More Cat Chat

I just returned from another trip to Pennsylvania. This time, since I did not stay in my cousin’s house, as it is now empty (of inanimate objects and CATS!)  Instead, I stayed with some friends of hers, Cathy and Jim. Cathy and Jim have been wonderful in supporting me through this grief and administrative process. I call them my “guardian angels on the ground,” because they have done so much that can only be done actually on site. I can never thank them enough. Having to make a second trip in less than two months, on top of the expenses associated with the cremation and funeral, was more of a financial stretch than was completely comfortable for me. It was a relief not to have to pay for a hotel. Besides, they were great, comforting company.

They also have cats. I went from living in a house with three cats to living in a house with five cats. It was much easier in my new friends’ house than in my cousin’s house, despite the increase in feline population. For one thing, there was more space so the cat per square foot ratio was probably lower. Besides, one of the cats lived solely in the garage. Also, my friends’ house was considerably better maintained to ensure a more equitable balance between human and cat comfort. My cousin’s house was all about the cats. Still, my new found cat allergy raised its furry little head. My sinuses were raging at me and are still not too happy. Despite my level of physical discomfort, I do have to say I enjoyed these cats. I still don’t want a cat, but I better understand the appeal.

The cats are called Abigail Cynthia Louise (Cathy takes naming her cats very seriously), Harmony Grace, Jackson Bean, Jerry, and Joey. They each have their own personality .I did not get to know Joey too well, as he is the one that lives in the garage. I only saw him once during my stay, although I was aware of his presence every time I stepped out into the garage to go to the refrigerator. I will let you guess which of my senses revealed his existence to me. I’ll just say he is a litter box free spirit.

I saw Jerry frequently. It would have been hard not to see him, as he takes up a fair amount of real estate wherever he is. He is solidly built, plus covered in long hair which increases his bulk. I have never seen a completely black cat as fluffy as Jerry. Cathy and Jim call him Jer-Bear, which is fitting. I am sure there are black bear cubs not quite as large as he is. Jerry is a hand-me-down cat from Cathy and Jim’s daughter. I cannot say a word. I did the same thing to my parents. I kept a cat named Macavity for over a year in my first apartment. The problem was that the apartment complex did not permit pets. When I got  busted, Macavity went to live with my parents and their two basset hounds in a 27-foot travel trailer. Macavity was not best pleased. In fact, he pretty much lived on my mother’s bed. The basset hounds were either too short or too stupid to get to him there, Maybe both. So I get how Cathy and Jim became Jerry’s foster parents, despite already being beset with many cats of their own. Jerry is a catish cat. He tolerated me and would even deign to allow me to pet him, but he wasn’t making any overtures on his own.

I only saw Abigail Cynthia Louise once or twice. She lives in Cathy and Jim’s bedroom, as she is not really able to fend for herself or hold her own with the other cats.  Poor Abby is a geriatric cat, which kind of makes her my soul mate in an uncomfortable sort of way. She is visibly more worn and ricketier than the other cats. The vet says that Abby suffers from feline senility. She has an active internal world, to which she reacts randomly, frequently, and loudly. There is very little that is as unsettling as Abby’s strange, pitiful yowling when she cries out in reaction to something we cannot see or hear. It is kind of heartbreaking. I guess it can also be sleep depriving. I did not hear her at night, but Cathy says she will often begin to cry for no apparent reason in the wee hours. It is a sound that cannot be ignored; it demands response. It can also be disturbing when it happens during the day. Jim works from home. He works from the bedroom. His coworkers know Abby’s voice. It is a good thing Abby has people who love her and take care of her so well. I hope, in my uncomfortable soul mate sort of way, that I have someone who takes such good care of me when I reach Abby’s stage of life.

Harmony Grace and I got along just fine, since I am over the age of reason. Apparently, Harmony is not a fan of children and gets a kick out of terrorizing Cathy and Jim’s grandkids. This is clearly a problem, since there are a number of young grandchildren frequenting the home. “Harmony Grace” is a bit of a misnomer in that sense. Her relationship with children is neither harmonious nor graceful. She is a sweet-looking, petite, perfectly formed,  beautiful cat. Looks, as well as names, can be deceiving. However, as I said, since I am well past the childhood phase, Harmony Grace was fine with me. She was sociable and curious enough to investigate me when I arrived. Later, while she did not rush to my side, she was more than happy to permit me to sit beside her and pet her when I plopped myself onto her sofa to watch television.

