CatsMondays With Merlin

Merlin The Cat: Life After Death

Merlin_cat_RIP

Merlin The Cat; Life After Death by his cat mom, Layla.

We’re about to reach our sixth year of blogging at Cat Wisdom 101 with over 2000 posts. A popular category from the start has been Mondays With Merlin. Merlin died last May but being a larger than life character, he continued to blog from the great beyond. He handed over the reins to Clyde in early 2017 but still makes his presence felt with guest appearances.

For the longest time, I debated sharing the very last photo taken in the garden a couple days before he died. The purple phlox were in bloom as they are today and Merlin wanted to lie on the sun warmed driveway. He was so bony at that point, I placed a folded blanket with support for his head. It’s not a particularly good photo but it’s the final photo outdoors. He loved and lived for the garden, a place of security for 15 years after six tumultuous years of multiple moves and change. We all take photos of our cats, some every day but we never know which shot will be “it”. The last shot alive.

As the anniversary of his death approached, I wanted to put together a tribute but nothing felt right. How do you condense hundreds of posts, thousands of photos, 21 years and millions of memories? What do you share with the world or keep tucked safely in the privacy of your soul? I don’t know.

I do know that when he died on May 11, 2016 at about 10:30 in the morning, it was a gorgeous spring day. Sunny and warm with a burst of green blooming overnight. Merlin, ever a sun worshipper was sunbathing on his favorite pillow, purchased when he was kitten. He was never one for cat beds since he slept under the covers with me but did enjoy a soft pillow. He also loved lounging on the hammock or blankies with me in the garden in his later years. I didn’t see him die but my husband did. They always spent the mornings together. Merlin napping or watching Joe read the paper, have coffee and dig into email. I would be sleeping, being an night owl and would get up sometime before noon. Little did I know that Merlin’s death would flip my inner clock and plunge me into a mysterious illness nearly killing me. I’m still doing daily battle but feel hopeful about the future.

I didn’t see Merlin die but knew his time was up and did a gentle farewell photo shoot the day before. I couldn’t write about his death until a month later and even then, the post left out more than it revealed. Merlin died as easily and magically as he’d lived.  We should all be so lucky but nothing can prepare you for death.  Being old and ill with chronic kidney disease meant death whispered daily. Close calls, emergency vet visits, incremental decline while monitoring his quality of life. When Joe brought a lifeless fur baby into bed, life as I knew it was over. And yet I was about to embark on a big project, do two fundraising campaigns on Kickstarter for the Black Cats Tell All book, prepare a huge blogoversary giveaway and curate a mountain of book submissions. Oh, and find time to grieve. Bless Merlin for making it easy or easier.  It allowed me to plow forward making short order of work but ignoring the growing physical symptoms. It’s taken a year and several false starts to begin healing and grieving is  a part of it.

Joe wanted to bury Merlin in the garden which is our preference.  Merlin’s sister Coco, Gris Gris and Radish would be waiting. I’d selected a beautiful spot near Angel Gris Gris but I couldn’t bear the thought of letting him go, so I didn’t. I’ve made many poor decisions in my life but while unorthodox, my decision to live with a dead animal for days, was one of my wisest.

Merlin cat burial plot garden- circle quote
Merlin selects his future resting place.

I made a lovely and meaningful altar where he laid wrapped in a blanket not nine feet from where I slept. The room flickered with candles. Incense wafted, the music of Buddhist prayers chanted, freshly picked lily of the valley filled the air with sweet smells. It was oddly comforting sleeping with him in the same room.

Merlin_cat_funeral

He was like a king lying in state and time stood still. A day passed and then another. Joe was getting antsy about the burial but it wasn’t time.  Frankly, he thought I was crazy. I searched Chinese tong shu almanacs for auspicious burial days. Merlin became to smell on the third day but the best burial date wasn’t until the 15th, four days after his death.  It was the perfect day and time. The gloomy day brightened after the grave was done and during the funeral, the sky suddenly sparkled with sunshine as Merlin was laid to rest. No regrets. No guilt but no deep grieving as I’d expected. Instead, I internalized the loss, kept working at breakneck speed until something broke. That’s another story and another book.

 

In hunting down photos to share I had to dig through thousands of images of all sorts just from the past two years.  Many unbearably painful to look at. Some I could see with fresh eyes. It took all night. I found an old video from 2013 which I don’t think anyone has seen and a  bizarre accidental 1 second video from 2015. There was no sound or talking but I could swear I can hear “Merlin”. I’ve learned in the past year to expect the unexpected and make peace with it. This remembrance is not at all what I’d planned but there you go. Merlin lives on and so do I. Thank you for being a part of the journey.

