Within This Silence
for my friend stopped running today"
- Richard Adams (Watership Down)
This is the place where we buried the body of my beloved friend, Elvis. Over the bridge by the koi pond near the body of my other cat Sid, his buddy. I felt it was what Elvis would have wanted. Satch agrees.
This is the huge heart shaped rock that I found in the stream with Satch last summer. I took it with me to NY to mark his grave.
Elvis was extremely intelligent, highly intuitive and my companion for some seventeen years...actually it was almost 18 years, but I'm still in denial. He had eyes the color of sky and breath that could peel paint. He had a lovely purr. Being of Siamese descent, he was also very vocal and my favorite mew sounded like, "Merroo". So that became one of his nicknames, Merroo. He had other aliases too, Elvis-R-Pelvis, Elvees, Peetzapeetz, Zing-Ding-Daka-Deeka-Doo, Merv, and Shingtoo-the-ninja-cat. You see, as T.S. Elliot pointed out, an ineffable cat must have (at least) 3 different names.
There are a few who got to know Elvis and they are grieving with us. Although this remarkable soul inhabited a cat's body, the loss is just as significant and devastating as any other.
Elvis cashed in a couple of his proverbial 9 lives when he was a youngster. Once was when he fell out of the window (I don't know how) of my Greenwich Village flat above the Sullivan Street Playhouse. Unharmed he had the good sense to scratch at the front door howling and an elderly neighbor figured that he must live there, found the door miraculously unlocked so he let him in. When I returned from work and Elvis wasn't there to greet me, I panicked and ran down the block asking if anyone had seen him. I saw this elderly gent and he told me what had transpired. I went back into my building, stood in the stairwell and called his name. There was a faint mew and then Elvis crawled out from beneath the staircase where he was hiding. Smart cat. He ALWAYS came when I called his name. Oh my heart.
The other time was when he chased a squirrel off of our roof. The squirrel jumped and grabbed the fire escape on the way down. Elvis leaped after him and (thankfully) landed in the window box outside my kitchen window. Again, my heart.
Elvis still had the wild in him and that is one of the things I loved most about him. That and his hugs. Yes, Elvis hugged...paws around the neck, cheek to cheek. I remember the time my Sensei was cat sitting for me and when I returned he approached me with an odd look on his face. He said, "Wendy...this is going to sound really crazy...but I swear...I think your cat hugs me". Oh did I laugh. I explained that he was not crazy and that Elvis did hug. He didn't hug everyone, he was discerning.
Once there was a fellow whom I dated briefly. He seemed nice enough. He was NYPD, however, something about him creeped me out and I just didn't know why. So, I introduced him to Elvis and my cat recoiled, stiffened then hissed when he came near. I said, "Don't touch my cat" and got rid of the dude. Elvis never did that before and never did that since. Seems Elvis was as much my guardian as I his.
Elvis gave me much laughter. Like the time my friend and I bought a Christmas tree for the flat and discovered it was a tad sparse. I went over to the plant district and bought a big bag of dried Baby's Breath to fill in the bare spots and the tree didn't looks so bad after all. The next morning when I woke it looked like it had snowed in the living room. Elvis was leaping at the tree and Baby's Breath was flying everywhere. I don't know why, but this particular flower put Elvis into a frenzy, it was like catnip only more intense. So I grew some on the roof for him.
When he was a youngster he liked to play fetch. As he got older he became fond of rubber bands and liked to fling them in the air with his teeth and then bat them. He HATED koosh balls and if they touched his fur he would immediately clean the spot where it touched him.
He loved tissue paper which made gift wrapping especially tricky. He liked to leap right through the sheets, roll on them, and tear them. He did the same gravity defying maneuvers whenever I made the bed, hurling his body into the billowing sheets. I often resorted to making the bed on top of him while he tunneled around like a mole, and eventually crawled out from under.
Elvis always made it clear what he wanted. Milk? He swatted the refrigerator door and mewed. Food? He'd open the cabinet and howl. If I didn't respond to him fast enough he would jump on the counter and swat things off. To his credit, he would do this slowly...like an inch or so at a time. If something broke it was truly my own damn fault.
When Elvis was a kitten he slept on my neck. He wouldn't have it any other way, then he became Sid's beloved and the two of them slept wrapped around one another. That is where he slept until Sid died. After that he found a number of different nests. For the last two years it has been the window of my art studio. As you can imagine, it makes sitting here typing this very painful because I'm so used to him being there.
The last few months Elvis would join Satch for his bedtime story. He was like clockwork and if there were any delays, we would find Elvis already in bed waiting. This was one of the gifts he gave Satch. Clearly he touched Satch in the same way he had touched me. Satch grieved as fiercely as I. He sobbed, "He was a wonderful, beautiful cat...I am going to miss his purr...it is too painful for me like a balloon of sadness".
Elvis stopped eating like he did two years ago. Only then I felt it wasn't his time. The tests came up empty. We hired a pet nurse to hydrate him and feed him and he rebounded and life was good. Then nearly two years later he stopped eating again. This time we learned he had hyperthyroidism so we began transdermal meds immediately. He seemed to get better, then suddenly worse. Further tests revealed that he had numerous age related issues that would be impossible if not cruel to try to treat. We discharged him from the animal hospital and took him home. We cried. Robert stayed up with Elvis for most of the night while I snuggled Satch. None of us slept really.
I told Satch to take a good look at Elvis and try to see that he had used up his body and was ready to leave it behind. I told him that we would help Elvis do that, it was our duty because we love him so. It would be the hardest, saddest thing, but also the most loving thing we could do for him. I told him that I alone would be with Elvis when he left his body, but afterward he could hold him. I told him that he would see for himself that his body was like a shell for his spirit. I told him that I believe his spirit will always be with us, even though his cat body must go back to the earth. I told him that Elvis came here in a cat body and cat bodies don't live as long as human bodies. And even though he came to us in a cat body, he is still family and that is why I believe his spirit will always be with us.
The next morning I called Dr. Brook to come to our home and help free Elvis from his failing body. Elvis picked a spot on the sofa and laid down. He rested his head in my hands and I kissed him repeatedly, whispering, "I love you...thank you for being my cat...Sid is waiting for you...find Sid...I love you...I love you". He was purring. When he left his body behind he was purring. Afterward the doctor and I sat there and cried. She stroked his hind legs gently, then hugged me before leaving. She rearranged her appointments to help us, kind and compassionate.
Words can't express the depth of love, nor the sorrow I feel. I will miss him always, all ways.
I took the tag from the collar that he wore on Sullivan St. He didn't wear a collar when we lived in Battery Park City because the chances of him getting outside the high rise were nil. I placed it on my talisman necklace next to Sid's.
To Learn From Animal Being by John O'Donohue
Nearer to the earth's heart;
Deeper within its silence;
Animals know this world
In a way we never will...
May we learn to return
And rest in the beauty
Of animal being,
Learn to lean low,
Leave our locked minds,
And with freed senses
Feel the earth
Breathing with us.
May we enter
Into lightness of spirit,
And slip frequently into
The feel of the wild...
May we learn to walk
Upon the earth
With all their confidence
And clear-eyed stillness
So that our minds
May be baptized
In the name of the wind
And the light and the rain.
In loving memory of Elvis the Cat October 1992 - September 23, 2010