of a healing, I’d sage; Merlin hated sage and jumped off the second I lit it and onto the big green velvet chair. I had to warn people not to try and pet Merlin after the healing because he’d go for them. One woman didn’t listen and it wasn’t pretty. Came the day he was lying on my bed and I leaned over to kiss him (silly me, what was I thinking) he went for my head and my face. I was done and I yelled at him. “This is ridiculous, stop being such a little shit!” Oh, I was so mad, I was everything the sites on how to deal with an aggressive cat said not to be.
I didn’t speak to him for a week, and no, there was nothing neutral about it. He’d jump on my bed, I’d say, “Get the fuck off.” He’d try to get in the oversized green velvet chair with me and I’d say, “Absolutely not.” Merlin was the smartest cat I ever had and he knew I meant what I said. I’d never been so cold to another living creature and the way I saw it I needed to accept I was living with a mean ass cat and I'd just have to make the best of a bad situation.
Much to my genuine surprise Merlin missed my caring and nurture. I let him back in, a little at a time, and he started to do something he’d never done before; give me clues. When he’d had enough of being petted, he’d shrug me off, rather than ripping my hands to shreds. When he was in a bad mood he’d give me the go away look, and when healings were over he’d go into the bedroom to discourage attention. Slowly but surely he started to weasel his way into my heart. At night, when I watched T.V., he liked to make bread against my side. His favorite way was to bite onto the sleeve of my sweatshirt and kneed my tummy. No matter how hot it was I’d put a sweatshirt on, so Merlin could make bread. Then I bought a small rattan trunk and placed it under the front window. That was Merlin’s favorite spot and first thing every morning, I’d open the curtains and the window, so he could sit on his trunk and watch the goings on. The window had to be open, it made no difference how cold or hot it was, first thing every morning I opened the window.
There was so much to watch. There was Jeremy and Natalia next door, their dog Candy and their pig, Notorious P.I.G. There were the old people across the street, pacing back and forth, and bumming cigarettes from people walking by. If I was outside talking to someone he’d be in the window meowing. Merlin was very busy, between healings, and keeping watch over the neighborhood, and protecting me. The protective energy coming off of him was new but very real.
We moved back to Montclair. Merlin had wide windowsills that ran the length of the front of the apartment and an occasional mouse. He was ecstatic and I was ecstatic to be back in Montclair. Once we moved back to Montclair, Merlin quit lying on people who came for Reiki, unless he knew them, and even then it depended on his mood. The only person he really loved to lie on was me, and his favorite place to snuggle was on my bed. He still had his Jekyll and Hyde moments but I knew the signs. I adored that apartment. I loved that I could tiddly bop over to the witch store and visit with Karen, or over to Verdigreen to visit with Azie and Arie. I loved running into Marie or Kimani or Bonnie, or any number of women, when I was out and about and the soul nurturing conversations that were the result. But then the bottom dropped out of my business, life quaked once again, and through a series of synchronistic events, Merlin and I landed in Saugerties, New York.
I love the Hudson Valley and I love the Catskills. I’ve been coming to the area for over 15 years and always thought I would spend the last chapter of my life here. I wasn’t prepared, however, for the abruptness of the move and the remarkably rocky landing. Energetically there’s no question I’ve found my spot. Every morning when I walk outside I do a little leap of joy, but still the loneliness that accompanies a move to a place where you really don’t know anyone can be pretty severe. Merlin was my best friend and his love kept the worst at bay. I know that sounds weird to say about a cat, but it’s the truth. In this apartment Merlin’s window was on the left side of the living room, but rather than a rattan trunk to sit on, he had a Queen Anne Chair, turned sideways so the back didn’t block his view.
Merlin was acting kind of punk last week, sleeping more, and not all that interested in playing catch the shoelace. I attributed it to his getting older. Monday, though, when I looked at him, I said, “My God he’s dying,” and called the vet. I knew it wasn’t urinary and I knew it wasn’t diabetes; the vet agreed and took blood. When we got home Merlin lay down with his paws tucked underneath him, his forehead pressed against the floor and refused to move.
The vet called later in the day and said Merlin had three shadows on his lungs. “He’s not having respiratory difficulty,” I said. “What’s the blood work say?” He wouldn’t have the results of the blood work till the following day. The following day when I got up Merlin was lying in his chair, half moon, in front of the window. He couldn’t hold his head up. I opened the window for him and he purred.
The vet called and said Merlin was badly anemic and had almost no red blood cells. I said, “He’s dying. I’m looking at him. He’s dying.” “Let me run another test on the blood,” the vet said, and I won’t forgive him for that. It was a shameless money grab. Any fool could tell that cat was dying and I was so vague in my devastation I’d probably have agreed to anything.
I used to trip a lot back in the 70’s. When you trip the most intense part of the trip is peaking. When I had a baby, peaking was second stage labor. With Merlin peaking was that night beginning at midnight. He didn’t know what was happening to him, he was crying, howling, writhing in pain. He kept trying to walk but he had almost no motor control and he’d just collapse. He’d calm when I lay next to him and put my hands on his body, He’d calm when I’d brush him. It was during one of those moments of calm, when I went online to check my email, and heard a strange sound from my baby. All of a sudden Merlin was breathing wet. A tumor in his lung had ruptured. It was about 3 am when he stretched out on his side and went to sleep.
I took a shower, got in bed, turned off the light and tried to read on my kindle. I don’t know how he did it, but Merlin managed to drag himself into my room and tried to jump on the bed. He didn’t make it, landed all twisted on the floor. I rolled onto the floor next to him. He dragged himself partially under the bed and I reiki-ed what I could reach. The books all say cats try to hide when they’re dying. I went to the bathroom, came back, Merlin had dragged himself all the way to other side of the bed, his shoulders and head were showing, and I pulled him the rest of the way and put him the bed. He calmed immediately and promptly went to sleep. The next morning he was in the exactly same position and looked dead. He was stiff and cool to touch. I laid my head on his side and I could hear heartbeat, shallow breathing. When the vet called I said, “If he is in the kind of pain he was in last night, I have to bring him in and put him down.”
Merlin rested comfortably on my bed for most of the day. I lit candles and sage, put on renaissance music, and cleaned out my drawers and my closet. Around 3 pm Merlin started screaming and tried to stand. The pain was clearly back, worse than before, and he lost control of his bowels. I put him in his carrier and we went to the vet. And when it was all over and the receptionist looked at me and told me the amount of money I owed, I said, “All that money and he’s still dead.” Probably not the most gracious thing to say, but grace had left the building
The aftermath of death is cleaning and throwing things away, the best conduit I know for devastating grief. Out went the kitty condo, off to the Laundromat to do the sheets and the Sherpa lining of the cat carrier, but I can’t bring myself to throw away the last cans of cat food or the litter box. Yet. The overwhelming outpouring of love and care I’ve received from my friends and soul family contains me in light and love and I am intensely grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Merlin has visited. The first time I was in the shower and he was holding a daisy. Today he is spinning webs of protection around me in the unseen worlds. He’s healthy, and he’s whole, and he’s strong. I am going to live empty for a while. The fact that I can feel the depth of loss and grief, that I feel, is a gift because it means I loved. And I will never stop loving.
Live loud, love fierce, and suffer no fools. Kat
writings for the soul....writings from the journey...writings for whole being...experience, strength, and hope..of love, by love, for love.