Instead of clogging this space with photos I made an album FOREVER MERLIN: TIMELESS WISDOM of a few highlights of Merlin’s work and life over the past couple years, his final days and funeral. It’s big and yet only a tiny drop of his life. He savored every moment and every drop.

 

From Woodstock, a snippet of the lyics. They sum up Merlin’s philosophy and mine, more than ever.

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am
But you know life is for learning

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50 thoughts on “Merlin The Cat: Life After Death

  1. Readin’ this brought tears to my eyes, my friend. Merlin was your darling little lad and I can only imagine how much you still miss him to this day, but I know that you know, he is with you every minute of every day, right there in your heart. Love & purrs always, Seville.

  2. Oh dear, reading your Merlin post made dad a little sad for Orbit all over again. What a wonderful tribute to your old friend. Everyone should be blessed with one of us at least once in their lives. Thank you from dad…

  3. My heart aches for you, my heart cat Tommie, and all our beloved companions. When Tommie died, I was overcome with a combination of graditude and sorrow, feelings that constantly shifted. Thank you for sharing your sweet boy.
    xxoo
    Maggie

    1. Maggie, the heart aches differently with heart cats and the tapestry of mourning is rich with colors. A kaleidoscope of ever shifting emotions. I wonder as visual artists, if we contextualize the grief differently? xoxo

  4. I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a couple days and wanted to come back and say how much Merlin’s quiet wisdom meant to so many of us. The grief process is long and complicated , and it goes at its own pace for everyone. Their tenth life is our memories of them, and your memories of Merlin will live forever.

    1. This means a lot. Thank you. The grief process is unique indeed. What’s insightful about this loss from my years pet counselling, is the importance of acceptance for what is without denial or judgment. Merlin’s wisdom will live on in a book. The 10th life can be more than memories but a call to action and advocacy.

  5. What a touching tribute for your sweet Merlin. He was a very special kitty. I felt very emotional seeing the last photo of him taken in the garden. What a beautiful day it was. Glad he lived a wonderful life, loved and cherished dearly. Purrs to you remembering your precious baby. xoxo

    1. Thanks so much Tamago. He loved the summer and the garden. It was the perfect day the fly to the sunshine xoxo

  6. Saying goodbye to a well loved cat is always a very sad time – we hope you enjoyed the time you had many happy times together over all those years.
    Rest peacefully Merlin.
    Love Hannah and Lucy and Mum Sue x

  7. I am loving the tribute to Merlin. He was a special cat. one who continues to speak from the beyond and for that I am glad. He remins me so much of my Tan’na . I wish I took more pictures. I have always believed animals have shorter lives (most anyway) because they give their all) Merlin had much to give and is still giving.

    1. Ellen, he is indeed still speaking and I forgot to mention as soon as I called him by the grave, a cardinal landed on a nearby branch. All the my cats take bird or butterfly forms. xoxox

  8. What a great tribute to Merlin on the one year anniversary of his passing to the Rainbow Bridge. He will live forever in your heart and his soul is with you always. Hugs and purrs…

  9. Merlin looks so much like my first dear love, Mr. Yoda. So reading Merlin’s story brought tears to my eyes. I had a memorable experience the day after my Yoda died. I was half-awake, eyes closed, just lying there missing the feeling of Yoda in my arms. Suddenly, I heard a sound: “bump-bump.” It was the sound of Yoda jumping up on his step stool to get onto the couch. Then, I felt his footsteps walking up to may face. I opened my eyes, and – there was Yoda. He gazed into my eyes for several meaningful and memorable seconds, and then just faded away. I am positive that this was no dream. Rather, it was Mister Yoda’s way of telling me “We will meet again. You just have to believe.” And I do.

    1. Thanks so much Jude for sharing your after life experience. I believe you had a visitation from Yoda. I did a research study on pet loss and it’s not uncommon to have a paranormal communication. It’s a wonderful gift to know they are okay.

  10. Abby was your soulcat at a particular phase in your life. It’s likely that if we’d lost our soulcats at a younger age, the grieving would be different. There is a richness and depth in our final third for understanding and opportunity for self growth. Prolonged or complicated grief is rare, about 10% of mourners which includes you. With Merlin, the grief acting as a catalyst for deep transformation. It’s like an onion skin, layer by layer being peeled. The shamanic work I’ve done really helped and perhaps could help you with the soul loss of a broken heart xoxo

  11. A wonderful tribute to a magical life lived fully. I am crying today anyway because today is the 23rd anniversary of losing my best friend Gabrielle’s Galaxy. I was like you taking photos of Gabbie in her last days. I don’t care if I’m the only one who sees them they are precious to me. Nothing wrong with that.

