CatsHolidays

In Memory of A Cat Mom On National Cat Day

national cat day

On Friday we celebrated National Black Cat Day with sad update about my mom. It was her birthday and given that she was in palliative care, I said it would be her last birthday. Little did I know how prescient it would be. It was a day with much to celebrate. My book hit #1 on Amazon in one category. One of our dear contributors the amazing VanCatMeow from Austrailia shared a sweet post. Cole and Marmalade our most famous contributors shared posts about our book across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.to more buzz than we could hope for.

Still scrambling to catch up on email, book promotion and a million other details, the social worker from the hospital I’d spoken with twice including that morning, called again later that day. “Your mother passed peacefully.”  Best day. Worst day. Birthday. I went on auto-pilot and did what I needed to do for work. Cried. Called my brother who I’m estranged from. Cried. My head hasn’t stopped spinning since. My mother had a flair for drama and I had to laugh. Of course, she would go on her birthday at the most inconvenient time. It’s just the way she was. After all, I had told her hours earlier that I loved her and to let go whenever she was ready. She had a love/hate relationship with birthdays. By mid-October she’d be in sulk. Never wanting to grow another year older but wanting a party and presents. The only thing she wanted in the past three years was another kitten after Miki died but she didn’t get her wish. I considered all the options, fostering, maybe a pocket pet but she was no longer able to care for a pet.

It’s fitting to celebrate another cat holiday, National Cat Day in memory of my mom, who adored cats. This one’s for you, mom but you’ll have to share the limelight with Odin. The link opens to National Cat Day in 2014 when we celebrated Odin’s Gotcha Day. Today we celebrate Odin’s 7th Gotcha Day not that he cares. He was strutting proudly earlier in the week after killing a plump mouse.

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Mom often smiled like a Cheshire cat. I can’t remember her ever not wearing lipstick and her signature green eyeliner. She always looked glamorous and ridiculously young.  A true Scorpio, she loved red. This was her last kitten, Missu who lived to a ripe old age but not as old as mom. She was notoriously vain and would have loved this post. I can imagine her griping, in her Nordic accent, “Why didn’t you do this sooner? Can’t you do something with my hair, darling?

Like mother, like daughter, we were always cat ladies. Like all relationships, there were ups and downs but insisted I was her favorite, her golden child most of the time. This was taken about 20 years ago and feels like yesterday. I feel blessed to be the keeper of our family albums and boxes galore of family photos. As soon as I found out mom was in ICU last week I pulled out all the albums and picked some favorites, knowing I’d be sharing them some day but not so soon.

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During my childhood, after immigrating to Montreal from Helsinki, she called herself Kaya or Kay. My boyfriends called her Mrs. K but in later years she used Kaija and the more recently her middle name, Kersti. It was always weird having the hospital call about Kersti and I’d go, “Who?” She was in the hospital a lot after a fall three years ago. I brought her to a chiropractor that I’m convinced would have kept her mobile, but she refused to keep up the protocol and destiny landed her a wheelchair.

It marked the beginning of the end of the mother I knew. She could not indentify being handicapped in any way and became reclusive. The vivacious glamour girl did not want someone looking at her with pity.  My attempts to rationalize like: millions of people survive and thrive in wheelchairs. They travel, work, do everything abled persons do. Not even mentioning Elizabeth Taylor looking glamourous in wheelchair worked. A two-time widow with men aways vying for her attention, ended once she was wheelchair bound.

Mom had loved to travel, try new things, read the newspaper and stayed current with news, until senility made its gentle creep. She managed to stay home for three years until she fired all her caregivers. It was time for an assisted living facility. During another hospital day, my brother moved her belongings out, she arrived at her gorgeous private apartment with the best possible care. She called the assisted living facility, death’s waiting room.

The chronic pain she experienced wore her down. I’d called my mother anywhere from daily to weekly during my entire adult life and in the last year more frequently. I found my mother was fading, shrinking into another person I didn’t recognize.  Every day I felt closer to becoming an orphan. The only thing she never failed to mention was the pain in her feet. Every. Single. Time. My feet don’t work. Sometimes, she wouldn’t recognize me and accuse me of some pretty outlandish things but it was the dementia-induced paranoia talking. One of the last times we spoke, she was lucid, in good humor and did not mention her feet.

She is now free to dance with all her beloved kitties, my father, friends, and relatives. The last of my aunts, who my mom adored died this summer so it’ll be a party. My mom loved nature and all animals and they seemed to like her. Fly free. There will be cremation and no funeral at her request.