Yes, I could see the appeal of all these cats. However, it was Jackson Bean who won the feline space in my heart. Jack was a dogish kind of cat. He immediately fell in love with me with the devotion of a Labrador retriever. He ran to the front door to greet me whenever I arrived at the house. He faithfully followed me around from room to room.  He sidled up to me any time I was in the house, aggressively butting his head under my hand to insist that I pet him. He jumped onto a dining chair next to me each morning to watch companionably while I ate breakfast. He enjoyed lying beside me on the couch while I stroked him. The last night I was there, I sat on the sofa rubbing his neck and shoulders. After leaning into the massage for a while, he twisted his body over and inched his way closer to me, exposing his underside. I have never met a cat who enjoyed a belly rub, so I did not take his maneuver as an invitation. However, Jackson then butted my hand with his head and pushed my fingers towards his chest with a soft furry paw. I began rubbing him around the neck and chest area. The animal went into a pleasure coma. He went completely limp except for his two front legs, which were jutting off the edge of the sofa. As he continued to enjoy the experience, those two legs tightened until they were so rigid, they did not even look like they were part of the same cat body. He curled his paws into a hook-like shape. Those two appendages looked like furry crochet needles. I went to bed thinking that Jackson was a very weird, but very satisfying feline. The experience even made me wonder if I should try for a second career as a lion tamer.

I really do not know why I just wrote 1300 words about cats.  Maybe I am becoming a cat lady. Or… in the midst of all the chaos, conflict, and grief that accompanied my two trips to Pennsylvania, maybe it just feels safer to talk about cats than anything else.

So, what do you think? Am I becoming a cat lady? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at


Terri/Dorry 😊

Jack looking up at me adoringly
Jack watching me eat breakfast

Saint Dorothy

I scattered some of my mother’s ashes in my backyard on All-Saints Day.  My mother hated funerals. She didn’t get the whole “closure” and “gathering together” thing.  She thought of them as rather tacky and unnecessarily burdensome to the family.  

When my father died, we took the ashes out to an Indian casino after the requiem mass.  We left my mother on a seat at a slot machine because watching us scatter my father’s ashes was the last thing in the world she wanted to do.  My brother and a couple of cousins and I drove out into the desert a ways to scatter the ashes.  My father loved the desert.  He also maintained, throughout his life, that he was part Native American despite the complete absence of any confirming evidence.  It was a nice idea, but we were clearly inept at scattering ashes.  It is harder than you think.  It is windy in the desert.  There are kind of a lot of ashes.  As I tried to release my father, body and soul, to the Great Spirit, my brother kept yelling that I was getting dad all over me.  None of the attendees was sure how I was going to go back and face my mother at the casino with a thin veneer of my father’s cremains all over me.  Let’s just say that event did nothing to change my mom’s opinion of funerals.   

Even though she didn’t like funerals, I knew my mother would have had no objection to her family having a service for her if we felt it would be helpful for us.  I always thought I didn’t care whether we had a service or not.  My brother didn’t want a service.  I figured that I would take her ashes back to California and we could scatter them near where we scattered my father’s ashes.  Still, after she died, I did ask the cremation services company to divide her ashes into several smaller quantities on the off chance that I decided to do something different.  A few weeks later, it suddenly, for no discernable reason, seemed important to me to scatter a portion of her ashes behind my house.  Theologically and symbolically, I believe my mother is a saint in Heaven now, so I decided to do it on the evening of All Saints Day. 

I picked out a passage from The Book of Wisdom in the Bible.  If you have never heard of The Book of Wisdom and can’t find it in your Bible, please don’t think I made it up.  It is one of those books that appear in Catholic and Episcopal Bibles, but is not part of the canon in many Protestant churches.  It struck me as strange that, as I am exploring a change in church, I found the very words I wanted in a version of the Bible that a lot of Christians don’t even include.  Still, I found comfort in Wisdom:3, which refers to everlasting life.  The passage I picked reminded me that it is foolish to think my mother is really dead.  She lives in joy in Heaven and I will see her again one day.  As I walked up and down the back yard scattering the ashes, I sang the Irish Blessing.  I sang that song to her every day for the last two weeks of her life.  It sort of became “our song” during that last season of good-bye.  When I got to the last line of the song, “And, until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand,” I began sobbing.  It was the first time I have really broken down since before her death. I feel like I’ve been remarkably calm and composed, especially for me. 

I think I know why the blessing song triggered this outpouring of emotion.  The song works both ways. The song told my mother that I knew God was holding her in the hollow of His hand in Heaven now. The song also was also telling me that my mother is waiting for me.  She is trusting in God to hold me in the hollow of His hand until the day we are reunited forever.   

I feel kind of empty since my impromptu funeral.  I think some of the grief that poured out of me with the tears left a space inside me that isn’t quite filled up with acceptance and contentment yet.  I don’t really feel like me, but I can’t say what I do feel.  What is kind of weird is that, maybe for the first time in my whole life, I feel okay living in whatever is.  As odd and uncharacteristic as it seems, I am content to float along and experience the life that I am living without feeling a mad compulsion to make that life what I think it should be.   

Maybe Saint Dorothy is pushing me into the hollow of God’s hand.

Different people have different thoughts and traditions around death and funerals.  Have you ever experienced a ritual that brought you a little “good grief,” as my song to my mother brought me?  Please tell us about it.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at  

May God hold YOU in the hollow of His hand today!