The Velveteen Kitty
Any animal born and raised
with the conditions Moses met in her first few months, then left
with the resulting physical and emotional challenges, has all
due right to complain, act out or simply give up. But aside from
a certain stubbornness, none of these was in her repertoire. I
have never met a gentler, quieter, more peaceful soul than Moses,
the shy feral kitten and timid adult who became the safe harbor
for other frightened kittens Ive fostered through the years.
In her later years she was the spirit of my garden, her main goal
to find the sunniest spot on some nice, warm bricks and have a
really good nap as birds, voles and other creatures went about
their daily habits to her sleepy disregard. She made it to her
nineteenth year, accepting all of her physical limitations but
enjoying life no less than some other cats who race around the
house, beg for attention and steal food. They all teach me lessons,
and hers was one of peace and patience in the face of all that
happens; with love, everything works out right.
February 27, 2006
...and if you've read the story,
yes, I think she was loved enough to be real...
I was lucky enough to be out in the woods a day or two after we
realized it was the final challenge for Moses and she would not
have long to live. Assisting a living being through the last course
of its life is never easy to watch or to act upon, especially
with an animal who doesn't communicate as we do. Reading the signs
and simply performing palliative care can be more difficult than
critical care, but with a big dose of love in both directions
it is bearable. I wrote the poem below, except for the last two
stanzas, when I knew I'd be facing this realization, and only
prayed for the strength and wisdom to do the right thing by Moses.
I wrote the last two stanzas while sitting up with her the night
before I knew I'd have her put to sleep, when I felt I could sum
up what we had done.
Things I Found in
January 13, 2006
Tiny rivulets of water released
from thawing soil
flowing beneath last year's debris, trickling and gurgling down
hurrying before the freeze returns.
A cup-shaped fungus holding a
tablespoon of snowmelt
for a song sparrow to sip, giving early practice to its vernal
for the time when spring arrives in earnest.
Ferns, newly-green, draped on
fluttering like garlands in the caressing, mild breeze
eager to gather a little nourishment to last the rest of the winter.
Fallen trees blanketed with bright
thick and lush already in the brief January thaw
filling a span of life in but a few days.
Four young white-tailed deer,
capricious as the gusts,
feeling the flush of their first spring as adults
even though this intoxicating weather is fleeting.
An understanding of the normal
cycles of birth and rebirth,
but also the confidence to grasp the moment for what it offers
even at the risk of pain and loss when the natural season returns.
A fraction of your dignity in
accepting the end of your cycle in this existence,
and the courage to accompany and assist you with strength borne
as you transition from this beautiful world into the next.
After staying up all night at an emergency clinic one
night in January, I had to leave her at another veterinarian for
the next day to get her fully stabilized after a bout of congestive
heart failure. She's tough as a rock and, to everyone's surprise,
persisted and recovered. Sitting in the veterinarian's office
waiting to pick her up I could not stop the tears, knowing what
I would face. Suffering from an excess of emotions myself, something
that's only slowed me down but never killed me, I had to do something
creative or completely burst into tears while...
AT THE VET'S, WAITING FOR MOSES
I remembered a moment earlier in the day
even through the fear and pain of your impending death:
in that moment when I reached out to you
and you firmly rubbed your face against my hand,
nuzzled your nose between my finger and thumb
and lifted your chin for me to scratch underneath,
eyes squinting at me, whiskers curved forward, nose crumpled;
you, reassuring me.
The look in your eyes wipes the tears from my face
and I can, for the moment,
spontaneously smile and love you completely as of old,
above our grief.
As an epilogue, I had her cremated as I do all my cats. The woman
who cremated Moses' body called, explaining that she didn't want
me to think she was crazy and that she didn't see visions in things,
but Moses' cremains--the bones left after the flesh has been incinerated--just
glowed and were radiant white, and were the most beautiful cremation
she's ever seen. She performed it on Friday and hasn't been able
to process the bones, or grind them up, because she wanted to
look at them, and she wasn't sure about calling me for fear I'd
think she was a little loose. I couldn't run down to see, but
I was glad she called! I always knew that Moses was beautiful
from the inside out, I just didn't know it was literal.
A Rosy Glow
This is a notecard I made from
a portrait I painted of her years ago.
She found a warm spot to sleep in the
sun on that old pink sweater of mine, and the look of contentment
on her face was my first inspiration, especially since Miss Moses
(we all thought she was a boy) had been a feral kitten and to
this day hesitates to walk across the center of any room, finding
security in keeping close to the furniture. But there she is
in the middle fo the room looking rather smugI can almost
hear her purr.
my notecards page to view the card.
probably the most photographed cat in the world, as every roll
of my film has her on it somewhere and I could spend a whole
afternoon photographing her with my digital camera. She was one
of my favorite subjects to sketch around the house, too, and
several sketches and other pieces of artwork are still in the
works. Her demeanor was quiet and gentle, and she could be very
still; she was not at all bothered by me crawling around her
to photograph or sketch.
She would do anything for a square of sunshine.
She was a great sketch and photography subject because she kept completely still for long periods of time.
All artwork on this
page is copyright Bernadette E. Kazmarski and cannot be used or
reproduced in any way without my written permission.
This page is owned and maintained by the artist.