I wish I could sleep like the dead and I’m trying do as much self-care as possible to avoid joining mom pre-maturely. What will happen next? Who knows but Clyde and the rest of the gang are doing a Halloween post tomorrow. See you soon and give your cats more loving today. And call your mom if you can.

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55 thoughts on “In Memory of A Cat Mom On National Cat Day

  1. Layla,
    I was so very sorry to read about your Mom. I had to wait until now to write and express my condolences as it brought back so many wonderful and poignant memories of my mother and of her passing. With this, an upwelling of grief.
    Your Mother is an element of yourself and will continue to be there with her love, wisdom and her words will continue resonate through your being.
    I pulled a card for you and got the Queen of Wands! She with the black cat!
    Sending you much love and I wish I were close enough to bring you soup, tea and hugs
    Love Barb

  2. I did not read ahead, so this blog posting was not what I expected…nevfurtheless, how appawpriate to wait till a special day to leave the earthly form of her body.
    I once looked after a lady who was so looking forward to Christmas…and when all her company had gone home, and I had tucked her into her bed, when I checked on her about an hour later she had gone to other worlds.

    What a wonderful mother you had, and such special memories to keep close in your heart.

    Sending many hugs and keeping you close in my thoughts.

  3. Oh, Layla, I’m so very sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. Your words painted a vibrant picture of her life and your relationship with her. Love the picture from 20 years ago—two beautiful women! She is flying free now with all the kitties. Sending lots of love, purrs and blessings. xoxo…Chris

  4. Layla,
    we are so very sorry about your Mom. Losing someone you love is so hard. I think the dementia makes it even harder because you have to struggle to not take things as a personal assault . You know it is happening but the first few instances of the person that you know and love being “different” is very hard to take.
    We send you our love and purrs and prayers and we think that your Mom was one wonderful cat lady fur sure!
    Luvs and Hugs
    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig & Peanut & Romeo and the Angels >^..^^..^<~

  5. My deepest condolences Layla. To love and be loved is the goal of life, your Mom had that in spades. She was lovely, and now she dances with others she loved. Your tribute to her was beautiful, it is like we go to ‘meet’ her, thank you so much.
    Happy gotcha day Odin, the other 364 days of the year are bonus ones.
    *hugs*

  6. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your mother was such a strong and powerful personality… do take as much time as you need to nurture yourself. I’m sending lots of purrs your way, and I hope you are getting great purr therapy from your own kitties.

    1. Thanks so much. She was a colorful personality that’s for sure. The cats are helping but you know how narrow the book marketing window is. I don’t have the luxury of taking off weeks. The next 6 weeks are critical and mom would agree 🙂

  7. So sorry for your loss. Your mom sounds like a really interesting person. My mom is in a nursing home now. She usually ends up in the hospital every winter with pneumonia and each time is worse so I’m not looking forward to this winter. Please take care of yourself.

    1. Thank so much Andrea. There is a new pneumonia shot for seniors. As you know pneumonia is can be fatal with seniors so any prevention is worth looking into. I need a flu shot soon. I forgot last year and got pneumonia last winter.

  8. It is never easy to say goodbye to one’s mother. I lost my angel mother when I was 29, and I will always be grateful that she understood that I couldn’t survive without an animal presence in my life. It sounds like your mother was like this, and I have never understood why assisted living facilities and senior residences don’t have animal residences attached to them. Animals are essential for our sense of connection to the world, and caring for a beloved pet is the thing that has enabled me to live a sane, more calm life. Without a cat, I don’t hear the world purring. It sounds like your life is filled with highs and lows, but love surrounds you. You are a shining light to so many, and I’m sure your mother was filled with joy just looking at your radiant goodness. Can’t wait to read your book and remember all the black cats I have known and loved….Smokey, Little Orphan Annie, Mr. Boy.