    Love yourself today Layla. I am with you all the way.

    1. Thanks Dawn, he was so hand’s on about everything! Where, when and how . I’d sometimes second guess but he’d let me know in no uncertain terms. He taught me that true wisdom never wavers. xoxo

  12. This is absolute wonderful. A great tribute to Merlin. We didn’t really know Merlin when he was alive. We started to get to know him because of his nuptials to Nellie Bellie. Unfortunately he soon passed away and our yearnings to know him better were ended. How much a part of our family and our life these furry faced meezers become.

    Thank you for the walk with Merlin.

    Jean
    Canadian Cats

  13. A touching and lovingly made tribute to your beloved Merlin.
    Thank you for bring your heart and soul , that is so hard to do, but as I have found, it is healing in some ways. I see a lot of death in my work, no two are the same as no two families or individuals are either.

    I miss my 4 angel kitties and many other furry ones as well. And not to mention all my family members and parents. But they are always there in your heart to think upon, cherish and then put back in that treasure box, deep in the depths of your heart till the next time.

    Sending love, hugs;
    Purrs from Pipo & Minko

    ((((( ♥ )))))

    1. Caren, tears are healing xox. Thanks and lots of love xoxox. The lyrics were from another earlier post in 2013 and included a video of James Taylor singling the Joni Mitchell song. The Youtube video had been removed. Another reason to go through old posts and remove broken links.

  14. I love the altar… and I often have merlin in my mind when we drive through the forest of broceliande… it became a ritual for us to think not about Merlin the wizard but about Merlin the cat… who probabhly had a lot of magic power too…

    1. You’re lucky to live near there. I found this. Merlin is the heir to the Druids’ traditions and stands halfway between mortals and deities.Merlin is therefore known by many names:
      Merlin the Master of Time, Merlin the Hermit, Merlin and the worship of Cernunnos, Merlin the Bard, Merlin the Wizard, Merlin the character from the Arthurian tradition and the founder of the Round Table, Merlin the Lover of the Fairy Vivian and Lady of the Lake. His spirit haunts Brocéliande! Indeed, legend has it that the Fairy Vivian fell in love with Merlin and used all her charms to retain him forever. She therefore sent him to deep sleep after seducing him and took him away in a cloud. She then placed him in a tomb of air which she closed with two large stones. Much mystical metaphor to digest 🙂

  15. Layla,
    there is no right or wrong way to mourn or remember. There is only what feels right to each one of us. I think that our babies fill us in on what to do for each of them while they live. It never gets any easier for me no matter how brief a connection that I may have with a baby. I mourn them all whether seeing them dead on a roadside or living with them their entire life, it all hurts and I try to send up a prayer for their little souls. I carry grief for my babies in my heart always and it is ready to burst forth at the least provocation sometimes. I always try to tell them all how much I love them everyday no matter if they are here on this earth with me or if they have gone on to the life that lays beyond this one. It always makes me feel better to say the words to each one and to tell them how much I miss them. I go foward but I do not forget.
    We were honored to get to know dear Merlin and we too miss him so very much. Let your heart and soul heal and your body will follow. Healing is not forgetting. We never forget.
    Luvs, purrs and prayers,
    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig & Peanut & Romeo & the Angels >^..^^..^<~

    1. Healing words. Thank you. Healing means to remember, to acknowledge and never forget. It’s not only for loss of an individual but collective loss. I have a new understanding of honoring historical loss from ancestors, wars and the holocaust. xoxox

  16. So much love for you and your family. Grief is horrible, hard, and different for every individual. Your tribute is lovely. Merlin was a very special cat, thank you for sharing him with us. He improved many lives.

    1. Bethany, thank you for mentioning the impact Merlin had on others. When words and images go out into the ether of interwebs, we don’t know who they touch until their is feedback. Your healing journey has been on my mind lately and your strength has encouraged me often. xoxo

  17. The older I’ve gotten and the loss of my beloved Angel Abby has made me feel the losses with more intensity. I think the getting older part is the part of the key. I’m in the last 1/3rd of my life and seeing things much different. Feeling them much different. Still trying to make sense out of the senseless. I understand fully your need to keep Merlin with you for 4 extra days. Grief does not make sense to anyone, it is so individualized. I understand too the power of looking at past photos and the emotions they evoke. After nearly 4 years they still bring fresh tears to my eyes. I just miss her, as I know you miss your sweet Merlin. They live on in our hearts but it’s different, and we miss them. Just miss them. (hugs)

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