  9. Layla I am so sorry about the loss of your Mom…….she would be thrilled with this tribute…”flair for drama”, “love of cats”, l think it is “like mother, like daughter”…….many of the qualities you mentioned your Mom had (good ones and I think a flair for drama is GOOD), you possess as well my dear! Your photos are glorious as well as charming (you have barely aged at all, God!!!)……………your mother sounds as if she was an independent rebel before it was totally in fashion to be that way, she sounds as if she marched to her own drum and I love that. Your Mom is smiling down on her “golden child” with love, because this post is truly “golden” Sending you hugs of comfort and much love and my deepest sympathy. xoxoxo

  10. Please accept my sincerest condolences Layla. Your mom is a beautiful lady, your post to her is as well. I know she’s proud to be able to call you daughter; I know
    she read this tribute post, and found it as touching as we have. I am truly sorry
    ❤️ sending love to you and your family during this difficult time. Laura

  11. One’s never ready to lose one’s Mom – and it’s THE most difficult thing I’ve experienced in a life full of difficulty. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and I’m so very sorry you’re in the midst of the devastating loss. My Mom suffered from dementia for over 20 years – and after that long illness, you’d think it would’ve been easier. At the funeral, so many people commented that it was easier to deal with since I knew it was coming. Not so. By the time she died, I could hardly remember who she was without forgetting and suffering. I love this post – your Mom left you with a powerful and beautiful legacy in the love of cats. That gift has the power to transform lives. Save lives. Be full of love in a world full of hate. My Mom did the same. During the time my Mom was in the special care/memory care unit, they had a HUGE handsome ginger named Kahlua. My Mom loved that cat to no end. He often slept with her – and I know she experienced twinges of true happiness in his presence. He was all she could talk about … and let me tell you that of the times we went out, her comments about him led people to give us a wide berth … “I love Kahlua!” “I can’t go to sleep without my Kahlua” “Thank God for Kahlua!” Hahahahaha. I know you don’t know me – and you’re probably not familiar with my blog – but if you want to talk or share stories of your Mom … I’d be honored to listen

    1. Thank for your kind words and understanding. Living with a parent in cognitive decline is losing them before we lose them and you did it for 20 years. Her legacy is my legacy and I hope the cat world will be better for it.

  12. I’m so very sorry Layla. Your vivid description of your mother allows me to feel as if I know her and I appreciate you sharing a bit of her with all of us. She clearly was a bright light in this world and will be missed. xoxoxo

  13. Oh Layla, such love and grief. Pouring like rain from your post. You resemble You your mother a lot in the photos you’ve shared. A mother is… irreplaceable. A mother is our first and our always love. Your mom had such a loving, giving spirit, and your spirit is the same. <3 <3 <3 Thank you, Layla, for this most giving post — giving, or lending, your mother to us for a few moments, which brightens our day and will enrich our lives forever.

  14. So sad about your loss Layla……….the road you and your Mom traveled sounds much like the one I had with my Mom although she had Alzheimers her last several years and was in a nursing home. We had ups and downs but there was one brief period when we were closer than close – more like buddies – and I like to remember her like that. She also did not want a funeral so we followed her wishes. Your Mother sounds like she was a lovely woman beyond the physical although she certainly was beautiful in that respect just as you are. In coming days (and when she has time!) she’ll visit to let you know she is fine now. They are always there……always. Sending you a hug………….

    Love, Pam

  15. I’m so glad you had such a full relationship with your mother and that she had such a long life lived on her terms until just a very short time at the end. Losing your mother is a milestone, a point of change, and perhaps it will make a change in your health as well as you let her earthly existence go. My sympathies.

  16. Layla I am deeply sorry about the loss of your Mom, it’s only been a little over 3 months since my Dad died, and although I can’t say I know your pain, I do understand. Your Mom sounded like a wonderful spirit and she was a true beauty, which she shared with you. I know words are of little comfort now, and to be truthful, I’m at a loss myself to say many of them because my heart is shattered and I’m trying to understand it all, well maybe understand isn’t the right word, but come to terms with it. Like losing my Abby, I think this will be a long process. Be gentle with yourself and I will keep you in my prayers.

    1. Oh no, I didn’t know your dad died recently. I’m so sorry for your loss. Every loss is processed differently and I’d like to think our angel cats can play a healing role. Words themselves are not always of comfort but the intentions behind them are. I hope you are gentle with yourself. The biggest insight this time around is about self-care. xoxo

  17. What a beautiful post about your mother. I’m so sorry for your loss.
    The line, “my mother was fading, shrinking into another person I didn’t recognize” really resonates with me, as my own mother is doing the same now. It’s painful to watch …for all kinds of reasons.
    Sending you live and peace.
    Jan, Milo and Alfie xxx

    1. Thanks so much Jan. I’m sorry to hear about your mum. It’s painless to watch without being able to do anything about it. Acceptance is less painless but no less easy to do. So many emotions crop up during a decline but its also an opportunity to tie up loose ends while you can. xoxo

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